Going Down in Flames by Chris Cannon
Finding out on your sixteenth birthday you’re a shape-shifting dragon is tough to swallow. Being hauled off to an elite boarding school is enough to choke on.
Since Bryn is the only crossbreed at the Institute for Excellence, all eyes are on her, but it’s a particular black dragon, Zavien, who catches her attention.
Zavien is tired of the Council’s rules. Segregated clans, being told who to love, and close-minded leaders make freedom of choice almost impossible. The new girl with the striped hair is a breath of fresh air, and with Bryn’s help, they may be able to change the rules.
At the Institute, old grudges, new crushes, and death threats are all part of a normal day for Bryn. She’ll need to learn to control her dragon powers if she wants to make it through her first year at school. But even focusing on staying alive is difficult when you’re falling for someone you can’t have.
After hearing a particularly gruesome news story about a young girl found dead in a dumpster, Bryn is on guard. Dodging through the streets on her way home from school, she locks eyes with a handsome, dark-haired stranger who greets her with a smirk. Bryn picks of speed, eager to get to her parents’ karate shop only to look back and find the stranger has picked up speed and is definitely stalking her like prey. Cornered and desperate, Bryn escapes into a coffee shop and calls her parents to come get her. Bryn though public space equaled safety, but she was wrong. The stalker followed her inside and greeted her by name. Terrified, Bryn knows she’s in danger but when she tries to leave, she finds she no longer has control of her body and is compelled to follow the stranger’s every whim.
When the guy holding her captive starts babbling about dragons and dictators, about making choices and breaking the rules, Bryn thinks the guy is more than deranged, he’s certifiably insane. Little did Bryn know that the stalker’s, Zavien’s, ravings were to become her new reality. Turns out, dragons are very real and she happens to be one of them.
Feeling betrayed and a little crazy herself, Bryn learns of her parents’ exile, their flee from the Directorate (the ruling body of dragons), and her “tainted” genes. Bryn is an abomination to their people, a mixed-blood impossibility that shouldn’t be allowed to exist.
***I received this eARC as a gift in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley, Entangled Teen, and in participation with this tour
- The school is like Hogwarts for dragons. It’s a magical, mysterious, and inherently catty place. The social hierarchy is acutely developed into a blue blooded society life. Those who do not fit in are the subject of mockery and harassment. There’s a distinct, almost clique-like quality that makes it like any other high school. Each color of dragon sticks together and knows their place, those who don’t live up to those expectations are shunned and ridiculed. The internal battle between conformity and choice is waged daily, through each choice and interaction. Chris Cannon does a fabulous job capturing this duality of nature. Being held as prisoners to this lifestyle, some are unhappy and others are brainwashed into believing that there is no other option. Being forced to marry early and deal with infidelity is another subject that these students feel is inevitable. This whole world is insanely complex but doesn’t feel forced or like to much, it flows seamlessly.
- Bryn is a rebel with a cause. She loudly and clearly objects to this lifestyle thrust upon her just because she happens to be an anomaly. She dyes her hair and wears feisty clothes that make her as intriguing as she is unique. Her presence is huge and powerful, she wants to be heard and has a strong voice to make that happen. Bryn is not one to back down from a fight and loves a good challenge but she is almost courageous to a fault. She gets herself into sticky situations-granted, it’s not always her fault-and her life is constant chaos. As the story develops, Bryn evolves into something more than a sassy girl, she becomes an advocate for social change. Bryn takes the poor treatment by her peers in stride as she works to build a case for a new lifestyle, one that accepts difference as beautiful.
- Bullying is instrumental to Bryn’s evolution but it’s also heartbreaking. Not only is Bryn thrown into this whole crazy world of paranormal creatures, she is viewed as an abomination, a being that should have been aborted or killed. The emotional trauma is staggering, it weasles its way into her heart and the anger builds. Her parents have lied to her, she has no one, and at school she’s a laughingstock subject to random attacks and viscious slurs. The bullying is sharp, harsh, and slams into Bryn, almost silencing her opinions, her voice but Bryn takes her pain and pushes, moulding it into an armor and a challenge.
- Elemental magic. I LOVED that Chris Cannon added elemental magic to the dragons. It’s the perfect combination. The idea that dragons, color-coded, possess specific elemental powers seems natural and flows seamlessly. The lessons taught at the school are made of whimsy and awe-inspiring power. Everything is meticulously plotted, from the strengths and weaknesses of each color dragon to their general personality type and social stance.
- The dragon racing scene was exhilarating. The sheer power and grace of the dragon form is captured in an intoxicating flurry of description. You can picture and experience every moment as Bryn’s joy bursts from the pages and her thirst to prove herself forces her to take on substantial risks.
- Zavien is an enigma. One moment he’s playful, bantering with and teasing Bryn, the next he’s deadly serious, especially about injustice. Zavien has a subtle depth that radiates throughout and grows into compassion. Zavien has many secrets, he’s very mysterious, and this only adds to his attractiveness.
- Zavien and Bryn have chemistry galore. The heat is sweltering and only increases as the danger grows.
- The climactic scenes were broken into parts, detracting from the overall suspense.
- Some of the secondary characters were fleeting and ominous. You never get the full of picture and questions were left unanswered.
Chris Cannon lives in Southern Illinois with her husband and her three dogs, Pete the shitzu who sleeps on her desk while she writes, Molly the ever-shedding yellow lab, and Tyson the sandwich-stealing German Shepherd Beagle. She believes coffee is the Elixir of Life. Most evenings after work, you can find her sucking down caffeine and writing fire-breathing paranormal adventures. Going Down In Flames is the first book in Chris Cannon’s shape-shifting dragon series.
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