Book Review: The Dragon Conspiracy by Lisa Shearin
A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book 2 of SPI Files
Publisher: Ace (January 27, 2015)
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
The Supernatural Protection & Investigations bureau, known as SPI, is back again to battle the next great threat that’s putting Manhattan in peril. This time it’s All Hallows’ Eve and someone has just pulled off the biggest jewel heist in history, using a trio of harpies to steal a cluster of seven cursed diamonds from a museum exhibit. Problem is, the diamonds belong to a powerful dragon, and now he’s pissed. Even worse, the seven gems are said to have magical properties, and in the right mage’s hands, their effects can have deadly repercussions for the thousands of supernaturals living in the tristate area.
Anyway, dragons are awesome and all, but I feel like there’s a huge missed opportunity here not titling this book The GORGON Conspiracy. This series is really unique in that it has featured an unconventional paranormal baddie in both books so far, each time drawing inspiration from literature and mythology. In the first book, it was Grendel creatures. In this one, it’s Gorgons. So, yeah, when’s the last time you read an urban fantasy featuring Gorgons? No, I can’t recall either. As protagonist Makenna Fraser and her partner Ian desperately chase down leads, more suspects are being found paralyzed and turned into stone. SPI has until midnight to get to the bottom of the mystery, or a whole bunch of their vampire and werewolf friends are going to die.
I was really looking forward to this book, because I really enjoyed The Grendel Affair. The X-Files meets Men in Black angle is probably my favorite aspect of the series, featuring an organization tasked to keep track of the paranormal creatures of the world, making sure that the unsuspecting public is safe from them and vice versa. The Dragon Conspiracy continues in this vein, which was great; however, I also didn’t think it was as good as the first book, for one major reason: the main character.
Thing is, I like how Makenna Fraser isn’t your usual snarky kickass urban fantasy female lead. I like that she’s your average everyday normal southern gal in the big city, maybe a little awkward and charmingly clumsy. But there has to be a balance too. Her role in this book was smaller, and I would even go as far as to call her passive. Not exactly a quality you look for in a protagonist. She was definitely much more involved in the previous novel. This time around, though? There wasn’t much to distinguish her, apart from her inaction. She seemed more like an observer than an actual player in this story, and I also didn’t feel like I learned anything new about her character.
Furthermore, the budding romance between Ian and Makenna appears to have come to a screeching halt, with no explanation as to why beyond the usual pretext of “We work together so we shouldn’t date each other”. Not that this is a bad thing; sometimes not having a romance to bog down the story can actually be seen as a positive. Besides, Makenna has prospects elsewhere. I just wish there was a better reason given for the sudden change in their relationship, and I confess part of me is a little miffed because I predicted in my review of the first book that the two of them will be very good together, and it turns out I was completely off base.
Still, I am enjoying this series. I just love the new takes on unconventional paranormal/mythological creatures, and that’s what sets the SPI Files apart. So far, the stories in both books have been snappy and entertaining, and with a bit more energy and spirit, I think this series has the potential to become something even more. Hopefully we’ll see the author flesh out the characters and give more depth to Makenna in the next installment. Count me in for book three.
Other reviews in this series:
The Grendel Affair (Book 1)