The Plot: Jacinda, sixteen, is a draki who broke the rules. A draki isn’t human – not quite. A draki is descended from dragons and has the ability to shift to human form. Flights are limited to night, when humans cannot spot them. Jacinda cannot resist an early morning flight. Hunters come – in helicopters and hummers, with nets and guns. Modern warfare against a not so mythical beast. Jacinda has exposed her pride. Her mother, afraid of the consequences the pride will inflict for Jacinda’s actions, flees the protected town of the pride to the outside world, hoping they can hide in plain sight.
Jacinda hates having to be something she is not, having to pretend to not be draki. Her twin sister, Tamra, who never manifested as a dragon, loves being at a normal school, having regular friends, trying out for cheerleading. Jacinda hates it. Then Jacinda meets Will. Instant connection. Only problem is…
Will is a hunter.
The Good: Sophie Jordan has written historical romances and paranormal romances, so I was really excited to read her foray in young adult books. It does not disappoint; I love the romance between Jacinda and Will. I especially love how Jacinda’s draki self (she’s a rare fire dragon) becomes a metaphor for female sexuality.
No, really. Jacinda’s draki manifests itself just seeing Will, and gets even more intense from touching and kissing him. Manifestation for Jacinda is ultimately changing into a fire dragon; along the way, her skin turns red, she feels physical changes within her, and her skin becomes hot to the touch. Here are some scattered descriptions of her manifesting, often in reaction to Will: “My flesh shivers. The tiny hairs at my nape prickle in alert.” “My skin blurs in and out, shimmering faintly, like I’ve been dusted with gold. The draki in me stirs, tingling, yearning to come out.” “I look back at Will and pleasure whips through me.” “My lungs expand with smoldering heat. I hold my breath. Suppress the heat at my core, the rumbling vibration inside me.” “That much-missed vibration ignites in my chest, spreads to my core. My skin snaps alive.” “My tightening skin heats, flashes a brief shimmer of red-gold.”
Now, part of this is that the draki inside responds to certain things including arousal and attraction. But part of it is also that in Firelight, the metaphor is sexuality.
The book begins with Jacinda wanting to fly as a draki on her terms, not her pride; in other words, wanting to experience sexuality on her own terms. Repercussions include the pride wanting to control her further, by forcing her into a “bonding” relationship with another draki to pass along her genetics and to produce more fire dragons. They literally want to control who she has sex with. Meanwhile, the hunters are seeking to destroy that which they don’t understand and they fear — the draki / female sexuality. Will falling for Jacinda is, on the surface, a star-crossed lovers romance. He is the hunter, she is the hunted. That doesn’t mean she is a victim; far from it. The drakis are so powerful that she is the stronger of the two. The hunters need weapons to take on the draki. Since the metaphor is sexuality, this is also about Will realizing that Jacinda / female sexuality is not something to be feared, not something to destroy.
The family’s escape from the pride and their town reads like an escape from a cult. Jacinda yearns to return to the pride because in the world she has to hide her draki self; the reader realizes that the pride is not the answer to Jacinda’s prayers. Then again, the outside world is not an answer, either. The family is no longer controlled by the pride (something Jacinda doesn’t fully realize, not at first), but the are hardly free if Jacinda has to hide her true identity, suppressing it until it dies. Will Jacinda be able to find a place where she can be herself, without fear? I look forward to reading the rest of this series to find out.