Title: King of the Fire Dancers (Shift Happens: Book One)
Author: S.T. Sterlings
Publisher: NineStar Press
Length: 257 Pages
At a Glance: Though the beginning was slower paced, I could see something was building and gradually taking form, so I kept at it. I was rewarded once the pacing picked up, and now I’m hooked on what looks like a very promising start to a new series.
Reviewed By: Lindsey
Blurb: When he’s propositioned by a wealthy stranger, it seems Coy Conlin’s impoverished life is about to be upgraded. But before he can share the news with his family, he comes home to find his grandmother murdered and his little brother missing. To make matters worse, he’s thrown in prison along with every other shifter under the Sovereign’s orders.
August Seaton left his laboratory job at the Asuda Registry to become a Registry officer. But after a mission with his partner goes horribly wrong, August ends up with Coy’s dead grandmother on his hands, and Coy thinks he’s the murderer. Worst of all, his partner discovers his secret.
August is a shifter. And now he’s Coy’s cellmate. Coy and August must survive each other, abusive guards, and a scientist hell-bent on forcing Coy into a breeding program.
Teamed up, the pair escape prison and journey across the country. With the Registry hot on their trail, they have enough things to worry about. Falling for each other wasn’t supposed to be one of them.
Review: King of the Fire Dancers started off slow. The pacing was definitely off for me, and it took a while to resolve the issue. The story being told from the alternating POVs of August and Coy created an inconsistency with the flow that I’ll admit was rough to get past during the first half. Coy’s perspective was faster and moving in a more action-packed direction, and I would get totally down with that; but then the switch would happen, and August’s point of view was more introspective and sluggish. Thankfully, it resolved itself about halfway through.
After finishing the story, I understand now why August’s perspective and backstory had to unfold the way it did, but man, I was not his biggest fan. It wasn’t even hate; I just was frustrated with him so many times. He expressed disgust for shifters, and his lack of empathy or understanding of what was truly happening drove be batty. August was completely fine with being given the bare minimum of information, rather happy to stick his head in the sand when he could, and he watched a murder and then was easily manipulated to blame the victim and celebrate the atrocities perpetuated by his employer as well as his work partner. Though his character had me wanting to shake some sense into him, and his perspective did slow down the plot pacing substantially as he worked through these emotions and misguided feelings, I was able to at least understand the whys, and eventually see how he had been conditioned to think and be a certain way. To see he was so lonely and so desperate to please the people around him, in order to finally form relationships and friendships, that he would literally talk himself into believing their bullcrap, even when his gut was originally telling him something else. Despite my irritation with him, I was better able to understand some of his choices and his closed off and distant personality through the rest of the book.
Coy has an ego as big as his shifted form (which is pretty darn big, BTW). He finds himself with the person he believes to have murdered his family dropped right in this lap, and struggles to figure out what he should do. But, as both are stuck together, he learns the truth of what happened. I liked the fact he remains on the fence about whether August is actually telling the truth, or whether it is a setup (which he should, because the Registry are un-fricken-believable in their machinations), or even if August is just saying something to save himself from Coy’s wrath. I appreciate realists, and Coy seems to be mostly that. Sure, he has plans for revenge, and that clouds his mind and judgement, but he tends to see the bigger picture and ask questions others don’t. His blunt nature means he also tells the truth—as he sees it—whether August wants to hear it or not. His harshly delivered honesty causes a lot of tension between the two, because Coy knows he needs to get August to open his eyes and truly see what is going on.
The story picked and up flowed well during the last half. Once August’s true nature is found out, and he is tossed in the very prison he locked other shifters in, things start to happen rather quickly as the perspectives remained steady in their flow. This is where I found myself getting involved and unable to take my eyes off my kindle. The two start out as little more than enemies who have a similar goal—escape. They are then forced together for the long trek across the county, and they start to change to a “frenemy”’ situation, and then evolve to something more. As they journey together, information is uncovered as to the possible reasons why, and who may be behind the atrocities being committed against the shifters, all the while learning about each other’s personalities and even finding common ground in some areas.
I want to be clear this is just the beginning of the series; nothing is wrapped in a happy little bow. Coy and August’s fleeing and subsequent adventure raises a ton of questions but delivers very few answers. As zilch is resolved, we get a sort of cliffhanger, with this book being the foundation opening more paths for future books. The bond forming between August and Coy is fragile, and though there are moments of intimacy between the two, there is a lack of trust as well as external obstacles constantly keeping them from exploring those feelings in any real capacity. So, don’t expect there to be a lot of sexy times for the guys, they have a lot of issues to still work through.
Though the beginning was slower paced, I could see something was building and gradually taking form, so I kept at it. I was rewarded once I got halfway, because the pacing picked up. Now I am hooked on what looks like a very promising start to a new series. I can’t wait to see what the future books have in store because there are a host of baddies who need their reckoning, political ties to uncover, revenge to be had, missing brothers to find, and so much more.
You can buy King of the Fire Dancers here: