Inferno

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels by clicking the links below:

Talon | Rogue | Soldier | Legion

Inferno was written by Julie Kagawa and first published in 2018. It is a paranormal story with elements of romance set in a world where shape-shifted dragons live among us in secret. The novel forms the final part of The Talon Saga, following after Talon (2014), Rogue (2015), Soldier (2016) and Legion (2017). Because of this, you really do need to read the novels in sequence to have any idea of what is going on.

The final battle has begun. Although Ember and the rogue dragons managed to defend the Western Chapterhouse, the Order of Saint George was still decimated by the Vessels. Without their skills and weapons, it seems certain that Talon will bring the human world to its knees. However, when all hope is lost, the rogues learn that they have an ally in an unexpected place. One who also has no love for the Elder Wyrm.

Their new benefactor is not willing to risk himself directly but does give the rogues a vital piece of information – the location of the facility where the breeder dragons are kept. For Riley, this is a dream come true. Not only can he finally achieve his goal of liberating the captive females but he is certain that they will want to join their cause to have revenge on Talon.

But rescuing them will not be easy. The facility is on a remote island, protected by soldiers and adult dragons. To make matters worse, the Elder Wyrm is planning her final strike and recognises that the rogues and remaining members of the Order are the only things that stand in her way. She sets in motion a plan to destroy them all. How can Ember’s band of hatchlings and humans hope to withstand the terrifying might of a dragon who is hundreds of years old?

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll probably be aware that my feelings about The Talon Saga have been mixed at best. While the first novel really got me invested in this world, subsequent novels have varied between being excellent and frustrating as all Hell. However, I am very pleased to say that at least the series went out on a high note. Inferno is a very fast paced novel that spares no time in rallying all of Ember’s allies (and a few new faces) and pitching them in a final battle against the Elder Wyrm and her Vessels.

In fact, it could be argued that this novel is perhaps a little too fast. After so much build up, Ember and Riley rally their army and prepare them for battle within just a couple of hundred of pages. This is a common issue that I have with novels of this type. Talon really is all powerful. Although their existence is a secret to most humans, they have worldwide influence and an army of soulless adult Vessels at their beck and call. It seems mad that the rogues can throw together a plan to defeat them so quickly, especially after the high cost of their victory at the end of Legion.

However, if you can suspend your disbelief, the story is incredibly satisfying. It brings a lot of the story’s themes to their natural conclusion, such as the undercurrent of xenophobia that has run through all of the novels since the first book. After all of the struggles between the rogues and the Order of Saint George in previous instalments, Inferno marks the first point that they are actively forced to work together. This is actually used really effectively in the novel, as the reader is never quite sure if one side will snap and attack the other. The raid on the breeding facility was especially tense in this regard as I was just waiting for the moment when Ward would snap and turn on the dragons.

Yet, as exciting as the novel is, a lot of the issues that I have had with this series since Talon are still present. The chapters are still all very short and the narrative voices aren’t always distinct enough to make clear who’s talking. While there did mercifully seem to be less repetition this time around, there were still a few frustrating moments of this in the novel. This is one of my bugbears in stories that have multiple narrators. Readers aren’t stupid. If something is exposited by Ember in one chapter, you don’t need Riley to say the same thing in the next.

I also felt that the climax of the story was just a little too easy. The battle against the Elder Wyrm should be catastrophic. The rogues struggled to take on adult dragons, therefore the largest, oldest and most powerful dragon in the world should wipe the floor with them. While a couple of major characters are at least killed this time around, it was still frustrating to see that most of the characters that do not make it out of the final battle are just anonymous cannon fodder. When the Elder Wyrm finally enters the fray, the fight against her is surprisingly straightforward and is over far quicker than you might imagine.

Then there is the epilogue. Again, you really have to suspend disbelief for this to work at all. Talon should not be so easy to overthrow. It’s not just the Elder Wyrm. Even if you take her out of the picture, there are still ranks of powerful adult dragons who control the world’s resources, as well as factions who have been trained as assassins and spies. Yet the story still wraps everything up within a few chapters. This is a personal thing but it was just all too saccharine for my taste. I mean, we don’t even find out if any Vessels survive and what the rogues do with them. While I think that a lot of people will adore the climax, it just wasn’t for me at all.

Yet the characterisation was at least very strong this time around. Carrying on from her wonderful development in Legion, Ember remains a very strong and positive female lead. Although her love for Garret is still present in the story, she is sensible enough to push her feelings aside so that she can fully focus on the coming war. The fact that she can do this alone shows just how much she’s grown since Talon.

It was also nice to see more scenes of Garret and Riley interacting with their respective factions, as we clearly see how their people have come to respect them. While this has been an especially rocky journey for Garret, I love how we see his faction slowly start to view him as a hero rather than just discriminating against him as a “dragonlover”. I loved how the story has really brought him full circle, from being part of an organisation that hunts dragons to returning to reform them as allies to the rogues.

My only true disappointment in terms of character was, ultimately, Dante. In the greater scheme of things, I felt that he has been woefully underused in this series. While he does get a redemptive arc of sorts in Inferno, he does not appear in the story enough for this to be effective. A lot of the discoveries that he makes, and his internalisation of these things, occur off page in order to maintain the mystery of which side he is ultimately on. Because of this, his choices in the climax don’t carry the emotional impact that they really should.

Still, despite my gripes, I did ultimately enjoy The Talon Saga. While Rogue and Soldier felt a little weaker, the other instalments of the series were fast-paced and imaginative, containing strong characters and original worldbuilding. I certainly look forward to reading more of Kagawa’s novels in the future.

Inferno can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook and Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

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