Dragon Streets by Jeff Pearce
After Dale Burnett’s abusive common-law wife and innocent son are killed in a car accident, he finds the courage at last to express his bisexuality. And London is a city of hope and potential for a young American. But when a blind date goes horribly wrong, Dale is rescued by Phirun, a British Cambodian who has the astonishing ability to manipulate water. Dragons walk the streets, and they’ve taken human form to live in the world of Man. As two kinds of dragon wage a secret and vicious war, Phirun needs Dale’s help for his side to win, and the stakes include the very survival of the human race.
But one dragon crime boss won’t stop until he gets his hands on the American, who has a mysterious yet vital role to play. As Dale investigates, he grows closer to Phirun, but also to a compassionate female detective of the London police. If the battle is won, Dale must choose between a beautiful female cop who offers stability, affection, and a chance at a new family, or a gorgeous, unpredictable being who is more than man, who has given him ecstasy he has never known before.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Dragon Streets is a well written fascinating novel. It works incredibly well as a mystery and urban fiction setting and less so as a romance. I found this story surprising coming out of DSP since the romance and sex involved feels more suited to a mainstream novel and would be in line with something out of say Lethe Press or even Tor Books. The urban fiction setting of London is gritty, vivid, and well crafted. The characters are interesting and storyline of dragon vs. dragon war feels fresh and different. The romance is the weakest part and I could have done without it entirely, yet I really enjoyed reading this and look forward to more from this author.
Dale Burnett is a copyright editor at a big bank. He edits a fluff magazine put out by the bank that no one reads and he doesn’t really understand the articles anyway. He’s coasting in his bland life, struggling to get past the emotional and mental repercussions after the abuse and tragic death of his wife and child. As a battered male spouse, very few believe Dale’s side of events and his desire for men only complicates his already rough emotional balance. When he finally decides to seek out men, he finds himself in a confusing and complex war of ancient beings. Both sides are convinced Dale is essential to the outcome and he’s determined to stop being a pawn and make his own choices.
The story is tightly plotted with a lot of great world building. The urban setting of London comes alive with vivid detail and the grey skies juxtaposed with a bustling urban sprawl. The history of the dragon clans is interesting and woven into the story so that the back story is still being revealed up to the ending. This is a different choice but works well since this allows the pace to keep moving smoothly and the information dispersed in more engaging ways than brief history lessons in clunky groups. Since the story is told in third person from Dale’s point of view, the reader learns about the urban fantasy laws as he does. Dale’s pivotal role in the war is one of the more original and interesting aspects. I personally loved how he becomes important to the war and how he ultimately ends this battle for now. The fantasy elements combine with frankly, really cool concepts that make you think.
The characterization is really well crafted and reminds me of so many great urban fantasy stories. The cast is large and varied but each stands out and feels important with few throw away characters. Dale is the unequivocal star and his struggles from a difficult past to taking charge of his future show growth and development. His actions are mostly intelligent and logical but he (and the story) takes some liberties. There are a few moments where he escapes certain death or gets involved in a police case where the average person never would but these are small details that you can suspend disbelief for the sake of action and story progression.
The weakest aspect for me in an otherwise engaging and rather stunning tale is Dale’s bisexuality unfortunately. He flip flops between an attraction with police detective Vivian and dragon leader Phirun. He eventually chooses Phirun (not a spoiler since this is a m/m paranormal romance) but his choice is not due to Dale’s awareness and choice, but more so Vivian takes herself out of the running despite Dale’s claims.So this felt less like a choice Dale was making and more like staying with Phirun when he has feelings for Vivian. Also Dale spends a good deal of the book angry and acting out against Phirun for reasons that never made much sense to me. His claims of miscommunication and disbelief just never really rang true for me. I personally think the back and forth would have worked much better if Dale had a different basis for his actions. The moments of romance, sensuality, and erotic sex are well written and evoke some great emotion from both Vivian and Phirun but the tension before the happy ending didn’t work well for me.
Other than this hiccup, the urban fantasy story offers something different, engaging, and absorbing. The great pace, clean writing, and good descriptions create a world you can sink into and never want to end. The mystery aspect and civil war amongst dragons is one of the more compelling stories in this genre. Similarly the climax is actually well crafted and thought out without the usual shoot ‘em up, throw some over the top magic in there to end everything. There is definitely an aspect of that to the ending but it’s more imaginative and interesting that the stock ending that UF usually has. If you’re an urban fantasy fan, I think this will really stand out well and be as thoroughly entertaining for you as it was for me.
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