Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Within the Flames by Marjorie M. Liu

Eddie is a former street guy, who have up a normal life because of a mistake he'd made when he was a kid, when he accidentally killed a man with his power to manifest and control fire, and ran away from his family for fear that they would be blamed for his crime, or that he would lose control and end up killing them as well. He lived on the streets until he was found and taken in by Dirk and Steele, the detective agency, that helped him control his talent and make a better way to live. But a recent near-death experience has once more stripped him of his control and left him with the power, forcing him to stay inside a glass box when he feels his own power cutting loose, as not to hurt anyone else.

But when he's sent to New York to help Lyssa, the last of her family, part dragon and equally damaged by life and her past, Eddie is struck by the fact that she is just as damaged as he is. For Lyssa, who makes her living illustrating children's books and living in the tunnels that honeycomb New York with the rest of the homeless and abandoned, is deathly afraid. For she is being hunted by the Cruor Venator, a group of witches that could make the evil witches of fairytales look warm and grandmotherly. They want Lyssa for the power in her blood and the strength that stripping her of her powers and adding them to their own could give them.

But despite her position among the down and out, Lyssa is also trying to protect those who share her home with her. Disfigured by the scales that she can no longer hide, Lyssa seeks almost to negate what she is, and keep those she loves and cherishes safe, while remaining untouched by them so that if she loses them, she will not be hurt when they are no longer there, not realizing it's already too late for that, and now that the Cruator Venator are tracking her down in earnest, they won't just go after her, but they'll target those she loves and is trying to protect in order to get to her and draw her out.

Eddie, too, is still trying to protect the ones he loves and his friends,but his presence in the city is causing friction between his friend Lannes, and his wife, a witch, who hasn't yet confessed to her very close family that not only is she in a relationship, but that she is married and expecting his child. And now he, too, has someone he wants to love and protect, But can he overcome his past baggage to do so?

Meanwhile, Lyssa is finding herself reliving the day her parents died, and remembering more and more pertinent details, all of which impacts the decision of the Cruor Venator to come after her. But when she takes out two of the minor members of the group, will it make her less inclined to face the single woman who embodies the Cruor Venator, or will their ability to strike total, petrifying fear into the hearts of others only make those of the strongest member seem worse? Because to truly overcome the evil witches, she will have to face every fear in her heart, and give in to love and hope...

I like the Dirk and Steele novels, and it seems I must have missed one because I don't remember reading the book in which Eddie got injured. But he's been in other novels, so it was nice to see him again. But now he's changed- stripped of his usual control, his life is spinning off the rails and he knows it. But the incident that made him run from his family was also the one which set him on the path of being a protector. And faced with the reality of a beautiful woman, and the vulnerable girl she once was, to protect, this chance means everything to him.

And Lyssa has her own demons to face and her own fears to confront. She has been running all her life, and without Eddie, she would just keep on running. Well, Eddie and a small boy with a mother who was an abused woman make her protect them and try to save them from life on the streets, as much as she can. Her reaching out is the first sign that she might be growing beyond her fear and might finally be able to face up to those who killed her mother and father, and at the same time, the lessons she still has to learn from their deaths are coming hard and fast. One of her fears is of her other side, and the damage she believes it can do. But perhaps what she remembers isn't all truth, and she must trust in herself and her mother's love to find a new and different way to be.

This romance novel involved supernatural beings, but it was not just about that. It was about choosing what we are, and how powers that seem hard and difficult and evil can be turned to be used for good and healing. It was quite wonderful to read, and the characters were wonderful to read about and share their thoughts and feelings. Highly recommended, as I found this book simply wonderful. A gem.

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