Soul of Smoke by Caitlyn McFarland
This is a great first attempt at writing. While I may not have swooned over the novel, I give it a solid three stars and do wish to continue with the series. I want to see where this adventure grows and develops. There was enough interesting context on the foundation that some of the newbie writer fatigue can be forgiven.
First and foremost it is a love story with dragons (and I am not automatically fond of love stories taking it down a notch for my interest). The best part of this love story is honesty. The author honestly shows the emotions behind falling in love. While many readers may end the book by wanting to wring Kai's neck (I would be one of those), you need to hold to the fact she is 20. A supposed adult who doesn't really have to be an adult by today's standards. Clearly this is also the first time she has really thought about the long term. So just be happy with the honesty of the emotions the author presented.
Which leads to my second minor disappointment to the story. Where is my dragon history? There are some really awesome dragon battles going on with some really awesome dragons. Clearly the author has researched some areas to expand outside the norm, but I want more! Most readers will be familiar with European dragons and their legends from all the European fairy tales Americans grow up reading. What I enjoyed about this novel was getting tastes of dragons from other cultural mythologies. Different shapes and abilities that just had my imagination seeking more information. This is the main factor keeping me set to come back to the series--further development of these other dragons.
I may be a little spoiled by Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, but I want to give this series a shot. The price is right for starting a series with a completely unknown author so I suggest giving it a go. The rest of the series will be out by the end of the year, which is another huge plus. We'll see how it goes!