Review: Within the Flames (Dirk & Steele #11) by Marjorie M. Liu
For ten years after witnessing the brutally slow and torturous murder of her family, Lyssa lives on the run in constant fear and wariness. Eddie, finally starting to get a handle on his life after a slip of his nearly uncontrollably deadly ability as a child left him homeless and penniless, sets out on what he thinks is a simple mission to rescue a shapeshifter in New York City. Unbeknownst to them both, a deadly foe has been quietly tracking Lyssa and has some nasty and sinister plans for her. Eddie and Lyssa must either band together and fight back as a team, or watch all they love crash and burn around them. Within The Flames is a GraveTells recommended read.
- Title: Within the Flames
- Series: Dirk & Steele book #11
- Author: Marjorie M. Liu
- Prominent Characters: Lyssa & Eddie
- Recommended reader age: 16+
- Sexual content level: moderate
*** This review is SPOILER-FREE! Read on with confidence! ***
Eddie is a complex man with a haunting past and an ability that is extreme enough to keep him away from others for fear of inadvertently hurting them. He’s led a hard and lonely life and is driven to pay forward the help he was given, making him the perfect candidate for Dirk & Steele to send on a protect & rescue mission in New York City. He may be a badass with a checkered past, but his tenderly stalwart heart is good and pure.
Living in solitude to protect others from her fiery outbursts and running from a past that continues to stalk her, Lyssa is a dragon shapeshifter with no family and few friends. She lives almost completely isolated, and even those who are near her physically don’t know what she is… can’t know. After the massacre of her family a decade ago, Lyssa won’t risk her heart to anyone, least of all a man who seems to know all her secrets and isn’t scared away by her unusual appearance.
The antagonist, the Cruor Venator, are not the kind of villain you love to hate; they’re the ones you hope never know your name or see your face, even in dreams. They are evil incarnate and will test the strength of your stomach if you try to visualize their torture scenes and recollections.
The dialogue and characters’ thoughts in Within the Flames, which dominates the first half of the book as the plot is methodically setup, jump around a little, making it occasionally feel like work to follow the various threads of conversations. There are little contextual clues woven in to help set the scene and backstory, but the pace dragged a little and I started feeling restless at around the 40% mark even though everything seemed to be leading up to an action scene and some plot movement.
That said, Eddie and Lyssa have a searing connection and read like mates who were born for each other. With spines of steel and a fiery determination forged in regret, guilt, self-recrimination, and fear… fear of their individual pasts and fear of the possible heartaches to come… this couple had their work cut out for them.
The power of love in the face of overwhelming fear…
“Why were you able to resist them?”
“I had a priority more important than fear.”
Hey now! WoW players aren’t melodramatic… much.
“I always knew I would be found. And I knew when it happened, I’d have to make a choice. Run… or stand my ground and fight.”
The cabbie glaced in his rearview mirror.
“World of Warcraft,” Lyssa told him. ”It’s a gaming thing. We’re very melodramatic.”
I just can’t fight this feeeeeeeling anymoooooore…
“When I’m with you… everything inside me says yes. It’s like… feeling as though every sappy love song I’ve ever heard is my theme song.”
His nose crinkled, and he laughed. ”Choose one.”
She tangled her fingers in his sweatshirt. ”Take off your clothes, and maybe I will.”
His cheeks turned bright red, but he stripped. Giving her a bold look, he said, “A song, please.”
If you liked Within the Flames of the Dirk & Steele series…
If you enjoyed Within the Flames for its gruesome horror aspects, like blood, gore, and torture, along with more magical elements and power struggles, you may also enjoy the first half of the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series (starting with Guilty Pleasures) by Laurell K. Hamilton. The early Blake novels focus more on the detective work and federal marshal storyline than the plethora of sex (as seen in books 10 and after) this series is known for, and Ms. Hamilton is not afraid to give you all the gritty details of the stomach-turning crime scenes… which are, incidentally, based loosely on real-life killings.
If you liked Within the Flames for the mutually protective, occasionally angsty, yet tenderly unbreakable connection formed between the main characters, you might like the Guild Hunter series by Nalini Singh, starting with Angel’s Blood. Elena and Raphael are fiercely loyal to one another and so strong as individuals that their relationship is a complex, constantly evolving force of nature unmatched by few others in urban fantasy. The Guild Hunter series is also no stranger to graphic violence, boasting nearly as many uncomfortably creepy and disturbingly bloody scenes per book as the Anita Blake novels. After saying all that, would you believe I don’t like horror at all and this is one of my favorite series? Go, go now, and read it!
Have patience, you must, young padawan. The first three-quarters of the book are intense, nerve-wracking, and a little bit harrowing before the story opens up, twinkling with gems of humor & safety and comfort & companionship that shine through like sun on a rainy day.
The romantic scenes are steamy and the drama and action are vibrant. Best of all, you don’t need to have read any of the previous Dirk & Steele books to be able to read and enjoy this one. Within the Flames may start out a little tepid, but the end (with its richly deserved happily ever after) warms the heart and makes all the waiting worthwhile.
Rating: Within the Flames
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