By Deborah Cooke
Available now from NAL Trade (Penguin)
I can be a stick in the mud sometimes, so I'm starting this review with a PSA moment. When someone is threatening to destroy your personal property and asks you what you're going to do about it, you say, "I'm going to make you pay for the replacement." You can fairly easily, in fact. You know a lawyer. It may be the parent of a band/choir/orchestra/whatever friend or someone who attends your religious institution of choice. You know one. Explain the situation and ask him or her to send a letter on official letterhead. People react when they get a letter from a lawyer. NEXT, AND VERY IMPORTANT: If someone breaks your face, you do not accept him or her telling the teacher you fell down. You press charges. Let me repeat that. YOU. PRESS. CHARGES.
Onto the story!
FLYING BLIND starts at Zoë Sorensson's school. The popular girls bullying her friend pushes her to shapeshift for the first time. Unfortunately, she's not supposed to let people know she's a dragon shapeshifter. Fortunately, her dad decides to punish her by sending her to boot camp. Boot camp is where the young Pyr go to figure out how to use their powers. Zoë really needs it since she's the Wyvern: the only female shapeshifter, who is supposed to be able to see the past and the future. But mostly she wants to go because Nick will be there.
There are several spanners in the works, however. There's Isabelle, a Pyr's adopted human daughter, who is beautiful, sophisticated, and also attending boot camp. There's Jared, Nick's human cousin, who looks like a pirate and flirts with Zoë. There's also Adrian, an outside Pyr who doesn't fit in, but does defend Zoë against her friends' expectations.
Zoë and the other boot campers felt like true, young teens. They're petty and impulsive. Sometimes their inability to just state their feelings or to try to get along grates, but luckily, there is an explanation for the worst behavior. I also liked the romantic storyline. Zoë wrote a story in her head about what her life would be like, and now she's having to face reality.
The worldbuilding is disappointing. Each scene has a good sense of place, but there's no sense of the larger world. The kids are all excited about winning the newest messenger, which seems to be something like an iPod Touch. Is this a way to get around using trademarked names, or is it some kind of future technology? The scenes at school and in the library seem contemporary, not futuristic. While humans don't know dragon shifters exist, they do know that dragons exist. How would a world with dragons develop differently than ours? What attitude do humans who aren't in the know have toward dragons?
FLYING BLIND is a fine character-driven fantasy, but Deborah Cooke made a few missteps. I am tempted to read her adult Dragonfire novels as well as future Dragon Diaries. I would like to find out more about the world, and hope she chose not to write about it here because it's in a different book.