I picked up this book because I read a mention of it somewhere, and it sounded like a fun read, with metal dragons, magic, romance, and fun steampunk action and adventure. The book is told from multiple first-person points of view, and it is more introspective and character-driven than I expected. Which is fine - I enjoy delving into characters, and there are some interesting, if not always entirely likable, ones here.
The setting is Voltov, a city that has been at war for years, and it has been maintaining the upper hand because of its corps of magical, fire-breathing, metal dragons - a weapon the enemy has been unable to replicate, due to Volstov's unique magical source. The airmen (and yes, they are all men) in the dragon corps are so vital to the survival of Volstov that they are full of themselves and very poorly behaved - because, after all, they can get away with it. When an incident occurs that results in an international scandal, a timid, intellectual university student is sent to live with them, in order to teach them some manners. He is not at all welcome.
Meanwhile, Royston, a young wizard, is exiled to his brother's estate in the country, far away from the city he adores, as punishment for a too-public affair with the crown prince of a neighboring country. He sinks into a deep depression, but is eventually distracted by the handsome young tutor who is teaching his brother's young children.
The narration switches back and forth, quite leisurely, as the reader comes to know the characters and as the enemy is slowly putting into motion a devious, dastardly plan, one that will strike at the heart of the magic that powers the metal dragons, and will put in harm's way everything that each of these young men holds most dear.
There were many things I liked about this book - the writing was solid, and the characters were interesting. The plot unfolded well and was skillfully pieced together from each disparate point of view in a very effective way. I enjoyed Royston's goofy adolescent romance with Hal, although at times I did feel like shaking them and telling them to get on with it, already!
Other things didn't work as well for me. I found the complete absence of a single, strong, positive female character to be distracting and a bit distressing - it does seem odd, given that the novel is co-authored by two women. I found the lack of time spent with the dragons to be surprising, too, given that the dragons are an important part of the story, and that one of the dragons is the absolute most important thing to one of the main characters. I think the book would have packed more of a punch had the dragons been given more "screen time," so to speak. All in all I did enjoy the book, though. It took me longer to get through it than it usually does for me to read a book because I never felt compelled to get back to the story, and I can't say I'd feel the need to read further if a sequel were to be published. The book ends with a satisfying conclusion, and I'm content to leave it at that.
Havemercy by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett (Bantam Books, 2008)
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Fantasy Cafe: "Although it is not the best character-driven novel I’ve ever read, Havemercy is an excellent debut and well worth reading for those who prefer a slower paced look at some different characters to heavy action, a fast-moving plot, or massive worldbuilding."
Stella Matutina: "Overall, it was a great read. Fun, character-based stuff with a good setting. I'll admit, I've kind of been waffling back and forth over whether I loved it or just rather liked it, but I think I'm settling down into the loved camp."
Tia's Book Musings: "Havemercy has some good ideas and characters. Truthfully, I had a lot of fun bashing it in my head as I read, but it didn't come together as a great book."