Author: Joshua McCune
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Release Date: April 22, 2014
Genre/Age Group: Fantasy, Young Adult
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It's a high school prank gone horribly wrong-sneaking onto the rez to pose next to a sleeping dragon-and now senior Melissa Callahan has become an unsuspecting pawn in a war between Man and Monster, between family and friends and the dragons she has despised her whole life.
Chilling, epic, and wholly original, this debut novel imagines a North America where dragons are kept on reservations, where strict blackout rules are obeyed no matter the cost, where the highly weaponized military operates in chilling secret, and where a gruesome television show called Kissing Dragons unites the population.
Joshua McCune's debut novel offers action, adventure, fantasy, and a reimagining of popular dragon lore.
I love dragons, which is why I immediately added Talker 25 to my TBR-list when I heard about it. No matter in what form or shape, dragon stories are my jam. Unless, apparently, Talker 25. After a very promising first chapter (View Spoiler »I want to be able to talk to dragons as well! « Hide Spoiler) this book went downhill almost immediately. I had a lot of difficulty finding myself in this story, and I had little patience for the world building, which may be just because I read it at the wrong time for me, but I can’t help but let that influence my overall opinion. The story felt cluttered, and it jumped from one scene to the next in order to get the action going (I assume) and I was confused by the technical terms of the inexplained world. Add a very unlikeable main character, dragon torture, slut shaming, instalove, and a whole lot of randomness and you have this book.
Melissa is a very, very frustrating character. I didn’t feel connected to her at all, and I wanted to slap her on multiple occasions. For most of the book, she treats other people like crap, and if you have no real motive for doing that, I will hate your guts. Her actions just seemed random to me. And to make things worse, the story was drowning in slut shaming. There were multiple times where either Melissa, one of the other girls or one of the guys called each other a whore, and I’m sorry, but fuck off. I think slut shaming in books can be really well done (look at Open Road Summer) but in this book, it was completely unnecessary. Sure, Melissa’s friend might have sold her body for booze, but they were locked up and tortured. But Melissa can call her a whore, because she’s one as well, right? Go to hell.
And then there was instalove. Melissa is insta-attracted slash obsessed with James, who she meets twice before basically falling head over heels in love with him. When she first meets him, she describes him in detail as if she’s describing a piece of art, with his bronze skin and intense blue eyes and other physical qualities I couldn’t be bothered to remember. As readers, we immediately know that He Is Important. They meet again, they spend a couple of hours together, they spend an entire night talking about their feelings and yada yada yada. And then throughout the book, James is constantly on Melissa’s mind, even though she’s pretty busy with other things, like, you know, being tortured and the evil government and everything. I might be overreacting a little but hell, this book has one of the worst cases of instalove I’ve ever encountered in a book.
But the most frustrating thing is that the world building is pretty much a joke. Fantasy novels are dependent on good world building, but the world in Talker 25 is so confusing that even the characters don’t understand it. Apparently, fifteen years ago the dragons just appeared in the middle of Kansas, and now they’re everywhere? And they don’t know what happened? And they’re completely harmless, but people go ahead and torture them anyway? I mean, I would freak out if a bunch of dragons came out of nowhere as well, so I understand the government. And if you can identify with the government in a dystopian-ish novel, you know somthing is wrong. Furthermore, not giving the dragons any memories of where they came from is no excuse to not develop the world. That’s just lazy.
The dragons in this book could have been interesting, but instead I was immensely disappointed in their creation and development. Dragons are my favorite mythical creatures, but in this book, they are bland. There are four types of dragons – Blues, Greens, Reds and Silvers – and that’s about as far as their characteristics go. To return to me siding with the government: the dragons were hardly innocent in this story, because they’re the ones ruling the insurgents (traitors slash rebels, I suppose) and deciding what happens in the world. I was confused because these dragons are apparently very intelligent, but as soon as there are people who are willing to help them, they go ahead and boss them around. If you want to make these dragons intelligent creatures, at least let them be intelligent. Of course, the dragon torture is insanely cruel and wrong and disgusting and too much for me, but I don’t think the government is completely wrong in its attempt to want to control these huge creatures who are NOT all harmless.
And then there’s the part that reminded me (too much) of The Hunger Games: the televisized event in which a bunch of dragon slayers go ahead and kill dragons, which everyone is forced to watch and then Melissa is forced to join. I have to be completely honest and say that I tuned out during these scenes. I was having enough trouble to understand the world building as it was, and the TV part didn’t make sense to me. The government is trying to keep people safe from dragons, but of course Hollywood – or something like it – can go ahead and film an entire TV show with those creatures, because entertainment before safety, right?! Which idiot would allow this? Quite simply, I thought this part was ridiculous and I couldn’t bring myself to care for it. To be honest, I spent a good part of this book skimming the pages. The only reason I finished was because I liked was the baby dragon, who was basically a giant puppy and adorable, if not dragon-ish at all. Such wasted potential.
“On the list of things I thought I’d never do, playing fetch with a dragon ranks right near the top.”
“In the end, she died to protect those children. If she were human, she’d been given a ceremony and medals. But she’s just a slain monster who will be remembered for the lives she took, not the lives she sacrificed herself to save.”