By Amy Kennedy RBTB Contributing Editor
Remember the movie Jerry Maguire? Of course you do. Renee Zellweger says to Tom Cruise, “Shut up, just shut up. You had me at ‘hello’…”
I remember thinking wait a second you need to make him work at this. But did she? No. Because as the bigger stuff falls away, all we really want is someone to talk to. Someone who understands us.
Well, the heroine of Marjorie M. Liu’s dark, exciting, and sensually tender “The Fire King” - ninth in Liu’s Dirk & Steele series - is that sort of “someone.”
Soria knows languages - all languages – even ones she’s never heard. She’s in seclusion since the violent loss of her right arm, and the tiny fact that she’s killed someone, but the Dirk & Steele agency – a collection of paranormal private investigators - needs her mad skills. Soria agrees to communicate with our hero, Karr, because no one else can; his language hasn’t been heard in three thousand years.
Back in the day – 3000 years ago – Karr leads the chimera, mixed offspring of differing shape-shifters able to shift between combinations of each parent’s animal shape. Lots of regular shape-shifters feel threatened by the mixed breeds and war ensues. Karr tries to keep safe as many of his people as he can, and to search for those he knows are in hiding he places himself in a powerful trance. He wakes to find he’s a murderer, with no memory of the crime. Still, he must pay, asks his friend to kill him, and is left to bleed to death in his tomb.
An earthquake hits present day China, opening up part of Karr’s ancient tomb where archeologists find his so not-mummified body. A very-much-alive Karr’s captured and imprisoned. His captors? Shape-shifters. Now Karr is a stranger in a strange land and he’s pissed, until Soria has him at “hello,” and helps him escape.
Soria sees Karr’s true nature: a chimera, the son of dragon and lion shifters, yes, but also a beautiful man, whole and powerful but dependent on her ability with language. She is not a whole woman and knows someone so magnificent would never want her. On the run, Karr sees Soria as fearless. He is drawn to her, but worries about his own violent and unstable nature, and knows he should still be dead to pay for his sins.
As they seek answers – do any of his people still exist, who is behind Karr’s resurrection and who wants him dead again? They see the “whole” in the other but not themselves. Can they believe they are more than their perceived handicaps and find redemption and love?
Marjorie Liu’s deft talent allows her to write about subjects usually thought too dark for romance - prejudice, war and torture - with grace and subtlety. She weaves an adventurous, tragic tale and an achingly tender romance as her hero and heroine fall into that deep gorgeous chasm of love. You may just fall in along with them after you --
Buy the book.
Karr and Soria bring a lot of ‘baggage’ to their love: He’s a 3,000 year old possible murderer, she’s got “issues” about her missing arm… What’s the most ‘baggage’ you’d put up w/before you’d bail on a relationship? And, which two animals would you be if you were a chimera and why?