Fire and Heist by Sarah Beth Durst || Dragon Hoards in the Modern Age

“Our ancestors were dragons. And now we’re were-dragons—humans capable of turning dragon.

Or dragons capable of turning human.

Semantics.”

Fire and Heist Cover

Goodreads || Amazon || Durst’s Twitter

In Sky Hawkins’s family, leading your first heist is a major milestone–even more so than learning to talk, walk, or do long division. It’s a chance to gain power and acceptance within your family, and within society. But stealing your first treasure can be complicated, especially when you’re a wyvern–a human capable of turning into a dragon.

Embarking on a life of crime is never easy, and Sky discovers secrets about her mother, who recently went missing, the real reason her boyfriend broke up with her, and a valuable jewel that could restore her family’s wealth and rank in their community.

With a handpicked crew by her side, Sky knows she has everything she needs to complete her first heist, and get her boyfriend and mother back in the process. But then she uncovers a dark truth about were-dragon society–a truth more valuable and dangerous than gold or jewels could ever be.

DISCLAIMER: I received an e-ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes are subject to change between now and the release date.

EXPECTED DECEMBER 4, 2018

2.5 STARS

I get the sense that anyone who loves family stories and heist stories is going to love this one, and if you love dragons, then that’s just the cherry on top. This meant Fire and Heist ticked ALL THE BOXES for me, and I was super excited going in!

After all, what’s not to love?

And truthfully, I did love it. The main character is a wyvern (were-dragon, if you prefer, which is honestly the much more fun option), able to breathe fire and filled with a deep and instinctual love for gold. She’s the youngest of four, with three older brothers, and one very calm and collected father. Mom’s missing, though, which spurs everything that goes down from the moment Sky finds herself dangling from the foyer chandelier.

There’s also a little crew of secondary characters, like Ryan the wyvern hacker and ex-boyfriend to Sky, Gabriela the human research nerd who really loves unicorns a lot (she was totally my favorite for, like, eighty different reasons), and Maximus the slightly concerning, slightly corny wyvern wizard.

When all the characters came together, there was a delightful sort of banter and snark between them, plus a fair share of realistically awkward hops in the conversation, which really makes sense when everything is A LOT and HAPPENING ON A DEADLINE, FOLKS and there’s a lot of ground to cover. Plus, I came to love some of Sky’s commentary (the book is written in first person); she’s got a really solid handle on the importance of food and naps, which speaks to me on a very personal level. That, and she has this very short and snappy sort of sass to her, the kind that really suits a firecracker emotional character, and I can’t help but love that.

The trouble was really the rest of the book, though.

When I went in, I was expecting fantasy, especially based on the cover design, but I actually got a fantasy-contemporary blend, which required some adjusting. Once it moved into heist territory and away from the exposition, I thought that genre surprise was starting to improve, but then I realized that I was only halfway into the book, and the big heist the summary teased was nearly over, and something else was ahead. It stopped being a heist book after that, save for the rapid conclusion, and shifted into something more like straight-up fantasy. I can’t exactly call it genre-hopping, since it was all fantasy underneath, but, it did change its priorities rapidly, and the part of the book I was most excited for was over all too soon.

Another issue I had was that the characters all feel very shallow. Sometimes it’s hard to get in a lot of character development in a standalone novel, and a first person point of view can shape what we think of characters based on how the main character reports them, but it can still be done. Fire and Heist, though, just didn’t really do it. Sky flopped between mopey and get it done, and I really got tired of her “I just lost my mom, excuse me for also being upset about not being as rich as I was even though I’m still rich” comments, and I may have skimmed a few pages because she started waxing poetic about Ryan again. As for her brothers, they felt like caricatures: serious muscle, never committed, and nervous youngest son screw-up. Gabriela? As much as I loved and connected with her, she switched from practical observer to sudden tears or explosive delight without a particularly consistent thread, and even though Sky spent most of their early friendship basically using her, she idolized Sky anyway. In short, I wanted to love the characters, but they didn’t feel well-rounded to me, and I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more from a third person, multi-POV perspective. I like depth in the characters I read about, because good characters can save a weak plot, but a strong plot can still struggle to save weak characters.

Finally, I struggled to enjoy the second half of the book. With the heist over so soon, it launched headlong into a new plot thread, and I couldn’t help but feel it was rushed. The unequal power structures at hand were under-explored, there were robots (yeah, still not sure about that one; really clashed with the rest of the setting), and just a lot of sudden world-building that left me with more questions than answers.

This was ultimately a book about family and heists (and dragons), though, so I can’t fault it for its conclusion staying true to those features, and I certainly can’t fault it for being a standalone. I’ve been looking for more fantasy standalones for a long time, so that in itself was a breath of fresh air, and probably helped to save the book from a 2 star finish. People who’ve been looking for standalones will probably enjoy this, and folks who like their dragons acting a lot like humans and who like thieves are likely to have a ball so long as they don’t expect any deep depth of world going in. It’s a fun, fast read, excellent for summer on the porch in the evening, and receives a 2.5 star rating from me largely because I’m picky and like my characters and worlds with possibly more substance than is necessarily advisable. I’m a little like Gabriela in that I am very curious, and I will take my time trying to learn everything about the new thing that’s totally consuming my brain. Give me alllllllllll the material to dive into.

ALL OF IT.

Anyway, if you think Fire and Heist is the right book for you, preorder it soon, or buy it in stores or online December 4 this year! Or ask your library to get it if you can’t get it yourself (libraries are kind of the best like that)!

2 thoughts on “Fire and Heist by Sarah Beth Durst || Dragon Hoards in the Modern Age

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