One Flew Through the Dragon Heart
(Favan & Flew #1)
By: C.S. Johnson
Publication Date: December 21st, 2018
A Chinese Legend. A British Secret. Star-Crossed Lovers with Incompatible Magic.
Brixton Flew works as a professor of wielder instruction at Rembrandt Academy, hoping to erase the regrets of his youth along with the resulting debt. But when he comes face to face with his biggest regret—the woman who broke his heart, Adelaide Favan—Brixton soon realizes his troubles have only begun.
Unable to control her magic, Adelaide knew leaving Brixton was the only way to protect him when they were younger. Now she discovers he is the key to recovering the Dragon Eyes, a legendary treasure connected to her magic and her family’s disgraced legacy—and she knows the risk is great, to both his life and her heart.
With others seeking the power of the Dragon Eyes, Brixton and Adelaide must outwit their foes and face down their families to save London from an ancient legend that sleeps beneath the magic portal in their city.
But the renewed passion growing between them may prove to be the greater peril …
One Flew Through the Dragon Heart is the first book in a new steampunk series by C.S. Johnson, blending together history, romance, mecha-dragons and magic against the glittering backdrop of 1880’s Victorian London.
His sixteen-year-old self was scurrying past the materials room when he heard his name spoken with a soft, foreign lilt. The sound broke through him like a magic spell, disrupting his intellectual musings and forcing him into an uncomfortable position.
He was in a hurry; his professor would be upset if he was late for class. As a star pupil, Brixton knew he had a certain reputation to live up to, and he had learned well not to call any negative attention to himself.
But at the sound of Adelaide Favan calling for him, he felt helpless—helplessly nervous and helplessly intrigued. It was almost as if some part of him had been waiting for her to call, and he had been more than ready to answer.
Out of guilt, if nothing else.
He nearly lost his grip on the stack of books he carried as he stumbled to a stop and glanced back at the doorway to the materials room. He could see a slim shadow at the back, where her dark skirts whipped around as she moved between stations, pulling out supplies and looking for spare coils, cogs, or anything else she decided she needed.
He did not have the faintest notion why she would be calling him. Adelaide never seemed to talk to anyone unless it was out of necessity.
“Are you coming in or not?” Adelaide straightened, looking up at him from behind a thick pair of black-rimmed goggles, the kind that magnified her eyes behind the protective glass.
Brixton felt a quick twinge of regret. She always wore them when she was working on something. He had a sinking feeling he was going to be late for class—but he stepped into the room regardless.
“I’m surprised,” she said as he tentatively approached her.
“Why? You were the one who called me.”
“Is that what I need to do to get your attention?” Adelaide put her hands on her hips as she stepped back from the table, where a box full of wires and screws and other various building materials winked up at him.
Brixton felt his face turn red. “If you’re talking about earlier, I—”
“I don’t want to talk about earlier,” Adelaide said. “You know who my father is. Do you think your friends are the first people to make fun of me because of my family?”
“They’re not my friends. Not exactly.” Brixton sighed. “They’re just people we go to school with. You don’t have to be friends with them. You just have to get along with them until we graduate.”
“Is that your plan?”
He shifted his feet as the clocks chimed loudly, the pleasant ringing turning sour in his ears. He was officially late for class. Brixton glanced back at the door.
Adelaide did not pay attention to the clock. She saw to her work, fiddling with one of the gearshifts. Brixton noticed she was also still wearing her workshop gloves. Along with her goggles, they were a semi-permanent part of her wardrobe. They were thick and black, going up past her elbows. The school issued them as part of the engineering department; Brixton hated wearing them, since the synthetic material of the gloves interfered with his ability to use magic. Adelaide was the only one who consistently wore them.
“It’s mostly my plan,” he said, finally answering her.
“Seems like a silly plan, especially for the next four years.”
“Earlier, when those girls were picking on you, I didn’t say anything—”
“I said I didn’t want to talk about earlier. People have made comments about me all my life. Getting accepted into Rembrandt two years earlier than everyone else is merely another unearned privilege in their eyes.”
Her voice was calm, but Brixton saw that her fingers, even buried in her large gloves, shook ever so slightly.
“I don’t presume—”
“But you do.” Adelaide pushed up her goggles onto her forehead again, brushing back her long black hair.
Brixton hated how he stared at her. Up close, her eyes were cloudy gray, speckled over with a silver lining. He noticed they were slanted, ever so slightly; along with her flattened nose and full lips, there were plenty of hints at her Chinese heritage. He had heard the whispers of her family, especially her father, the famous Captain Favan who led Her Royal Majesty’s Airship Force.
That was one of the main reasons he had tried to befriend her before. Brixton had approached her when she was first introduced to their class, eager to talk about her father’s legacy and how it was his dream to be in the Airship Force one day, too. Adelaide had ignored him then, brushing off his introduction.
Remembering that, he frowned. She has some nerve, admonishing me for poor manners.
He cleared his throat to give himself a moment to recover. “You should know you’re presuming that I’m presuming something. I don’t know you well enough to presume anything.”
For the first time, Adelaide softened her expression. Brixton briefly wondered if he had hurt her feelings, or if it was possible he had successfully pointed out her double standards.
She tugged the goggles down over her eyes a moment later, returning to the project before her. She said nothing as she picked up a suturing iron and began to burn a twisted bunch of wires together.
For a long moment, Brixton watched her. Despite her gloves, her movements were very precise—so precise that they almost seemed awkward.
Just like the rest of her, he thought with a small smile.
Adelaide was fourteen years old, two years younger than everyone else at Rembrandt. She had transferred into the school during the middle of their second semester, and ever since their failed first meeting, Brixton kept his distance from her, even if he continued to watch her out of the corner of his eye. He knew the others in his class teased her for her youth, her connections, and her ancestry.
He could sympathize with her some in that regard, given he received plenty of his own mockery. He was only at Rembrandt because of his scholarship. Most of the students were from the aristocracy, and the idea of rich merchants or lower-class workers—such as his parents—sending their children to Rembrandt was nothing short of scandalous.
He easily dismissed those who badgered him; he was here for an education, and nothing more.
But as Brixton gazed down at Adelaide, he suddenly wondered if she was able to do the same.
She was such a small thing. She was not only two years his junior, but she was also at least a foot shorter. The Rembrandt Academy uniform nearly swallowed up her body. He could see her vest was pinned in the back, and her long skirt was clearly hemmed. Brixton had a feeling she liked to wear the goggles on her forehead if for no other reason than they lent her another two inches in height.
“Why did you call me?” Brixton asked, daring himself to speak again.
Adelaide bit her lip, and Brixton found himself staring again.
Finally, she sighed. “I need you.”
His breath caught and his body went still. He was only able to move after she added, “I need your help.”
The words came out with a ripe bitterness in each syllable, and Brixton almost laughed at her discomfort. It was clear she never asked for help if she could avoid it.
He cleared this throat again, swallowing the last of his laughter, and nodded. “Tell me what it is.”
“I need help assembling this,” Adelaide said, pointing to the neat array of metal scraps and parts before her.
“What is it?”
“A dragon heart.”
“Beg pardon?” Brixton dropped his books, missing the table and causing them to clatter to the floor. He was certain he had misheard her as he bent to pick them up, but he was even more surprised when she laughed.
Her eyes were pushed back into slits behind her goggles, giving her a wizened, animated look as her smile widened. Brixton stared at her as he picked up his books and stacked them neatly beside hers.
“I’m only kidding,” Adelaide said, before she arched her brow. “Or maybe I’m not. Either way, I need your help with this part.”
She opened the top panel and pointed to a small knot of wires lined with alloy and copper. “This is an energy loop I’ve been working on. It’s a special type of power source. The Board wants to develop more efficient batteries, especially since the Edison Project has shown promise. Now they want to see what the wielders can do to improve it.”
“I talked with Professor Ohm about this,” Brixton said. “He wanted to find a way to generate perpetual energy. He thought electricity could possibly be infused with magic.”
“I know. I overheard your conversation after class a few days ago.”
“You did?” Brixton took the suturing iron out of her hand.
“He was dismissive of the idea as an alternative life source, but he was interested in seeing if you could figure out how to make his own theories work.”
He bit down on his cheek. He knew which conversation Adelaide was referring to, and it was one where Professor Ohm spent several minutes admonishing him for his eclectic reading tastes.
“What?” Adelaide asked.
“It’s rude to eavesdrop.”
She jutted her chin forward. “It’s also rude to ignore people who need help.”
“I don’t know if you’re saying that to make me feel bad about before, or if it’s just to make sure I stay here and help you,” Brixton muttered. “Do you care to tell me which?”
“I have an extra pair of gloves if you need them,” Adelaide offered.
He rolled his eyes as she sidestepped his question. “I don’t use them if I can help it.” He called up the power that resided inside of him. He could feel it flowing from his heart down to his fingertips, filling his palm. “I like working with my hands better. It’s easier to conjure up my talent. That’s my magic, as you might have known already. I can build things. Anything, really.”
“Well, no wonder you’re so good at this.” Adelaide pouted as Brixton undid her work. “You’re using magic.”
“And you don’t? Why are you in school to be an engineering wielder if you’re not using magic?”
“I like working with machinery,” Adelaide said. “I’m here because Rembrandt produces the best engineers in London. The fact that it’s a magical school does nothing for me.”
“Do you even have magic at all? I thought that was a requirement for coming here.”
“It is.” Adelaide went silent, and for the first time, Brixton saw her blush. With the small patch of red on her cheeks, he could just make out a light trail of freckles across her nose.
“Ouch.” He flinched as the suturing iron slipped across his fingers.
“Pay attention to what you’re doing. You don’t have to worry about my talent right now. All you need to know is that it’s not helping me fix this.” She crossed her arms and looked away.
“Right.” Brixton turned back to the item in front of him.
One Flew Through The Dragon Heart is the first book in the Favan & Flew series, set in a Steampunk alternate reality in London, one that filled with magicians and humans living together but with their own prejudices, perhaps fear towards those with magic and different from them. The setting itself is very good and able to really bring out this powerful setting especially for a starting point for both the characters, especially when the chapters change focal points between the two main characters, Adelaide Favan and Brixton Flew and follows them from how the met and their story, slowly revealing their present state and the deeper story that links the mysteries behind Adelaide’s magic and Brixton’s capability. Its interesting especially to see that the magic in this universe change in context for each magician as they each have their own skillset and not everyone is all powerful with powers to control everything, except perhaps when they get the Dragon Eyes which is the main “treasure” in this story. As a starting point, the stage is set very well with a good amount of foundation and a great amount for setting and back story for each of the characters, giving them enough substance to find them intriguing to read about.
Aside from that, I’m always a big fan of anyone who tries to pull some Chinese legends into their story, especially mixing Eastern with Western because it can create a nice contrast and back story. Dragons are a traditional symbol in the East, especially in Asian and because of that its a great spot to start especially giving a basis for what curses Adelaide and her family. It gives us a nice background of the families involved as well. At the same time, there is a sense of mystery and heist situation which works very well here. Its keeps the pacing fun and entertaining to read. Its a mystery and always layers to learn more about what else will happen next and the secrets involved. The writing itself carries very well.
My biggest criticism is that the romance involved here between Adelaide and Brixton always feels a bit forced. I can’t say unnecessary because its the motive behind why a lot of their story unravels because of their love for each other and its this forbidden love sort of situation. Perhaps its the familiarity of this material and how it, at times, feels very redundant and the dialogue very clunky which makes it hard (for me) to get into. There are some lines that truly feel too rigid to be a part of this story and breaks the immersion of the bigger and more dire situation presented here. There is no doubt that the relationship between Adelaide and Brixton and breaking her curse is going to be a big part in the series but hopefully the dialogue and situation will be less repetitive as they have moved on from the reuniting phase in this book.
Overall, One Flew Through The Dragon Heart is a pretty decent book. Its adventurous and mysterious and packed with a good bit of suspense. The magic in each of the characters and how it is structured from the set up of the society is all done very well and pretty intriguing to learn in general. Its a good foundation. Other than the lackluster romance here, every other element works well and sets a good foundation for future books in the series.
Goodreads rating: 4/5
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C. S. Johnson is the award-winning, genre-hopping author of several novels, including young adult sci-fi and fantasy adventures such as the Starlight Chronicles, the Once Upon a Princess saga, and the Divine Space Pirates trilogy. With a gift for sarcasm and an apologetic heart, she currently lives in Atlanta with her family. Find out more at http://www.csjohnson.me
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Great review Kim!
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