Henchgirl by Rita Stradling. ★★1/2
Henchgirl is a YA urban fantasy that shows promise. Unfortunately, the love interest is a grade A jerk and my feelings towards the book devolved to mainly anger.
In the world of Henchgirl, those who are descended from dragons rule the world. Dakota Kekoa is 1/8th dragon, which gives her special abilities, in her case to manipulate people’s emotions. With three sisters and a mentally absent mother, Dakota supports her family by working for her grandfather’s mafia like organization, which includes infiltrating an all human high school. Dakota manages the precarious situation until she’s given only a week to turn up several thousand dollars of rent money and is demoted by her grandfather at the same time. At the same time, girls all over the island are going missing, including one of Dakota’s human friends.
The world building probably could have been better, but it mostly worked. I thought it was inventive and interesting, something different from a lot of other urban fantasy novels. I got a feel of the world having it’s own history, and everything mostly held together.
The book held my focus up to about two thirds of the way in, when I started considering quitting. Although the early sections did hold my attention, it takes a while for the plot to get off the ground. A lot of time is spent on introducing the world and various characters before Dakota’s friend disappears. Despite this, I enjoyed the first half substantially more than the last half. Why? As it neared the end, ever more focus was put on a character I despised: the love interest, Wyvern, who’s creepiness level is up there with Christian Grey.
Wyvern is hot, powerful and rich. He does whatever he wants and seems to show interest in Dakota only because she sasses him and doesn’t grovel at his feet. The only emotions he seems capable of feeling are anger, possessiveness and desire.
Do you see that list of questions? Wyvern is a big fat yes to most of them (he throws cash at her to “prove what a great provider he is” so I guess he doesn’t meet the fourth one). He tricks her into a marriage contract where he has to be in touch with her every six hours. He hires someone to follow her. He moves into her house despite her protests. He kidnaps her. He goes through her phone and reads all her text messages. He hacks into her computer to read her emails. He assumes Dakota will move hundreds of miles away with him (even when she says she won’t), leaving her family for a guy she’s only known a week. While the text says he’s nineteen, he feels substantially older. Oh, and there’s also a scene where he turns into a raging monster and injures fourteen people. And yet he’s oh so romantic.
In short, the love interest is a predatory monster and it infuriates me to see his behavior treated as romantic and acceptable.
Actually, Dakota’s done her share of morally iffy things herself, and she’s also always treated as in the right and justified. I mean, think about it. She works as an enforcer for a crime lord and manipulates what people feel without their consistent. Yet, she’s treated as a heroine and not an anti-heroine.
Oh, and in addition to everything else, there was also a pointless love triangle.
If you liked Twilight, there’s a shot you might like Henchgirl. Everyone else should steer clear.