Review: Scorched by Mari Mancusi

ScorchedTitle: Scorched

Author: Mari Mancusi

Genre: Dragons, Time Travel, YA

Publication Date: September 3, 2013 (Sourcebooks Fire)

Source: ARC found in a used bookstore

Don’t leave me here… It starts with a whisper. At first Trinity thinks she’s going crazy. It wouldn’t be a big surprise–her grandpa firmly believes there’s a genuine dragon egg in their dusty little West Texas town. But this voice is real, and it’s begging for her protection. Even if no one else can hear it…

He’s come from a future scorched by dragonfire. His mission: Find the girl. Destroy the egg. Save the world.

He’s everything his twin brother Connor hates: cocky, undisciplined, and obsessed with saving dragons.

Trinity has no idea which brother to believe. All she has to go by is the voice in her head–a dragon that won’t be tamed.

2/5 stars – Starts out fun and quickly dissolves into stupidity

Sometimes, you need mindless stuff to get through the day. Scorched was the mindless stuff to get me through the aftermath of a terrible dentist appointment and olfactory flashbacks to the laughing gas that made me sick multiple times. At first, the wild, fun elements of dragons, time travel, and mind-reading/mind-influencing people all mashed together entertained me, but as the novel went on, my annoyance at how Trinity failed to pick up on the most obvious holes in everyone’s stories and other such issues were what kept my mind off the pain and flashbacks.

Trinity starts out as a character with potential. The “child raising their parent/grandparent” trope is here and it’s still a little stale, but her cynicism and difficulty trusting others after her mother’s suicide and her grandfather’s many terrible business decisions comes across well. What makes Trinity such a hard heroine to get behind is that she doesn’t appear to have anything even close to resembling a working brain. What she lets Connor and Caleb get by with concerning their hole-filled stories is too much for me to believably take.

When Connor and the dragon both speak into her mind and call her Fire-Kissed, she doesn’t question it (on Connor’s part, anyway). Apparently, she has less of a problem with a human being talking into her head than an unborn dragon egg. It takes Caleb doing the same thing to make her ask questions about those two things! Though she does ask about the relationship between her and the dragon egg, she fails to ask the most important questions (like the direct relationship between them in the future and what Connor means by her being “an added layer of protection”) AND takes his obviously evasive answer with no further questions on it. Oh, and the obvious holes in their motives go unquestioned too.

Not only is dumbing down Trinity to the point where she misses obvious red flags an example of how not to build a conflict or novel, it’s also an example of how thoroughly her prior characterization as cynical and untrusting is contradicted. Despite her saying multiple times she’s cynical and doesn’t trust other people, she only asks questions about half the time and is quick to trust both opposing sides. Even when ignoring what we readers learn in the short time we spend in Caleb’s and Connor’s points of view, Trinity is ignoring so much for the sake of building a weak conflict between Connor’s and Caleb’s respective sides that it’s painful.

If she were really that cynical, she would have wondered right off the bat if the kids the Dracken “found” and trained to tame dragons were kidnapped or at least asked immediately how they got there. They were rescued orphans and not kidnapped, but it’s very important that she doesn’t question anything about it and thinks they have families. How likely is it for a parent to react with “Okay, take my kid!” when time-traveling strangers tell them their child can control a dragon? Exactly. So why would she think that’s entirely plausible?

I love the idea of the dragons and Trinity’s dragon Emmy is sweet enough when she’s not burning people alive, but they lack the strength to keep standing when the tsunami of Trinity’s contradicted characterization and forced stupidity strike. Her love interests are rather typical too. We’ve got Connor, the angsty one with a stick up his rear end, and Caleb, our run-of-the-mill cocky dude with the big ego who likes to wear leather pants while riding a dragon. Neither is well-developed by themselves or with Trinity. One twist caught me off guard, but for the most part, it’s all predictable because we notice everything Trinity glances over for whatever reason.

Scorched is the start of a new series for Mancusi, but I don’t plan to stick around for it. As much as I wanted to like it–and really did for the first hundred pages or so–it failed to stay entertaining. Anyone who wants more dragons in YA might want to give it a shot just to see if they’ll like it better and find exactly what they’re looking for, though.

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