Chasing Embers – James Bennett

Chasing Embers by James Bennett (review copy from publishers Orbit, via NetGalley) is the first in a new series of urban fantasy novels about muscle-for-hire Ben Garston. Ben is not your typical mercenary, though. He’s the last remaining dragon in the world. After ruinous wars, King John signed a Covenant that led to the fae and all supernatural beings withdrawing from the world, except for one of each species.  
For the most part, Ben leads a pretty quiet life, doing the occasional job of work without asking too many questions about it, until the peace of the Covenant is shattered. There appears to be another dragon on the loose, stealing items from museums, which means Ben’s enemies have free rein to try to act on centuries-old feuds. Ben’s attempts to unravel the mystery lead him to Africa and an ancient goddess, and jeopardise the safety of his (ex-)girlfriend and, inevitably, the world.
I have to say I was underwhelmed by this book, and it was a bit of a plod to get through. Ben crashes pretty unthinkingly through life, which makes him hard to make a connection with and has the plot reeling from one fight scene or confrontation to another. There is also far too much reliance on the Deus Ex Machina of the one remaining Fae (who lives as a gloriously seedy nightclub owner in Germany) arriving to save the day and get the author out of a plot hole or comer he has backed himself into. And I was left slightly disturbed by the frequent resort to torture and Ben’s sexual attraction to the African goddess, who is embodied in the novel through and around a prepubescent girl.  
Bennett tries to do some interesting things with Ben’s relationship with love-interest Rose, playing on dragon-tropes. Rose is presented as alternately a treasure he is seeking to add to his hoard, or a princess he is seeking to protect. She, by all accounts, is happy with neither role, nor with his inability to admit who and what he really is. But despite a few spirited attempts to rebel, Rose fails to pass the Sexy Lamp Test (could you replace the lead female character with a particularly attractive lamp, without making any difference to the plot of the story?) and becomes merely a plot device to get Ben to the scene of the novel’s climax.  
Goodreads rating: 2*

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