Librarian's note: See alternate cover edition of ASIN B075BSZ3JF here.
The salvation of humans and dragons lies within a convicted murderer.
Dragonshifter Kesia Ironfire has one goal—to redeem her past by serving the cruel dragon Pinnacle as a soldier in the dragon-human war.
Then a rogue mission to spy on a new airship explodes into sickening green smoke. The same mysterious green smoke that was present the night of Kesia’s crime. When her dragon overlords deny any involvement, she and her tactical partner Zephryn Nightstalker try to investigate--and are sentenced to death.
Still searching for answers, Kesia and Zephryn flee to the human military capital, where Captain Shance Windkeeper has been furloughed after the destruction of his airship. Eager to discover what--and who--blew up his vessel, he agrees to help Kesia and Zephryn infiltrate High Command. In exchange, Kesia must pretend to be his betrothed so Shance can escape an arranged marriage. If only she knew what ‘betrothed’ and ‘arranged marriage’ meant.
But human social customs are the least of her worries. Dark secrets surface as Kesia delves deeper--secrets that challenge the facts of her crime and undermine the war itself.
Janeen Ippolito believes you should own your unique words—and make them awesome! She’s a multi-published author of bestselling fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. She’s also an experienced book editor and marketing strategist, plus the CEO of Uncommon Universes Press, a publishing company with award-winning books. She hosts the podcast Own Your Unique Words, which helps gutsy fiction authors grow their businesses without burning out. In her spare time, she helps her missionary husband with his youth swordfighting ministry, indulges her foodie ambitions, reads whatever books she feels like, and explores a slew of random hobbies. Her life goals include traveling to Antarctica and riding a camel while wearing a party hat. She loves to connect, so join her on social media or at janeenippolito.com
Really fascinating world - steampunk fantasy with dragons!! However, some content things were a bit iffy for me. I'm planning on reading more by the author, since I loved her "Superhero Publicist," but not sure if/when I'll return to Lawless.
Dragon shapeshifters. Steampunk setting. Intricate magic system. Deep and complex characters.
We readers of speculative fiction are a cynical bunch. Sure, the above list of things makes the book in question sound awesome, but it’s also too good to be true, right?
Nope. Janeen Ippolito’s Lawless lives up to the hype—and more. The core of great storytelling is an author’s ability to deliver on promises to the reader. Ms. Ippolito makes quite a few promises in the back-cover blurb alone, but successfully delivers on every one. For example:
The dragons are...dragon-y. For lack of a better term. Ippolito’s dragons are not stock shapeshifting characters who perfectly mimic humanity and just happen to turn into dragons once in a while. For one thing, the shapeshifting has precise and intriguing rules. For another, the dragons are distinct from humans in their behavior, culture, and thought patterns (even when they’re mimicking human form). They look at the world through completely different eyes and are baffled by many human customs. This makes Kesia and Zephryn fascinating POV characters. Their alien outlook is balanced against Shance Windkeeper’s human perspective, as he struggles (humorously) to help his dragon friends fit in.
The steampunk elements are detailed and immersive. Too many books marketing themselves as steampunk just throw in the obligatory airships and clockwork without actually delving into the setting to readers’ satisfaction. Lawless does not fall into this error. It is a delightful escape into a truly steampunk world, where the unique mixture of fantasy elements and Victorian technology is fully described and has a strong influence on the plot. This is steampunk at its very best.
The romance is worthwhile and engaging. I’ll be honest—I’m not one of those people who clamors for less romance in the books I read. Maybe I’m too old-fashioned—or too young—but I think romantic elements add a lot to a story, provided that they’re not sappy and tiresome. Janeen Ippolito is very, very good at writing romance. She sets herself a unique challenge in Lawless by creating dragon characters who have no concept of human relationships or even physical intimacy. In a different author’s hands, this set-up could easily result in something tawdry and adolescent, but that’s not the case at all with this book. Sexual tension actually forms a significant element, but it feels completely warranted and never goes beyond the PG-13 level. In the end, the book makes important philosophical observations about love and lifelong commitment, and resolves the romantic subplot in an unexpected way. The words “love triangle” are generally a red flag for me, but the one in Lawless isn’t like any I’ve read before and never caused me to sigh and roll my eyes.
On that note, a quick content advisory: There’s some mild language and a few brief, non-explicit sexual references. A couple of characters are implied to be promiscuous, but this issue is examined from more than one angle and not unilaterally presented as a glamorous or positive trait. Some violence, but no excessive gore.
The highest praise I can give Lawless is that it’s everything it says on the tin, and more. It kept me riveted from the first page all the way to the end, and left me very eager for further books in the series. I highly recommend it for all readers of fantasy.
And if you’re not convinced yet...did I mention the dragons?
This author really has quite a few surprises in store for readers.
I have to admit that when I first started reading, I did not like Shance. At. All. I could care less for him when all I wanted was more ZEPHRYN! *clears throat* I mean Kesia and Zephryn. ;) So, to say that I was I a little surprised when I started liking Shance is an understatement. Though I can't say I feel overly sad for him due to circumstances. (Goodness, that sounds heartless!)
Now I shouldn't have been surprised because I read this author's previous novelette and loved the romance, but I was taken aback by how much I truly enjoyed the way she weaved a good romance in LAWLESS. I absolutely LOVED Zephryn and Kesia's relationship! A true story of love and seeing it fully realized. Plus, it was really sweet and innocent in many ways.
For my third reason, I won't go into too much detail, but there was another character I didn't like. However, I'm actually really looking forward to hearing more of her story in future books. She's a powerful woman, but it seems she's not all what she appears to be.
Overall, a good story and a good introduction to steampunk. (The Windkeeper scene was EPIC!!) I'm intrigued as to where things will go next, though I'm a little nervous based on that last conversation. I could imagine it will be another roller coaster ride!
Recommended to those who love romance, dragons, and steampunk.
To be honest, I went into Lawless a little warily. I had a rocky start with it--liking the snarkiness between Kesia and Zephryn, but stumbling a little to figure out what was going on. Fleetwings? Talents? Congruency? Scepters? What? But confusion soon cleared and then it was off on an adventure!
The dragon-human war has dragged for years with no resolution. On the dragon side, Kesia, convicted murderer, serves as a soldier for the Pinnacle in hopes of redemption; her fleetwing and tactical partner, deposed Prince Zephryn, too has little choice in his involvement. On the human side, Captain Shance Windkeeper has been conscripted into the war, hiding his distaste for it with alcohol and sex everytime he can. Unlikely partners, it would seem--and yet all three must work together to find the truth--and hopefully, stop the war.
I love the way Ippolito has created a dragon culture that's almost tangible and the world comes alive. It's also more interesting when the dragonshifters themselves constantly rediscover parts of their culture and lives that have been stolen away from them due to the war. But really, the best thing about Lawless is how fun it is. True, there's war and conspiracy, death and betrayal, but there's also the lighthearted side of life: Kesia muddling through confusing human social customs; Zilpath's gentle teasing; Shance constantly making a fool of himself for love; the banter between Kesia and Zephryn, Kesia and Shance.
However, it's not just a flighty read. Interweaved into this lightheartedness are broad themes of worth and redemption, strength and conviction, and faithfulness. Kesia struggles with her self-worth and is constantly fighting to redeem herself. Yet, as she remembers more about her forgotten past, and discovers more about what brought her to that place, she also learns that her past doesn't have to define her future, the actions of others don't necessarily demean her worth, and that who she is is strong enough.
Since this is book 1, obviously the story doesn't end yet. It reaches a sort of pause, and I have questions. But they can wait. Until book 2.
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher. This review is my own independent and fair evaluation.
I love dragons and steampunk, so the blurb grabbed me immediately (as did that smashing cover). The story is well-woven and I liked the characters, especially Kesia. I'm looking forward to the upcoming sequels.
Warning: There ARE references to sex and promiscuity, as well as some implied scenes (though nothing explicit.) If you prefer completely "clean" reads, this may not be the story for you.
However, if you love dragons and steampunk and don't mind a little adult romance, definitely check this book out. It's worth the read!
Steampunk with sci-fi elements. A war between dragon-shifters and humans. A love story about souls destined to be together. The story world in this book is so well-done, and the characters are lovable and real. The writing is smooth and kept me turning pages. A great start to the series.
Interesting story as a whole. The characters were a bit weird and hard to relate to at points since they were shapeshifting dragons, but that's also what made the story realistic given their "otherness." The politics confused me a couple points, but that could also be the side effect of reading half of it and putting the book down for a couple weeks before finishing it today. As a whole, it was decently entertaining with some good character arc and thematic moments.
I was a tad skeptical when I started reading this book. I mean, sure, I like shapeshifters, especially dragon shifters. And it’s pretty fun when they get involved with airships, specifically, crashing them (thanks, Aranya by Marc Secchia!). But a few things struck me as odd, such as the way Kesia and Zephyrn have no words for love or romance. This is taken to almost a ludicrous extreme, such as when Shance starts crushing on Kesia and she doesn’t understand when he calls her “beautiful”.
But I kept going, and I’m glad I did. The dragon history has such a terrible twist in it that all those words were expunged from their vocabulary. Very fascinating. This is also a story about what happens when you let people have too much Science in with their magical creatures. It echoed some of the themes in Patricia Briggs’s Alpha and Omega series, with the shapeshifter and their forms being tampered with. Whether magically or through science, it’s still a Bad Thing.
There are some steamy kissing scenes, but nothing more over the top than your average YA novel. The characters here are all adults and adult behavior is discussed, but nothing is shown. I would only recommend this book for mature teens and up.
Overall, I enjoyed this book very much. Not all the secrets are revealed, so I expect this to be a trilogy at least, if not a longer series. It’ll be great fun as a boxed set. Four stars!
This is one of those books where I thought I'd just "read a little bit" and then five hours later, I'm still completely immersed in the world of dragon shifters, airship captains, and intrigue.
So much love for the world building and the characters. I'm pretty much #TeamShance and just want him to be generally awesome at everything. Kesia was pretty epic. But I feel kind of lame to say that Zephyrn wasn't my favorite? He's cool and all, but didn't quite connect with him like the others.
The plot was so fun! So much intrigue going on. Plus the added bonus of dragons having to stay in human form and figure out how to actually act like a human to blend in. The romance was a-dorable. There was almost a love triangle, also plot things, but let's be honest - Shance never really stood a chance.
Shance is for sure my favorite. Because what's not to love about a confident, roguish airship captain who can control the winds and secretly has a heart of gold? So yeah, looking forward to seeing more of him in future books. :)
The world is epic. All the different layers and powers the dragons have are insanely cool. I felt completely immersed in the world, and I loved it. Really looking forward to more in the series!
Content warning: this is more of an adult book. There's frequent talk of sex and we have a scene with a married couple together - nothing explicit. Some very mild language from what I remember but nothing I minded. I'd rate the book PG-13.
Between the shapeshifting, snarky humor, and intriguing story world details, this book was sooo much fun to read. Imagine being able to transform yourself into any living creature you’ve seen… like a bug: “[Beetle-form] Kesia was halfway to a window before she caught herself. Instead of hurtling into the glass, she landed on it, the sticky bits on her legs clinging to the surface.” Have you ever been compelled to hurl yourself at window glass? Oh the challenges of being a shapeshifter! So much fun to read deep point of view from the perspective of a bug.
Yet, as much as I loved the imaginative shapeshifting and snark, my absolute favorite aspect of the novel was the unique fleetwing relationship. I immediately connected with Kesia and Zephryn through their mutual concern for one another and the emotional impact of their past. I felt the pang of intimacy denied and thoroughly enjoyed watching their unfolding discovery of everything marriage can and should be.
On that note, this novel is not for anyone who can't take a little heat… And I don't mean flames from the mouth of a dragon. The romantic heat was high but not explicit, the mood—at times—very sensual. Personally, I loved the mix of innocence and desire. And I doubt many people would be offended by the portrayal of physical intimacy within the confines of marriage—but use your discretion.
On a similar note, I had some personal concerns that the romance would shift in the “wrong” direction (from my perspective)… That is to say, the author made me care! Once I understood the nature of the fleetwing bond, and given how attached I became to the idea of Kesia and Zephryn, I worried where the fake betrothal might lead. In the end, the author never took me down a road I wasn't willing to travel, and I was more than happy with the outcome of that particular story thread.
Reading this book was, overall, a positive experience. I had a few minor points of confusion here and there and might've liked a little more setup or foreshadowing for a few story twists, but that's likely a matter of personal preference. Yes, there were curse words—very few in my opinion. At times, the names of the different Scepters made my head spin. But the world building creativity intrigued, the romance sizzled, and I'm already planning to read more books by this author.
What I liked best about this story was its sense of fun. It did get serious in places, but it had a lot of great lighter moments. It never became dreary. I've been trying to decide how I would describe this book. I think I would call it a dragon-shifter adventure/mystery set in a steampunk universe. There is almost a dystopian flavor about the human and dragon governments as well, which I liked.
World-building was pretty good, though I feel that it took a little more work than it should have to get my bearings in the beginning. I thought the use of book-inspired curse-style words helped with the world-building quite a bit. The relationships between the three main characters were well done. The dragons could have just as easily been aliens, they were so unused to human...anything. Watching them explore and learn with Shance's help was a big part of the story.
There were only a few things that might have made the story a little better to me. The ending felt rather bland after such a good story. Also, the focus shifted away from the action a few times right when things were getting exciting. Lastly, this book was mentioned by another author whose work I enjoy, which is why I immediately requested it when I saw it on NetGalley. I'm very glad that I did, because if I had only based my choice on the cover, I probably would have missed it. The cover is colorful, it just felt a little flat to me. Maybe it has to do with the pose, or the eyes. I'm sure I'm in the minority there, however.
All in all, this was a lot of fun and a really great book to start a series. I expect it would be about a PG-13 as a film. I really did enjoy this book and look forward to continuing the series.
I received a copy of this book via NetGally. Reviewing was my choice.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I first started this book. I'm generally a huge fan of anything involving dragons, but I didn't know how it would play out with the shape shifting element. And I'm happy to say that, overall, I think it worked out really great! I had a lot of fun reading this book.
Fair warning: there was a little love triangle going on. Normally, love triangles are a great way to ruin a book for me. But in this case, it didn't bother me too much. I think one of the reasons I was less annoyed with this particular triangle is that not a lot of time is spent focusing on it. And the overall story was so interesting that I was able to overlook it in this case.
I loved the differences between the two cultures. Everything from the cultural norms, to the words they use is unique to each culture. It made the characters and the world they inhabited so much more real and dynamic. I would have liked to learn a little more about the history of the world and the two cultures, but the stuff that was there was really great!
There were a few plot holes and spots where I think things could have been explained better. But overall, I enjoyed this book so much. It's definitely worth a read. And I'm interested to see where the story goes from here!
Thank you to NetGalley and Uncommon Universes Press LLC for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Having previously been introduced to Janeen Ippolito's writing in her short story, "Superhero Publicist", in the "Hall of Heroes" anthology, I jumped at the opportunity to request and receive a free copy of Lawless for the purposes of a review.
The characters really brought this book to life for me. The tangled weave of Kesia's past and the challenges she faced drew me into the world of Sekastra. I loved the bond between Kesia and Zephryn, but, in the beginning, I also secretly rooted for the tide to turn in favor of Captain Windkeeper. I was torn between which of the two suitors I favored more for her.
While the romantic triangle made for more some interesting situations and dialogue, romance is not the focus of this story. The real source of conflict is a long-time war between two cultures that had once worked together. Twists and turns paired with excellent world building, Lawless is an engaging story filled with tension and intrigue.
I look forward to reading more of Janeen Ippolito's skillfully woven and wonderfully inventive tales in the future.
I have a minor (huge) obsession with dragons, so when I read that Lawless was a book full of dragon shapeshifters in a steampunk setting, I knew I had to give it a shot.
I’m so glad I did. Janeen Ippolito has crafted a really intricate magic system and complex characters. Dragon shapeshifting has precise rules that I’ve never read before. They are also distinctly different than humans. They have their own behavior, culture and thought patterns.
Admittedly, I don’t read a ton of steampunk, so I was really excited to see how this book played out. The elements are very immersive. A mixture of fantasy and Victorian technology is detailed and this has a strong influence to drive the plot forward.
The romance is so engaging. I love the element it added to the story. The author set up a romance between two characters who have no concept of human relationships and gives unique themes of love and lifelong commitment. Lawless kept me engaged and riveted from the beginning to the end. I highly recommend check g this one out.
*I received an ARC from the publisher. All opinions are my own.*
I received a free ARC copy pdf.file. I did not receive any monetary payment for my review. It is of my own volition I created this review.
Janeen Ippolito’s shape shifting dragon novel weaves a tale with intrigue, romance, betrayal and more. Kesia Ironfire is far more than she takes form, she and Zephryn, her partner in battle, take on the evil that encompasses both the humans and dragons in their world. While the story contains mild swearing, drinking, notable fantasy oaths, magic-light as in super powers- and other things, they are used tastefully, unlike some other books in mass market.
Traditional Fantasy and Steampunk genre is meshed well by this master author.
For the curious reader, I wish there had been a short glossary to orient the reader with more about the organizations and more on the ‘Scepters’ discussed.
Love the cover design! Love the inside map!
Three out of Five stars. Looking forward to more novels from this author.
This is an interesting fantasy reality with dragons. Yes, I adore dragons, especially ones with other magical abilities (unique ones, too). It earns a solid four stars from me. My biggest problem with the story...it wasn't Shance Windwalker's story. It was Kesia and Zephryn's story, and having Shance's POV threw me out of sync with the real problem and the necessary resolution. I started this series with PRICELESS (Nula's story) so meeting her interested me. However, if I would have started with this book, I think all of that would have seemed extraneous. By the end of the book, every piece of the puzzle fits together, but the path confused me enough at times that I took breaks from the story. I like Shance, and I'll be reading his story next. But ALL of his narrative just to set up this third book?
Lawless by Janeen Ippolito is amazing. There are no other words. This is one of those stories that won't let you go until you finish it.
The world building is superb. The author creates a technologically advanced, steampunk society with holograms and airships. Dragons who can pass as humans. Everyone has incredible superpowers. But the truly amazing thing is that all of these elements: Steampunk tech, fantasy dragon shifters, and mutant abilities all mesh perfectly into one engaging plot filled with: intrigue, romance and danger.
Did I mention that there's a war going on too! There is so much going on in this novel that the description above does not do it justice.
*I was given an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.*
I was unsure about it at first, but it ended up being a good story. I look forward to reading the others in the series. One thing that bothered me though was the lack of any explanation of why the dragons in this world could take almost-human forms (and be attracted to each other's human forms -that bugged me near the beginning. Snakes aren't attracted to dogs. Ducks don't try to mate with frogs. Humans and dragons are very different species. How could dragons be attracted to humans?) It wouldn't have bothered me if there was some explanation for it in the story, but there isn't. However, I can (mostly) overlook stuff like this since it's otherwise a good story.
A book about a war between humans and dragons, which is not at all what it appears to be. Our three heroes, an unlikely trio, fight for justice. And I loved it from start to finish. The dragons are so, so well-written. Seemingly humans in skin-form, but a whole different culture, including their love-life and lack of knowledge of "blinking with just one eye".
Janeen Ippolito is a great self-published writer who should be more famous in the world of fantasy, as she is an excellent writer. This is the second book of hers I had the pleasure of reading and she shows some great, new ideas that everyone would enjoy.
A tightly written adventure with good world building and enjoyable characters. Kesia and Zephryn are dragon shifters. Shance is an airship captain who needs their help and develops feelings for Kesia. The story has an interesting plot and shows a love triangle right. It took me a bit to get into Kesia’s character and see her for anything more than a criminal. Once her circumstances were discussed, I grew to like her.
It was awesome. I love books about dragons. It was really interesting being inside Kesia and Zephryns head. They don't know much about humans and watching them learn some of it was amazing. Ah Shance Windkeeper. What can I say about you? I just hope he gets a happy ending. I'm excited to see where the next one takes us. But I kind of want two different characters to take the stage this time.
I think my students are really going to love this book. I think that both boys and girls will find this read appealing since its strong female lead really punches the story forward. Also, who doesn't love dragons?
I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
An exciting read. I was very impressed with the character development in this story. It helped the characters come alive, but didn't slow down the pace of the story. Definitely one I plan to reread as I wait impatiently for the next book in the series.
RTC, because I’m still trying to decide on my rating…definitely a high one, but there were a couple elements that I normally don’t like in my fiction that fit really really well in this story. And I’m still trying to decide whether or not that should affect my rating. XD
Steampunk dragon-shifters with special powers. 'Nuff said.
Seriously, though, this was a very fun book to read! I loved the main characters (especially Zephryn *sigh*), the plot was intriguing, and it made me want to read more.
The only problem I had was that a few of the plot-points seemed to come out of nowhere and were hard for me to understand right at first. But everything eventually became straight in my head and I honestly couldn't tell you it if was the writing that gave me the problem or if it was my own dense head. :)
Fantastic read! Unique story merging the world of dragons and humans. Ms. Ippolito does an excellent job of world building without confusing the reader. Characters are complex but relatable. Excellent writing with a touch of humor. I had a hard time putting the book down. This is the type of story you will think about long after you finish reading it!