Review: How to Date Your Dragon (Mystic Bayou #1) by Molly Harper

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The cover is fine, nothing special but not embarassing either

The first book in Molly Harper’s uproariously funny, sinfully sexy new Mystic Bayou series!

Anthropologist Jillian Ramsay’s career has taken a turn south.

Concerned that technology is about to chase mythological creatures out into the open (how long can Sasquatch stay hidden from Google maps?), the League for Interspecies Cooperation is sending Jillian to Louisiana on a fact-finding mission. While the League hopes to hold on to secrecy for a little bit longer, they’re preparing for the worst in terms of human reactions. They need a plan, so they look to Mystic Bayou, a tiny town hidden in the swamp where humans and supernatural residents have been living in harmony for generations. Mermaids and gator shifters swim in the bayou. Spirit bottles light the front porches after twilight. Dragons light the fires under crayfish pots.

Jillian’s first assignment for the League could be her last. Mystic Bayou is wary of outsiders, and she has difficulty getting locals to talk to her. And she can’t get the gruff town sheriff, Bael Boone, off of her back or out of her mind. Bael is the finest male specimen she’s seen in a long time, even though he might not be human. Soon their flirtation is hotter than a dragon’s breath, which Bael just might turn out to be…

I finally got a chance to read the first two books in Molly Harper’s Mystic Bayou series, an audio-led series about a secret community of magical creatures living in a swamp. This series has been out for a while1; despite being a long-term fan of Molly Harper, I hadn’t read these because I was unaware that they came in print form, and I wasn’t sure how much I would like this new series. My concerns were groundless—this is a fun series, that contains the classic Molly Harper elements. A distinct, Southern setting with magical characters and elements, and interesting main characters who (for the most part) have complicated relationships with their family.

That being said, I’m glad I waited to borrow this, rather than paying the exorbitant Australian retail price, as it’s not as fast-paced and all-consuming as my favourite Molly Harper series. The book felt a little simplified, probably in order to work better with an auditory formula—which is fantastic by the way. Audiobook listeners really aren’t catered to very well in the current book market, and it’s great to see signs that this could be changing.

Bael and Jillian were a fun lead couple, with good chemistry, although they fell into bed together a little abruptly. Still—it’s a romance novel, the main couple are clearly going to sleep together, so why draw it out? I was glad that Jillian’s non-romantic relationships were also explored in this book, both in and out of Mystic Bayou. It really helped to develop her character in a way that didn’t feel reductive. In contrast, I think Bael’s relationships with his family, friends and colleagues was a little underdeveloped. I think the inclusion of more Boone family members/history could have been an interesting way to flesh out the world this novel was set in, but maybe this will happen in future books.

The plot was a little obvious, and the book may have been improved by a red herring or two. The conclusion was still satisfactory, however, and a surprise or two along the way. A few hooks of unanswered questions, ripples of consequence and characters to explore lead nicely from How to Date Your Dragon to future novels; but if the romance aspect doesn’t appeal to you and you’re largely reading this novel for the mystery, you may be underwhelmed.

I also thought it was strange that while the title and blurb give away Bael’s species pretty bluntly, the discovery of this is drawn out in the book. Not to the point that it became tedious, but I thought it was strange.

The elements of Mystic Bayou’s cultures and customs that were included were fun, and added a nice world-building aspect to the book. There were enough absurd, humorous touches (peeping tom alligators, for a start) to ensure the book rolled along well and stayed thoroughly entertaining. All in all, this was a quick, fun read that Molly Harper fans are sure to enjoy. I’d also recommend this series to fans of Devon Monk’s Ordinary Magic or Lisa Shearin’s SPI Files.

 

 

1Books 2.5 and 3 are out now, but possibly only in audio form

 

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