Bookpushers Joint Review – First to Burn (Immortal Vikings #1) by Anna Richland

First to Burn cover image

Publisher: Carina Press
Publish Date Out now:
How We got this book: ARC from the author

A soldier with secrets.

Immortal Viking Wulf Wardsen once battled alongside Beowulf, and now serves in Afghanistan. He trusts the mortal men on his elite special operations team to protect his secret, until an explosion lands him in a place more dangerous to him than a battlefield: a medevac helicopter.

A doctor with questions.

Army captain Theresa Chiesa follows the rules and expects the same from others, even Special Forces hotshots like Sergeant Wardsen. She’s determined to discover the secret behind his supernaturally fast healing, and she won’t allow his sexy smile to distract her.

An enemy with nothing to lose.
Even as Theresa’s investigation threatens to expose him, Wulf dreams of a normal life and a future with her. But the lost Viking relic needed to reverse his immortality is also being hunted by an ancient enemy who won’t hesitate to hurt the woman Wulf loves.

This blurb came from the author’s website.

1. Thoughts on the Hero

E: If ever a hero had earned his PTSD Wulf had. An immortal warrior fighting in just about every single war since Beowulf faced Grendel and his mother. In fact, Wulf helped fight against them and in the process gained immortality. I liked how he showed immortality really wasn’t all it seemed to be. Any situation, sound, smell, could and did throw him back to an unpleasant memory usually involving the death of someone he cared about or his own gruesome injuries. Not to mention all of the secrets he had to keep. I liked his drive to protect, right wrongs, and his loyalty towards those he was working for/with but he also had problems grasping that his healing abilities and his past might harm those same people he was trying to protect.

As a romance hero, Wulf had some work to do. Yes, he had been around long enough to develop an extensive skill set when it came to seducing and pleasing a woman, but he never really learned how to be emotionally close to one. Nor did he seem to grasp for a while that his sexual appeal wasn’t enough to out-weigh Theresa’s deep seated need to heal. He was also not a fan of following the rules so he disregarded Theresa’s cautions and fears because of his vast experience and knowledge about the world.

Marlene: Yes, Wulf definitely needed some work to become a romantic hero. I think if this had been a more straightforward military story Wulf might have made more sense. He’s have made a great hero for and espionage or thriller tale. He’s had centuries of experience as a warrior, and while that makes his reflexes trigger sharp and nearly always right, it does give him a wealth of triggers for PTSD, and that’s not something anyone needs a wealth of.

While I can understand why getting close enough to someone to reveal his true nature is very, very risky, that he keeps joining military units and telling his crew what he is while not being able to find a romantic relationship where he gives that same trust just feels wrong. More about having loved and lost, which would definitely happen, would make his reluctance make more sense.

Has: I totally agree with you both about Wulf was not really a typical romantic hero, but he was definitely a soldier through and through. He was brave and heroic on the battlefield as well as being loyal to his friends and team-mates and the experience he gained over the centuries gave him better insights and skills in surviving. I really liked how Anna Richland broached his immortality which made him more real, with the long years he had lived despite the flashbacks he suffered.

I also agree about his reluctance and was wondering why he would entrust his team about his secret. But I think there was a plot point that didn’t get covered in the book, because it seemed that Wulf and others like him was an open secret in some Government circles. Although I disagree on his reluctance to tell Theresa about his immortality. I think deep down she was different to other women he had met and he didn’t want to get too deep again with another woman and being immortal it has to be hard to see the woman you love aging while he remains a young man. I think this was hinted on a previous relationship that he mentioned but it was never fully explored and I wished it was, because it felt very glossed over.

2. Thoughts on the Heroine

E: Theresa had just as many secrets as Wulf. She had a drive for healing but she also had to keep her family connections secret and basically live two lives. Her rejection of the family business meant she had a very strong independent streak and a deep seated need to know ALL the reasons before deviating from the established rule-book by even the slightest degree. This meant when she was around Wulf he drove her crazy with his casual disregard of good order and discipline and she drove him crazy with her constant questions. Theresa almost seemed like she was two people. One, the dedicated by the book healer, the other a warrior willing to use whatever she could to make things happen. And while I can understand that a certain action/moment could cause the transition, the different facets of her character did not appear to be blended together into a coherent whole. I did enjoy how she was willing to do what she needed to do I just wish the flow was a bit smoother.

Marlene: Theresa was definitely “secret city”. Everything she thinks and then backs off of about her current step father is bizarre. Also, a step father who is very “connected” seemed over the top for all of the other plot threads running amok through the story.

Has: I really liked Theresa, I found her warm and likable and she didn’t panic or made stupid decisions when she was in sticky situations. I kind of agree about her family being in the mob which on top of everything else in the book, it felt too much. However, I liked that she wanted to avoid those links even though she loved her family and they loved her which is a nice change and didn’t create a forced conflict. I also liked that she wanted to become a doctor without financial help from her family and forging her own path which helped to shape the person she became.

I was also shocked with an event later in the plot which didn’t have an easy way out and held major repercussions for Theresa. But I wished this was once again covered more, because I felt it was glossed over in a lot of ways and this was a huge life-changing moment for Theresa that affected her life and career. I do agree with E about the way Theresa felt like two different people in some ways, but I do think she is the type of character who likes order and rules but on her own terms. I think this drives Wulf nuts because he can understand rules but not when she switches things around and goes by her own. I like that she kept him on edge and made her unpredictable. He really needs that especially since he lived a long life being with someone who challenges you makes life interesting!

3. Favorite Scene

E: My favorite scene is one that shows how Wulf was able to gain and keep the loyalty of those around him despite his many secrets and his ability to heal. Wulf called his teammates to ask for a volunteer or two to help him retrieve a certain artifact and ended up with the entire team at the meeting location. This wasn’t the only incident in the story showing how his teammates closed ranks around him, but this particular one said more to be because of the circumstances leading up to his request.

Marlene: Anything that showed the way that Wulf had bonded with his teammates was good and it showed how he managed to survive. He inspires loyalty, I think even more than he expects. His team will always back him up, and at the same time they want what’s best for him.

Has: I loved the scenes with his team-mates, the chemistry between them was great and I loved the snarky dialogue and camaraderie. I think the author captured army life authentically real. However, I do think my favorite scene is when he comes to get Theresa at her family’s house and reacts like a typical viking with her family’s blessing. It was a fun scene when he throws her over his shoulder to persuade her to give him another chance.

4. Dislike about book

E: There was just TOO much. Between Wulf’s secrets, Theresa’s secrets, the overall villain, the other immortals, the drug connection, and several other things not to mention the long passage of time for this book I found my attention scattered. It was extremely difficult to develop and maintain my attachment to Wulf and Theresa because I was trying to understand the hints about secrets and what role they played in the overall storyline. Richland also mentioned other immortals, but only one of Wulf’s former warrior band members actually appeared into the story. There were other instances of characters who seemed to be throwaway characters or even ones that had a prominent role in the first half but completely vanished from all mention in the second half. For me I wanted more tightness on the threads and if that meant eliminating a few sub-plots I would have probably enjoyed this story more.

Marlene: Pile on the plot threads! Wulf is an immortal Viking warrior. His fellow immortals are after him. The woman he falls in love with is connected to the mob. And she’s an Army doctor who wants to discover his secrets. And they chase all over the place together in a suspense plot that felt a big “Jason Bourne/James Bond-ish”. And there’s drug smuggling. And they are posted to Afghanistan. And, and, and. My interest in Wulf and Theresa’s romance kept getting lost in the shuffle.

Has: I definitely agree about too much going on with the plot! Although the first half was great, until the action goes back to the US in the book. But with all the subsequent plot-lines involving Wulf’s brother and other immortals and Theresa’s injury along with her family. So much got glossed over and that was a shame because Anna Richland has a great voice, and I loved how she set up the legend of Beowolf and tying it into immortality and vikings! But I think subsequently the aftermath and repercussions of what happened to several characters were brushed aside and I also felt the romance between Theresa and Wulf suffered because so much was happening.

5. Final thoughts

E: I do have to give Richland credit for managing to make her addition of paranormal distinct enough from a contemporary romantic suspense so I could divorce reality from my reading. However, I think she included too many elements and as a result I was unable to stay immersed in the world she created because I kept mentally trying to connect all of the threads or dots and some just plain vanished or appeared out of nowhere. I liked the basic premise and I am interested in taking a peek at her next installment with hopes that since the world is mostly established she can focus on characterizations and plot threads. Although, I am not sure what she is going to do about a new primary villain.
I give First to Burn a C/C-

Marlene: I think there are three (or possibly four) really good stories in this. Unfortunately it would have made a better book if the author had saved a couple of her plot bunnies for the next book in the series! I totally agree with my “book twin” E, the basic premise was great, but got lost in the huge plot thread knot.
I give First to Burn a C.

Has: I am also interested in checking out the next book, because I liked the mythology and the author had a great voice. Although I hope the plot points won’t be as busy and there is more time in focusing on the characters as well as the romance because despite the flaws, this was an engaging read and the authentic tone on military life and suspense was a good set up.
I give First to Burn a C/C+

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Comments

  1. Leslie says

    I really enjoyed this book and felt that all of the secrets and idiosyncrasies made for a refreshing change in romance archetypes. Wulf, despite being an immortal, and Theresa were really accessible and I thought the dialogue was great. Reflected how people really talk, not how they wish they spoke. They also left me wanting more, perhaps to be expected when a book is the first in a series The genuineness of the military scenes were some of the most believable I’ve read, and the heroine’s plot twist at the end was novel, and highly realistic given what has happened in the Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts. I admit that her coping mechanisms might have seemed a bit too perfect, but that is actually common in the initial stages of dealing with something like that, it is only later that stress appears. The travelogue aspects were impressive and overall I thought the book was well written, well edited and an incredibly impressive first effort. Looking forward to the next book!

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