Dangerous Ground (Fiona Carver #1) by Rachel Grant
Publication Date: August 17th, 2021
Archaeologist Fiona Carver has unfinished business in the Aleutian Islands. After an emergency evacuation cut her first expedition short, she’s finally back. But time is not on her side as she races to finish documenting the remnants of a prehistoric village, recover missing artifacts, and track down missing volcanologist Dylan Slater.
Having bluffed his way onto Fiona’s team with fake credentials, wildlife photographer Dean Slater is willing to risk more than federal prison to find his missing brother, but he needs Fiona’s help. She knows the inhospitable terrain better than anyone.
When the two set out together on a perilous journey, it becomes more than a recovery mission. In their fight for survival, nature isn’t the only threat. They aren’t the only ones on the hunt. Mile by dangerous mile, someone is hunting them.
I am so conflicted by this one. I first saw the sequel on NetGalley and was intrigued by the premise so I decided to give book 1 a try first.
The story itself was really interesting with the missing persons aspect as well as the underhandedness of others threatening the expedition but it ended up getting really muddled.
What I did like was Fiona’s character. She is a no nonsense academically-minded woman who knows when to speak up and when to stay silent. She is self-sufficient and has an appreciation for history and following the rules. Her rule-following though got to be a bit too much but more on that later.
Dean was an okay character but how he managed to get on the expedition, how his work as a wildlife photographer makes me a survival specialist, and just his overall determination about how he handles relationships… it’s all kind of a mess and not overly believable. Okay, being a perpetual bachelor is fine but the way he spoke about it and treated others in relation to that… I was not on board with. Also, why have the 2 brothers’ names be so similar? I could hardly keep track of who was impersonating who for a bit lol.
Now, Fiona’s rule-following issue is really more of critique of the writing. You can clearly tell that Grant has a background in this field but it got to the point that instead of reading a contemporary action book, I felt like it was a guide- or text-book about how to follow government regulations of a dig site. Instead of using her knowledge to enhance and ground the story, it did the opposite and took me right out. I don’t need to know subsections of laws and how certain things work. Just give me the base knowledge and show me rather than info dump in an unnatural way.
This also brings me to a general aspect of contemporary books which turns me off - product placement. I immediately get taken out of a story when we start hearing about brands or products that feel too meticulously placed or even just thrown in. I don’t need to know that your gear is Helly Hansen or that wool is a great base layer. Especially when it isn’t being shared with another less experienced character… Fiona just says it during her internal narration. This isn’t the type of information you generally tell yourself all the time (especially when you’re an expert) so it comes off as unnatural and more like an ad.
Aside from the oddly detailed writing, I still don’t fully understand why there was a conflict and why this group went to such extreme lengths to ruin things. There was a bad guy monologue but I don’t know if I just gave up caring by that point and didn’t register the ‘why’ but, from what I remember, everything was such an extreme reaction that I just couldn’t get behind.
In terms of the relationship between Dean and Fiona… I also don’t fully get it. Half the time they are into each other and the other half it’s conflicting emotions of Fiona not wanting a fling and Dean reacting super uncomfortably when you consider the Dylan/Fiona of it all. And then where it’s left… and the inevitable awkwardness that will come in the second book… I’m just not sure.
Here’s the thing though. I want to give this series another shot. I’m interested to see how book 2 goes and how Grant (and her editors) handle the particulars of Fiona’s job. I don’t want more info dumping please! I also want Dean’s purpose to be clearer because he cannot hide behind the ‘I have excellent survival skills because I photograph wildlife’ thing forever. And I want the villains to have more flushed out rationale.
I feel like this could be a really great series but it needs tweaking and I hope book 2 improves on what book 1 set up.