Night Shift Dragons by Rachel Aaron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: DFZ (Book 3 of 3)
Genre: Urban fantasy
Published: 5th May 2020 (Aaron/Bach, self-published)
Night Shift Dragons delivered a spectacular and hugely emotionally satisfying conclusion to Rachel Aaron’s follow-up urban fantasy series set in the insanely cool, quirky and vibrant free city of the DFZ.
I don’t know how she keeps doing it, but Rachel Aaron has done it yet again. Ever since I’ve finished Heartstrikers and then the Eli Monpress series, she has become my go-to favourite author for the best comfort reads that could amaze me with its awesome worldbuilding, great and compelling characters that just feel right somehow. The DFZ trilogy, and in particular this concluding book, was no exception. Unfortunately for this review to be meaningful, I would need to mention a few details from the previous books which could be minor spoilers.
Admittedly, I caught a slight stumble in the prior sequel, Part-Time Gods, where I was quite annoyed at Opal Yong-Ae, our main protagonist, as she was increasingly backed into a corner with her bad luck curse (from her dad, of all people) and started being all kinds of crazy. However, the ending of that book pretty much redeemed the story as Opal finally confronted the Great Dragon of Korea, and an epic showdown of dragons and the city of DFZ ensued. The story picked up two months after the end of Part-Time Gods with Opal finally getting the training which was appropriate for her type of magical competency, while remaining in hiding with her father. While each book has its own plotline, the overarching conflict that underscores the trilogy was the dysfunctional relationship between Opal and her father, the Great Yong of Korea – surely nothing could be more so than a father cursing his own daughter. Herein lies the emotional core of this book which transcended the trilogy from really good to fantastic.
I believed that I’ve mentioned this too many times to count. I need to have the feels in order to love a book. And Night Shift Dragons deliver it by truckloads with the resolution of this father-daughter relationship. A resolution that was paced and played out beautifully throughout the narrative as the primary conflict of this finale’s plotline began to surface. The story of Opal and Yong was totally worthy of the K-drama vibes of the book’s cover. I was initially hoping that I would like Yong as he obviously wasn’t painted in a favourable light from Opal’s POV. As it turned out, I absolutely loved his characterisation. I certainly did not expect Yong to singularly bring out the most reaction out of me, and in a great way. Aaron has such an uncanny ability of writing characters that just feels so right and natural to what they are supposed to be. Even the other supporting characters are all equally excellently written and delightful to read. To cap it all off, there were also the much-awaited cameo appearances of beloved characters from the Heartstrikers series which came in at the most appropriate times, instead of feeling shoehorned for the the sake of fan service.
This book made me teary-eyed, it made me laugh and it also made me fist-pump with a silly grin on my face as the story came to its resounding climax. Speaking of climax, another thing I’ve come to expect from Aaron is spectacular action scenes and she didn’t disappoint. The climactic scene was all kinds of fantastic as dragon and spirit magic all come together in a truly exhilarating and cinematic action sequence. Even right in the smack of all the action, Aaron managed to sneak in some emotional resonance that made these moments soar to greater heights.
Rachel Aaron continues to meet and even surpass my expectations with every new book or series that she embarked in. Night Shift Dragons knocked it out of the park with a beautifully crafted resolution to the core emotional conflict of the DFZ trilogy, and wrapped it up with a spectacular climax that showcases her worldbuilding magic at its finest.