Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Heartstrikers (Book 1 of 5)
Genre: Urban fantasy
Published: 13th July 2014 (Aaron/Bach, self-published)
Nice Dragons Finish Last is a delightful start to what looks like a very promising series.
I might love the fantasy genre, but urban fantasy has ever been my least favourite of its sub-genres, making this latest foray of mine a rarity. Despite my reservations, I am impressed though. Once again, my friend, TS, has proven that the title I have bestowed upon her – Queen of Recommendations – is not a ceremonial one in the least. I am confident that this series is going to be one of my favourites.
Meet our main character, Julius. He is as nice a dragon as you will ever meet. Friendly. Courteous. Empathetic. He loves reading, studying online and playing games and hardly ventures from his bedroom.
Meet his family and also the rest of the dragon race. Ruthless, cruel, ambitious. Apex predators. They rule society from powerful positions. They are doctors, senators, captains of industry. Dragons demand, and the world gives.
Clearly, one of the apples fell far from the tree. Unfortunately for Julius, his mother will no longer tolerate the embarrassment of having a nice dragon for a son. Thus, she seals his dragon form trapping him in his human body and banishes him to the DFZ. A place where dragons are to be killed on site. That’s still the nice part of it though. She also gives him an ultimatum. He will get one last chance to prove himself a worthy, truly draconic member of the Heartstriker clan.
Or she’ll eat him.
To avoid relating much more of the plot I will keep the rest to a minimum. Julius teams up with a mage called Marci as they take on a seemingly simple sounding task, but one that could put him back in his mother’s graces. Unfortunately for Julius, things are way more complicated than they appear.
Sometimes, he really, really, really hated being a dragon.
I had a really great time following Julius’s journey. So often we as readers expect every main character to fit the same mould of asskicker and nametaker, but it was refreshing to have a character who is basically just a nice guy. Sure, he IS a DRAGON, so he is not without SOME skills. And he IS very smart. Julius’s superpower though, is being a nice guy. That never changes and I loved his steadfastness in that regard. No conforming to dragon standards, because it’s expected. No being cruel, because you were treated cruelly. Just being compassionate and doing what is right.
And that’s just Julius. Marci was equally fascinating, and even more enjoyable. A mage with some secrets of her own, she fights for what she wants and is tough as nails. She is also completely wonderful and sincere and passionate and I can’t get enough of her. Or her cat, Ghost.
“What is going on?” he cried. “Why does she need a ward against bullets? And why does your human have a dead cat in her purse?”
Along the way we meet quite a few other great characters as well, including some of Julius’s siblings such as Julian and Chelsea, both proper draconic siblings and both very intriguing in their own right. And then we have likely the most entertaining and fascinating character of them all. The Great Seer of the Heartstrikers, Brohomir. Also known as, Bob.
“So let me make sure I’ve got this straight,” Marci said. “The three great dragon seers are the Black Reach, Estella the Northern Star, and Bob?” When Julius nodded, she arched an eyebrow. “One of these things is not like the others.”
Wrapping up, Rachel Aaron has woven more than enough worldbuilding into the story, fleshing out the setting quite well for such a short tale and giving us tastes of dragon lore, magical creatures, myths, spirits and much more. The pacing is brisk, the writing easy to read and the best part of it all is how much damn fun this book is.
Nice Dragons Finish Last is feel good urban fantasy and you can never have enough of that. It’s the ice-cream of the genre and I’d like another scoop.