Nice Dragons Finish Last and One Good Dragon Deserves Another (Heartstrikers, Books One and Two)

Monday, February 1, 2016


Nice Dragons Finish Last and One Good Dragon Deserves Another (Heartstrikers, Books One and Two)
Rachel Aaron, 2014, 2015

Premise: Julius is the most insignificant dragon in the Heartstriker clan, and he’s spent his short life happily unnoticed by his more powerful kin, until now.

This is a fast-paced, fun fantasy with just enough bite. (I think the only time I paused in reading through both books was at one point when I was convinced a scene was going to end in the death of one of two great characters.) It’s set in the near future on an Earth where magic has returned and influenced society.

Rachel Aaron is also known as Rachel Bach, under which name she wrote the Paradox series (sci-fi fabulousness) that I devoured in 2014, so I had been meaning to try some of her fantasy for some time.

The main characters are Julius and Marci, a young human mage. I like how her magic is completely different from dragon magic, and humans are still rebuilding their knowledge of magic and magical creatures. I also loved the contrast of Marci’s brash, ask-whether-this-is-a-good idea-later attitude against Julius’s caution and (justified) paranoia.

Marci’s perspective is also great because it grounds the reader. Julius, despite being an odd dragon semi-permanently disguised as a human, is still a dragon. He thinks and looks at situations in a way which is subtly but fundamentally different than a human, and getting Marci’s take on events reminds you of that.

Julius has to prove to his mother that he can be useful to the clan, otherwise she might just eat him. This is not a metaphor; dragon families are not cute and cuddly. Marci, meanwhile, is trying to make it as a solo mage, and is on the run from a magical mob boss type.

I really enjoyed the range of personalities and abilities in the rest of the Heartstriker clan. Particularly in book two, many of Julius’ siblings get some time to shine. Justin is a brash frat boy, but an impressive fighter. Chelsie is the clan enforcer. Ian is a scheming businessman who will use anyone to climb the ranks. Bob is ineffable. But they’re all Heartstrikers, and they have a certain bond, even when they’re threatening or fighting each other.

Prophecy and a certain twisty take on foreseeing is key to the plot of these books. There are three dragons on Earth who can see the future, and when they work against each other, things get extremely complex, and I really liked the way this magic was used.

The books take place mostly in the Detroit Free Zone, a city ruled by an ancient earth spirit who hates dragons. Naturally, this further complicates matters for all the characters.

I had a great time reading these books and being introduced to this world. While book two didn't end on a cliffhanger, exactly, there are enough unanswered questions and new elements introduced by the end that I am eager for the release of book three later this year.

Both books: 4 Stars - Very Good Books

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