Book review · novel

Book review: Nice dragons finish last

Nice Dragons Finish Last (Heartstrikers #1), by Rachel Aaron


Description: (from Rachel Aaron’s website )

As the smallest dragon in the Heartstriker clan, Julius survives by a simple code: stay quiet, don’t cause trouble, and keep out of the way of bigger dragons. But this meek behavior doesn’t cut it in a family of ambitious predators, and his mother, Bethesda the Heartstriker, has finally reached the end of her patience.

Now, sealed in human form and banished to the DFZ–a vertical metropolis built on the ruins of Old Detroit–Julius has one month to prove to his mother that he can be a ruthless dragon or lose his true shape forever. But in a city of modern mages and vengeful spirits where dragons are seen as monsters to be exterminated, he’s going to need some serious help to survive this test.

He just hopes humans are more trustworthy than dragons.

For the little story, I was on the train coming back to my parent’s house for my birthday when I started this book that I had on my ereader because it was not too long and I’d been wanting to read it for a while. I knew that – as I was going to receive some books on my birthday – I should not start a book too long or that I was too excited about, one that I could put on hold without problem so that I could read my highly anticipated birthday books. But Nice Dragons Finish Last was so good that I actually put the new books (one being by Rachel Aaron herself, under the name Rachel Bach) down and stayed with that one, even starting the sequel on the train back a few days later! Basically: I adored this book. Its setting, characters, plot, everything!

nice dragons quote3So Julius is a dragon, but he’s been sealed into his human form because (to make it short) his mother is tired of him always staying in his room playing video games and studying online courses. He’s not lazy, he’s just quite small (and young- for a dragon- at 24yo) and doesn’t share the other dragons’ taste for ambition and schemes to get richer/stronger/etc so he hides and keeps his head down to stay safe and not be used as a pawn. In his sealed form, he is banned into DFZ –also known as Detroit, but the city has been destroyed when an ancient entity came back and flooded it. The setting is of a dystopian city, in an almost post-apocalyptic environment, set in the future (a comet caused magic to return in 2035) and to make this even harder for him: dragons are forbidden to enter the DFZ.

One could think Julius is “too” nice or “too trusting”, but I know for a fact that he’s not “too” of anything, I actually related to him SO much it was crazy. I don’t mean to say I’m always as nice as him, but every choice he made, I would have made the same. I never thought “ughhh why are you doing that?? Nooo you stupid!” like you often find yourself thinking when reading some books. I mean some people might find themselves think that when reading it, but I didn’t. For me he was the perfect protagonist to follow. I loved how he thinks, how he acts, how he chooses to behave. I’m not saying Julius is perfect, but I liked him as a character, it was really refreshing and relaxing to read about someone kind, non-aggressive (This doesn’t mean he never fight, he still does but he has to to protect people and… not actually die; he just needs to be certain that it’s the only solution) and who stands by his choice to be compassionate. It’s not the usual kind of bravery but it still is. I guess one could also feel disturbed by the dragons’ personalities that are a little bit stereotyped but they are dragons, not humans, so it didn’t bother me. It’s like when aliens in science-fiction have weird quirks and stuff, I don’t find it annoying; I would if they behaved totally like humans, it would be too easy to say “hey here’s a dragon in a human shape that behave totally like a human but I swear that’s a dragon underneath all that normalcy!”. So big thumbs up for the dragons that really felt like dragons!

tumblr_nvg4nsiWR91rvf6xio1_500Marci was more impulsive, down-to-earth, pragmatic. She knows more about this city or this world than Julius does so that’s also why she looks like the one who knows more, she had to fight for herself and do what she could to survive while Julius was just kicked out of his “palace”. I loved her self-confidence on her magical abilities, her optimism despite the terrible things that happened to her and her professionalism despite her young age(I think she’s almost the same age as Julius, or a year older).

I felt that the way their relationship was going was a little obvious from the start, but I didn’t mind it that much. Their interactions were interesting and fun, they never clashed or anything, another relaxing thing about the story. There was no “I was lying to protect you”, no “you don’t understand me!”, no “but why are you doing this!” or whatever that really annoy me usually, they were understanding of each other and really worked well as a team.

nice dragons quoteThis is a great urban fantasy story, with mages (lots of kinds, Marci being a Thaumaturgic who looks down on other kinds of mages, since she had to go to college to learn this *superior* way of doing magic), an important number of dragons siblings, dragons seer, a nice dragon who used to play lots of video games, weird creatures all over a weird city, some cool nerdy references, giggle worthy comebacks… Honestly what more do you want? This book was more than satisfying, more than enjoyable, it totally grabbed me and never let go. There are so much more elements in the book that I’m not talking about because it’s so much better to be surprised by them while reading the book. I didn’t think I’d love it this much and am so grateful for those characters! So, yeah, I loved that book.

“She did, however, like surprises, and novels where the only stories where a seer didn’t know the ending before it began.”

I already knew Rachel Aaron/Bach for her Paradox Trilogy (read and loved the first two, got the third last week) and she’s definitely one of these authors from whom I’ll read everything! I can’t wait to dive into her Legend of Eli Monpress too! When I have all of them, I’ll totally dedicate a shelf just for her books!

Rachel Aaron wrote a really interesting guestpost on fantasybookcritic on “Why a nice dragon” : HERE


(originally posted: 18th May 2016)

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