Nice Dragons Finish Last (Heartstrikers #1) by Rachel Aaron
Genre: Urban fantasy
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Synopsis: As the smallest dragon in the Heartstriker clan, Julius survives by a simple code: keep quiet, don’t cause trouble, and stay out of the way of bigger dragons. But this meek behavior doesn’t fly in a family of ambitious magical 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 that he can be a ruthless dragon or kiss his true shape goodbye forever. But in a city of modern mages and vengeful spirits where dragons are considered monsters to be exterminated, he’s going to need some serious help to survive this test. He only hopes humans are more trustworthy than dragons…
I have loved Rachel Aaron’s work since I read her Legend of Eli Monpress series. I was hesitant for a little while about reading this, because I was afraid I’d be disappointed. I’m so glad I took a chance and picked it up though, because I absolutely loved it. It’s so incredible to me that Rachel Aaron self-published this series!
So in this urban fantasy world, everyone knows about dragons -and the dragon clans. Julius is a member of the Heartstriker clan, which is pretty much an enormous clan. So big that every “generation” starts with a letter of the alphabet. Julius is thus one of the youngest, as his name starts with a J -so there are 9 groups of dragon-children before him.
A lot of this story plays out in the DFZ (does that stand for Dragon Free Zone? I don’t remember) which is ruled by a sea-godlike-creature who hates dragons. Dragons aren’t allowed in the DFZ. So Julius has to be careful, while trying to fulfill his mission. I love the fact that Julius had to stay low during this novel, because we got to know the darker parts of the DFZ, as well as the wealthy parts.
I really loved the setting of this book. Because it’s urban fantasy, there is still such a big part of the world you can relate to. Yet you have these amazing elements added: magic, dragons, seeers.
The story starts when Julius gets punished by his mother, Bethesda, the ruler of the clan. She believes that Julius is a disappointment for dragons everywhere. Dragons are supposed to be masters of manipulation, deceit and success. They infiltrate the highest levels of any sector that suits them. Whether that’s political or corporate/financial. If it’s profitable or gives power, they’re there. But Julius doesn’t want to do any of that. He wants to be left alone so he can play video games or interact with his human gaming friends instead of his family. So Bethesda seals him in his human form -so he can’t become a dragon anymore- drops him in the DFZ and orders him to prove himself as a dragon. Either prove yourself, or die.
I really enjoyed the action-packed plot of this novel. Julius frantically trying to save his own life, yet stick to his character. I really like books with politics, schemes and intrigue, and this book was filled with it. Because dragons are so manipulative, Julius not only needs to survive but try to uncover all the threads of the web he’s stuck in.
Julius is such a fun main character. First of all, he’s extremely likable. I just love him, for the same reason his dragon family doesn’t: he’s so nice. Yet not stupid or naive. Actually, they sometimes call him Julius the Nice Dragon. It’s meant to be insulting of course, but I’d take it as a compliment. I love how smart Julius is, and how witty. He loves his family -or the part he’s met at least- yet at the same time doesn’t want to be like them.
Family is such a prominent aspect in this book. Not just Julius’ family, but Marci’s too. Marci is the main female character, a human magician. Her story revolves around her father basically. I love family ties and struggles in books, because family is such a big part of my life. Although my family is nowhere near as crazy/big as the Heartstrikers clan is. I really loved the dynamics between the family members. Bethesda, a mother, yet a ruthless ruler of her clan. Justin, Julius’ brother, who loves him yet is basically the complete opposite. It’s fun to read about.
I’m urging everyone to read this. Everyone. It’s such a fun urban fantasy story with family and schemes/intrigue at its heart. Julius is such a likable character, you’ll be rooting for him throughout the whole book. And lastly, Rachel Aaron self-published this book. I’m so in awe of her for creating this and getting it out there on her own, I’d love to support it.