Title: Nice Dragons Finish Last
Author: Rachel Aaron
Series: Heartstrikers #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Received for review from Audible
Summary (from Goodreads)
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’ll admit to being a little dubious about picking up this one, because it was self-published, and I’ve not had the greatest run of luck with self-published books made into audiobooks. The last one I listened to was truly shocking, and a waste of thirteen hours I could have been listening to something else.
Something else like this which, it turns out, wasn’t at all rubbish. In fact, I absolutely loved it.
I’ve always been an Urban Fantasy fan – I love the combination of fantastical creatures, the urban setting, and the usually hefty dose of romance. Nice Dragons had all of those things, and some pretty cool world building ideas to boot.
The initial premise of ‘a comet hit Earth and brought all the magic back’ was a bit ridiculous, but only passingly referred to, and not a major plot point. It’s a bit like the killer tomatoes in the Rachel Morgan series by Kim Harrison – something has to get the world to the point the writer wants it to be in, and it’s otherwise so utterly inconsequential that it’s ridiculousness doesn’t really matter.
And the world was completely worth it – the idea of a magical creature taking control of a city and making it a safe haven for spirits is a brilliant one. The very literal poverty line – the rich build on top of the poor in the underbelly of the city – gave a real, physical sense of ‘crossing into the danger zone.’ And the beauty of it was, the two different areas of the city were dangerous for different reasons. Julius may have run the risk of getting mugged in the underbelly of the city, but the wrath of his family operating in the rich upperside was even more of a threat. No where was particularly safe for Julius, and that made the sense of danger all the more palpable.
I’m also a sucker for an underdog story. Julius was a great character, and I liked his interactions with Marcie. I really liked how his view of himself was so negative, but transformed by her high opinion of him. It felt very natural, as good character development should, and it was nice to see the character realise that his ‘weaknesses’ were in fact his strengths.
I guessed a number of the plot twists, and there wasn’t really anything that I hadn’t seen before in terms of plot (I thought the dragon politics and hierarchies were an interesting and original take on the mythology, but the plot was standard Urban Fantasy fare) but I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, sometimes familiar is good. Sometimes it’s just really good fun, and the fact that you don’t have to think too hard about it is just an added bonus.
And that’s the word I would most use to describe this book: fun. I just really wanted to keep listening to it (helped by the fact that narrator Vikas Adam had a very sexy voice, and did some of the best female characters I’ve heard from a male voice actor) and stayed up later than I should have a couple of nights to get it finished. I wish book two was out so I could move straight on to that one!
So, perhaps a 4/5 for quality of writing, but a first class narration brings this up to a full 5 starts from me. Loved it.