Review: One Good Dragon Deserves Another by Rachel Aaron

one good dragon deserves another by Rachel aaronFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook, audiobook
Genre: urban fantasy
Series: Heartstrikers #2
Length: 463 pages
Publisher: Aaron/Bach LLC
Date Released: August 1, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon

After barely escaping the machinations of his terrifying mother, two all knowing seers, and countless bloodthirsty siblings, the last thing Julius wants to see is another dragon. Unfortunately for him, the only thing more dangerous than being a useless Heartstriker is being a useful one, and now that he’s got an in with the Three Sisters, Julius has become a key pawn in Bethesda the Heartstriker’s gamble to put her clan on top.

Refusal to play along with his mother’s plans means death, but there’s more going on than even Bethesda knows, and with Estella back in the game with a vengeance, Heartstriker futures disappearing, and Algonquin’s dragon hunter closing in, the stakes are higher than even a seer can calculate. But when his most powerful family members start dropping like flies, it falls to Julius to defend the clan that never respected him and prove that, sometimes, the world’s worst dragon is the best one to have on your side.

My Review:

In the end, One Good Dragon Deserves Another was a compelling and completely wild ride. It builds up a bit slow, but once the story really kicks into gear, the fun never stops.

nice dragons finish last by rachel aaronOne Good Dragon takes place a month after the end of Nice Dragons Finish Last (reviewed here). For our heroes, “nice dragon” Julius and his human mage friend and business partner Marci, that month is definitely the calm before the very big storm.

It’s the first time in his relatively short (for a dragon) life that Julius has felt successful, and it’s the first time he’s ever really been happy. It is necessary to read Nice Dragons Finish Last to understand just what a marvelous change this is for Julius.

He is happy because his family has left him completely alone. Not only is no one kicking him around (literally) and reminding him what a failure he is as a dragon at every turn, but he’s working, he’s reasonably competent at it, and Marci is his best friend. That he’s also in love with her is pretty much the icing on the cake. Even though he’s afraid to say or do anything to upset the balance of their friendship, he’s happy just being with her every day.

Then everything goes to hell in a handbasket, fought over by multiple psychopathic dragons, and Julius is caught right in the middle. He’s going to have to seriously “dragon up” in order to get himself and Marci out of the mess that his family has dropped them into, but he has to do it by being more of who he is, and not succumbing to who they are or who they expect him to be.

It’s a very tall order for the Heartstriker clan’s most undragonish dragon – but it is only by being himself that he might possibly save them from themselves – and save the world.

Escape Rating B+: This story starts out very small, and gets bigger (and wilder) as it goes along. I found the first third a bit slow going, but once Julius, and the reader, discover how big the stakes really are in this fight, I couldn’t flip pages fast enough.

Part of the slow start is that Julius and Marci are living a very quiet life, which we need to see in order to contrast it with what happens later. The other thing for this reader is that I found Julius’ family situation intolerable and hated every single of one of his relatives, especially his psychopathic mother.

Some of his siblings do reveal their true colors and become more tolerable, but mother never gets any better. And while I understand more of Bethesda’s motivations now than I did in the first book, she is still a whole lot of evil for evil’s sake, as well as arrogance for arrogance’s sake and a whole bunch of other nastiness thrown in.

While the plot of this story involves a clan war between the Three Sisters Dragons and Bethesda’s Heartstrikers, the core of the conflict is love gone very, very wrong, and all the way beyond hate. Estella of the Three Sisters is a dragon seer, and she wants to wipe out her former lover and only rival, Brohomir (usually called Bob) of the Heartstrikers. Estella is so far gone that she doesn’t care if she sacrifices her sisters to her obsession, and is perfectly willing to destroy the world to accomplish her goal.

That we see the world the dragons came from, and discover that Estella’s methods really can destroy the world explains a lot about dragons in general and Estella in particular. It’s also very sad and quite affecting.

The big theme of this story, through all the battles, all the setbacks and all the machinations, is that Julius needs to quit being ashamed and guilty about being a “nice dragon” and discover the true power of being willing to see the other side and reach out to other clans and simply negotiate with others in good faith instead of doing unto them before they even think of doing onto him.

That’s his mother’s way, and all it is has done is sacrifice too any of his brothers and sisters and bring the Heartstrikers to the brink of war – over and over and over. He has to stand up for himself, and those he calls friends, and even for the concept of friendship, in order for all of them to survive.

It’s damn hard and the way that he does it is pretty awesome.

But no good deed goes unpunished, and that punishment looks like the theme of the third book in this series, tentatively titled A Dragon of a Different Color. I can’t wait.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron

nice dragons finish last by rachel aaronFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook
Genre: urban fantasy
Series: Heartstrikers #1
Length: 315 pages
Publisher: self-published
Date Released: July 15, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s WebsiteGoodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

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…

My Review:

The girl gets the dragon. Normally I would have said that the other way around, but in this case, the human is definitely more alpha than the dragon.

Also, by the end of the story, it’s not strictly true that anyone actually gets anyone, but there’s certainly the promise of a romance in later books in the series.

This one is all about the case. And what a case it is!

There are lots of stories where the magic goes away, or remains hidden. In this series, the magic has come back with a vengeance. The world is different. Not only have magic creatures come out of hiding, but magic began manifesting in humans again. There be mages here.

The most apocalyptic release of magic back into the world occurred in Detroit. The spirit of the Great Lakes, the Lady Algonquian, rose up out of the lake and pretty much drowned the entire city of Detroit, attempting to wash it clean of pollution (and people). It is now the Detroit Free Zone under her very active protection, and her laws don’t give much of a damn about what humans do to each other. She cares about protecting the land and the spirits of the place.

It turns out that there is a lot of money in researching magic, and in the intervening 60 or so years, a lot of new companies have moved into what used to be the Detroit exurbs.

Her other rule is “no dragons”. Because yes, the dragons came out of hiding, and have become an apex predator pretty much everywhere. Except the DFZ.

So when the mother of the Heartstriker clan of dragons wants to punish her least-dragonish child, she dumps Julius in the DFZ with his powers locked away, and gives him a month to do something properly draconic–or die.

Julius gets roped into one of his brother Ian’s manipulative plans, and finds himself attempting to tag a dragon in hiding while fending off goons sent to murder his new partner–a mage on the run.

Marci Novalli left Vegas in a hurry when her dad’s mob-partner had him killed, and she’s been running every since. She hopes that working with Julian will earn her enough to get away from the goon squad–while Julius hopes that the human mage will help him blend into the all-human DFZ.

Neither of them gets quite what the bargained for, but what they do each get is a partner who will protect their back from the increasingly large forces out to get them. And someone to stand with them in the middle of machinations and manipulations that are intended to get them both killed.

Escape Rating B+: This is a lot of fun, especially in the second half. In the first half of the book, Julius does a little bit too much “pity poor me” and trying to find a way out of the mess he’s been stuck in. Everyone in his family seems to have had a part in setting him up, and he’s totally out of his depth.

It’s only when he starts standing up for himself that he’s able to get a grip on events, and on his own future. Of course, standing up for himself is part of what the manipulation was intending to accomplish in the first place.

It may be that we need to learn more of how draconic society does (or doesn’t) work, but Julius’ mother comes off as a bit of a caricature, so I more than didn’t like her, she didn’t seem quite internally consistent.

The plots and counterplots were so convoluted, I couldn’t get them straight until the end, and neither could Julius, which was the point. Everyone is manipulating everyone else, to various good and bad effects. Even the mobster after Marci turns out to be just a thread in a much larger canvas than he anticipated.

Marci seems to be a much stronger (and more bloodthirsty) character than Julius. While he’s been avoiding all of his powerful family by hiding, she’s been making a living on the fringes of the mob, and taking lots of classes in the “school of hard knocks”. Standing up for her and more importantly with her is what makes Julius grow up.

Nice Dragons Finish Last was a great start to a cool urban fantasy series. The ending sent chills down my spine, so I can’t wait to see what happens next.

*Reviewer’s note: As you read this, I am in Detroit at NASFiC (North American Science Fiction Convention) Hopefully, we won’t see the spirit of the lake in quite so dramatic a fashion.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.