Title: Nice Dragons Finish Last (Heartstrikers #1)
Author: Rachel Aaron
Publisher: Aaron/Bach LLC (self-published)
Page Count: 278
Urban fantasies are often a tough sell for me and, full transparency, the main reason I picked this up was to fulfil a summer reading challenge prompt. So, I was in no way prepared to have my mind blown by this book. Holy cow, this was so much fun! Ask me to give comps and I can’t think of anything that comes close—it’s part future dystopia, part shapeshifter, part urban fantasy.
Premise: 60-something years ago an asteroid collided with Earth, reawakening magic and all the things that go bump in the night (and day for that matter). On the ruins of old Detroit, a new city has sprung up: the Detroit Free Zone (aka DFZ). Here, under the rule of an ambivalent spirit, magic is welcomed and just about anything goes. Except, that is, for dragons.
Which is a problem for our protagonist, Julius, the youngest dragon of the Heartstriker family, who has been evicted from his cushy bedroom in his mother’s home and dumped in the city with nothing but the clothes on his back and $100 to his name. Ordered to stop being nice and “dragon up” as it were, he has to make something of himself—and quick—or else his mother will eat him.
So, we have: interesting (and somewhat amusing) premise, tick. Intriguing worldbuilding, tick (how often do you see futuristic and fantasy together?). And, of course, dragons—but not as you know them—massive tick. This book has a bit of everything: from a trusty sidekick/mage with an animal companion/death spirit/cat to shapeshifting dragons, family politics, seers, magical orbs, mafia-like hitmen trying to take said magical orb, some detective-esq sleuthing, a runaway girl, underground shaman colonies and of course, a healthy serving of monsters and magic. Just listing that out makes me realise how impressive this story is that it manages to fit all these elements into it not only seamlessly, but in ways that make these well worn tropes feel fresh and new.
If you want an urban fantasy with fresh flair, loveable characters, and a pacey plot with (very) light romance, absolutely give this a read.
5/5 nice dragons.
Now excuse me while I go track down book two.
Romance/steam levels explainer:
Mild 🌶️– Some romantic interactions and kissing; no on-page or off-page sex scenes.
Warm 🌶️🌶️ – Romantic interactions, kissing, and making out; fade-to-black sex scenes.
Steamy 🌶️🌶️🌶️– romantic interactions, kissing, and making out; one or more on-page sex scenes.
Scorching 🌶️🌶️🌶️🌶️ – romantic interactions, kissing, and making out; detailed and/or longer on-page sex scenes that include four-letter anatomical terms.
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