Audiobook review: Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron
NOTE: This series has been on my TBR for a while, at the recommendation of Linda and Melanie. I recently listened to the five-book series as a buddy read with Anne. The reviews were written at the time the book was read.
Julius, the youngest dragon in the vast Heartstriker clan, is a nice guy, which makes him a horrible dragon. Fed up with his underachieving, his mom, Bethesda, banishes him to the Detroit Free Zone (DFZ) and seals him in human form, telling him he needs to make something of himself or be eaten.
Nice Dragons Finish Last is the first in the five-book Heartstriker urban fantasy series. Shared primarily from the third person POV of Julius, the story takes listeners on a journey of discovery as Julius learns how to become the best version of himself, regardless of what his mother and siblings think. Along the way he teams up with a human mage, Marcy, and has the assistance of a few of his siblings.
We are told over and over that dragons are supposed to be ruthless, dominating, and cruel; however, Julius is none of these. For much of his 24 years, he’s been meek just to stay under the radar of any other Heartstriker. So at first, Julius comes across as a pushover. I love how he learns to stand up for himself and voice his opinion, which makes him more draconic that he realizes. I love that Julius sticks to his own moral compass and in the process develops his first real friend. Julius and Marcy bring out the best in one another, and their growing relationship is the best part of the book.
The plot of Nice Dragons Finish Last is complex and layered, and the story clearly isn’t over. Julius is working against a clock to prove himself, meanwhile, Marcy is trying to escape a mobster who followed her from Las Vegas. Add to the mix a pair of feuding dragon clans, magical beings, and a powerful spirit who hates dragons and does not tolerate them in her city (DFZ). There is a lot of action, much of which is bloody and deadly, some of which is a bit outrageous, but not over-the-top for the urban fantasy setting. There is also an edge of humor woven into the story. While I enjoy the sly jokes, it undercuts the notion that dragons are horrific. It’s hard to be scared of a dragon who quotes Star Wars.
Narration: The story is shared via shifting third-person POVs, with the primary POV being Julius. Vikas Adam uses a neutral male voice while narrating all POVs, altering dialogue based on gender, age, and species for each character, except Julius, who shares the same voice as the narrator. I enjoyed Adam’s narrator/Julius voice; however, some of the other characters’ voices are very animated and almost cartoony sounding, most notably Marcy. Adam’s performance is very exaggerated when the character is emotional, adding to the cartoonish nature. His accents for the Three Sisters’ clan (Russian or Slavic) is very strong. I really liked his voice for clan enforcer Chelsea, which is raspy and lizard-like.
In the end, I enjoyed the first book in the Heartstriker series, a book that has been on my TBR for some time. I look forward to starting the second book in the near future.
About the Book:
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…
Author: Rachel Aaron
Narrator: Vikas Adam
Series: Heartstrikers #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Audiobook Release Date: November 18, 2014
Publisher: Audible Studios
Length: 13 hrs and 31 mins
Audio Speed: 1.5x
Audible/Amazon (affilate link)