Review: Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron

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I got this audiobook on an audible daily deal sale months ago but had just never gotten to it. I moved it up to the top of the TBR of Babel based on some twitter/reddit hype. Oh, the hype hit me. I got hyped. In the face!

Yeah, well within 4 hours of starting it I had all 4 more audiobooks in this series queued up. Yeeeep it’s one of those. So get ready for some hype!

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…

“So far as I can tell, ‘good dragon’ is just another name for coldblooded sociopath,” he said. “No friends, no trust, no love. Why would I ever want to live like that? It’s not like any of you good dragons are happy.”

It’s really not often that an audiobook will grab my attention so quickly and hold it so well, but this one managed to grab me right from the very beginning.

Julius is the youngest, smallest, meekest dragon in the Heartstriker clan. The clan so large that each clutch of children has, alphabetically, to make it easier, names starting with a different letter. They’re up to J – he’s got a *lot* of siblings, and all of them are good dragons. They’re mean, spiteful, greedy, short tempered, scheming, rather insane at times, good, good dragons. But Julius isn’t like them. He just wants to learn shit, play games, be himself, not kill humans, and avoid his entire family like the plague.

His mother, the terrifying Bethesda the Heartstriker, isn’t having any of it though, so she seals him in human form, throws him on a plane, and drops him in the Detroit Free Zone, a huge metropolis that the spirit Algonquin, the lady of the lakes, had built on top of the ruins of Old Detroit after she destroyed it with a tidal wave for…. uh, well, being Detroit. Drugs, guns, prostitution… pretty much anything goes in the DFZ… except for 2 major things: don’t pollute the water, and absolutely no dragons allowed! He’s got a month to prove himself dragon enough to call himself a true Heartstriker…. or he’s gunna get eaten.

This takes place on Earth. Future Earth, which is quite technologically advanced, but future Earth after a meteor hits Canada, waking up all kinds of magical creatures that had been dormant for centuries, like dragons, and like Algonquin. Magic itself woke up, and humans who could learned to use it, becoming mages of all different kinds. So we have technology mixed with magic and dragons and spirits. I thought the worldbuilding was fantastic. This world is incredibly fascinating to imagine!

I absolutely loved this book from start to finish. I am a huge fan of Urban Fantasy, in general, and this is a fantastic example of the genre. The plot had plenty of twists and turns that I didn’t see coming, and Julius is a great protagonist and I cheered for him the entire time. He is the meekest dragon, but he doesn’t back down when he believes in something strongly, even when the consequences of that can be phenomenally dangerous to him. He’s dragon enough to snap back when he believes it necessary. I can’t help but like some of his siblings too, though, especially Justin and Bob.

Marci is another character that I couldn’t help but like, and I hope for all the things for her. She’s…. spunky. A well educated mage who uses booksmarts and quick thinking to pull all kinds of magic out of her metaphorical hat. Her friendship with Julius is awesome. I think they’re a good team. A good and frigging adorable team. I want things for them. Good things.

The narrator, Vikas Adam was fantastic. This is the first book I’ve ever heard him narrate, but nonetheless, he is instantaneously rocketed to one of my favorite narrators. Not only did he make Julius a great character to listen to, he also gave all kinds of different characters memorable voices. Marci sounded appropriately spunky. Bethesda was exactly how I thought she should sound. Justin and Ian were dangerous and often egotistical. Chelsea was… chilling. The accents were so fucking on point. I don’t think I’ve never actually heard a not-Russian narrator do a Russian accent so convincingly without making it seem over-the-top. With female characters, at that. So fantastically narrated. I would have really liked this book in print but the narration kicked it up a notch and brought it into a level they don’t have stars enough for. Nailed it. Absolutely nailed it.

Time to be real. Getting my being real pants on, so if you’re not down with my realness, look away for this paragraph. *ahem* I’ve been really struggling with my mental health for the last 3 months. I mean… depression and anxiety have been kicking my fucking ass, hard. Recently, I’ve made some great strides in addressing the problem with various methods of doing so, but I will be real honest with you guys, this book really helped at a time when I just needed a bit of help climbing out of a huge, terrible hole. Finding the motivation to even read, my favorite pastime, has been hard. Audiobooks, even, where all I have to do is listen, have been hard. It took me over a month to listen to Iron Gold, guys, and I’d been looking forward to shotgun listening to that book for a year, lol. – I’m ridiculously behind on review requests, because I’ve been at ‘I just can’t today’ for so long. This is the first time in months that I have been so motivated to listen to a thing, and then the next and the next and the next. This is the first book I got so excited for that I instantly bought 4 more books in the series after listening to half of *one* in… what feels like forever. I thought this part of me had gone, but here it is, and it is awesome. So, thanks, Rachel Aaron. Thank you for this. </realness>

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*listening intently*

*spews some more rainbows* Guys, just read it. It’s so good. If you like Urban Fantasy, you will very probably like this book. GO!

You can see this book on goodreads here, amazon here, and audible here.

4 thoughts on “Review: Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron

Add yours

  1. Not just a great series but the best depiction of the truly spiritual life I’ve seen. Wrapped up in a kick ass story. The series should do you all kinds of good

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great review! This book sounds awesome! I can see how one would fall in love with its world. It sounds utterly fascinating. I’m also glad this book was there for you when you needed, Kristen. It’s amazing how a book, a movie, a song, whatever, can pull us out of the depths sometimes. I had a very distinct episode like this myself a few years back. It was a weird time. I hope things continue to get better for you, and you continue to discover kick ass books like this for us!

    Liked by 1 person

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