Review: Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron (Heartstrikers #1)

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Nice Dragons Finish Last has been recommended to me a lot. Urban fantasy usually doesn’t appeal to me, but the amount of enthusiasm from people with similar tastes was enough to convince me to give it a try. And, well…it’s fun and charming and quite well-written, I would recommend it to many people, but ultimately still not really for me.

“You’re not ambitious, you don’t make plans, you don’t try to take things over. It’s like you were born with no draconic instinct whatsoever. All you’ve done since I let you out of training is hide in your room, avoiding the rest of us like the plague.”

Julius is a dragon. The usual mindset for dragons is seeing everyone in terms of how they could be used to advance your and your clan’s goals, so his empathy, lack of ambition, prefering to try the diplomatic aproach first, and general niceness are seen as a liability rather than an asset. His mother, embarrassed at how undraconic he is, seals him in his human form and gives him one last task as a chance to prove himself: help one of his brothers hunt down another dragon. Along the way, he meets a human mage named Marci who has her own set of problems chasing her.

The story is set in the near future, after an event caused the magic to return to Earth. Detroit has been flooded and overtaken by Algonquin, a powerful spirit who cares about the environment more than people. Now Detroit Free Zone or DFZ, it’s a capitalist dystopia where littering and dragons (for some reason she also dislikes dragons) are forbidden, the laws on regulation and business are few, and everything from police to the fire services has to be paid. The relative lawlessness enables people from other places to come and start anew, but I can’t imagine it being a pleasant place to live in unless you’re wealthy. All well and good, it’s not a setting I’ve seen done before, but I’m really not that into modern settings.

And that was my main problem with it. Overall, I just didn’t feel it. Neither the plot, nor the worldbuilding appealed to me. I’m just not into UF. Julius as a character is nice and I wanted him to succeed, but he alone wasn’t quite enough to keep me interested. Which is a bit strange, I’m usually a sucker for the type.

Another issue was one of my pet peeve tropes: unresolved sexual tension. Julius and Marci kiss in a moment of passion, and since we get both their POVs, we know both of them are into each other, yet at the same time, they decide to forget it and what follows is a lot of angst from both sides. And sure, the story takes place over a couple of days so it’s not that unreasonable, and luckily they are often too distracted by fighting monsters and whatnot to think about it much, but I still found it quite irritating. I think getting both POVs is what made it so much worse, since we know that both feel the same way. I hope the rest of the series doesn’t continue that way.

Enjoyment: 3/5
Execution: 4/5

Recommended to: urban fantasy fans, those looking for nice protagonists and stories where magic and tech coexist
Not recommended to: those annoyed by will-they-or-won’t they

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