Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron. ★★★★
This urban fantasy novel was incredibly fun!
Julius is an unusual dragon. For one thing, he’s not ambitious or obsessed with destroying his enemies. He tends to spend most of the time avoiding the larger dragons in his family, until his mother grows tired of him lurking in his room and banishes him to the DFZ – a dystopic version of Detroit – with a month to prove that he’s a proper dragon. Oh, and she’s magically locked away his true dragon form and threatens to eat him if he doesn’t shape up.
Something that really stood out to me about Nice Dragons Finish Last is how original the world building was. The story’s set some thirty years after a comet hit the earth and brought back magic. As a result, there’s magic right alongside sci-fi high tech and dystopic ruins. The DFZ is a city state run by a powerful lake spirit who allows pretty much everything except dragons. Most of the city is built on upper level platforms that lift it above the old ruins, but there’s still life moving in the darkness of the city below. All in all, Nice Dragons Finish Last had some of the most creative world building I’ve ever encountered in urban fantasy.
At the behest of his brother Ian, Julius is sent to try and find a runaway from another dragon clan. If he succeeds, Ian promises he’ll put in a good word for him with their mother. Julius soon realizes that he needs some help, and he employees the services of a mage named Marci.
I liked both Marci and Julius a lot. Marci has her own mysteries. She’s somehow managed to anger the leader of a mob, and hit men keep coming after her. She’s brave and a bit more ruthless than Julius. Julius has spent his twenty-four years of life being constantly told that he’s an improper dragon – for one thing, he’s much too nice. It was a delight to see Julius grow throughout the book, becoming a lot more confident in who he is and what he thinks is right.
Nice Dragons Finish Last managed to be constantly fast paced and exciting. I read the entire book in a little under twenty-four hours, because it was so good I had trouble putting it down. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series!