I think Rachel Aaron greatly enjoys turning conventions on their head. Certainly, the balls-out antics of our heroine in the Paradox series belied the serious and brainy nature of so much sci fi. And here, with Nice Dragons Finish last, she has great fun taking the very well tread Alpha-Male-Romance-Shapeshifter trope and turned it quite around. It may throw some readers for a loop but really, it’s all about enjoying the ride of Aaron’s very every-day and endearing characters who always end up thrust into unusual circumstances.
Story: Julius is rather the ‘runt’ of a large litter of dragons. A “NEET”, he’d rather play video games in the basement or go to school – a set of traits that his clan-leader mother Bethesda has decided not good enough. With the choice of being eaten by her or doing something with himself, Julius’ life is about to change quite quickly. Tasked with bringing back a rival clan’s wild child daughter, he’ll ally with a powerful magician (with problems of her own) and end up changing the course of the future – his and the humans.
The worldbuilding here is intriguing – a future where magic reappeared with a catastrophic event, awakening creatures of mythology and lore while also bringing magic back to humans. It’s smart and it works – and doesn’t need a huge set up either. I had to love that a deity named Algonquin rose up from the lake and destroyed most of Detroit – then taking it over under her own rule.
Our main character, Julius, is just a decent guy – as every man as all of Aaron’s characters. He may not be smart or make the best decisions, but he always does have his heart in the right place. It makes liking her characters easy despite their simple natures – and wanting to see them succeed that much easier.
Also expect quirky side characters in the form of Julius’ huge clan of brothers and sisters. From seers to enforcers, we have a very motly and interesting crew, all using Julius for their own ends. It makes perfect sense in the end but is always fun to see where Aaron will take the story in the process of saving the world.
While I absolutely adored her Devi Morris character in the Paradox series (written under the name Rachel Bach), I found Julius fun but not nearly as interesting. All the same, this was definitely an enjoyable read and I’ve purchased the next in the series.
Note: I listened to the Audible version and while the narrator did a good job, I had to wonder if he made some of the characters just a bit too odd/quirky to be likable.