Heartstrikers Book Series By Rachel Aaron Review

When you start a book you usually have one of these reactions:  You can’t put it down, you can’t wait to see what happens next, and if there’s another book in the series, you can’t wait to pick it up and continue the series.  For The Heartstrikers series of books, I had all three reactions every time I started reading, and finishing each of the books.  Sadly, the series isn’t over yet (ugh I need the fourth book so bad, think it’s coming out later this year) but I’m so happy I took a chance on this indi author.  Rachel Aaron is an amazing author, her writing style is so fun and captivating and her characters are just….ugh I love these books!  I wanted to hold off reviewing them individually, because really, each book would have just been me gushing about how much I loved them because they are all amazing.  I found Rachel Aaron through looking for books on Audible, and got recommended the first book in the series:  Nice Dragons Finish Last.  When I heard a preview, I not only fell in love with the audio book narrator, but with the authors voice.  Really quirky, fun world building and characters all around and…ugh I just love these  books so much!  But instead of gushing here, time to gush in the review!



Julius Heartstriker is the only nice dragon in his clan and instead of making waves, he hides from his older, more aggressive siblings to stay out of trouble.  His Mother doesn’t tolerate this anymore and throws him out at the age of 24 into the DFZ  (Detroit Free Zone) and Julius has to figure out how to make it in the world with no money, no street smarts, and trying to avoid being killed in the DFZ because the DFZ is a no-dragons-allowed zone.  There’s a lot more to the series, but that’s the plot of the first book and more or less the series is Julius gets thrown into a situation and gets out of it by being himself, with the help of his BFF Marcy, mage extraordinaire.



I’ve complained in the past about fantasy worlds not having a concrete place they inhabit.  For example, does the story take place in a full fantasy world, or an alternate Earth.  The Heartstrikers series does a wonderful job of both showing, and telling us the world we’re in.  A meteor hit the Earth about a hundred years before our story started, bringing magic back into the world.  Along with magic, we got the reawakening of spirits, dragons, and human mages and they’re all getting used to magic being back in the world.    The series is clearly an urban fantasy dystopia (I know it sounds weird, but it totally works) set in our world.  How can you tell it’s in our Earth’s timeline?  There are super high tech magic-technology phones in use, along with self-driving cars and GPS.  Not only that, but we get characters referencing things like Batman, Super Mario, Star Wars, and a lot of other pop culture references that would be archived in the databases of a post-magic-tech Earth.  Does the narrative tell me that?  Not at all:  but because of how rich the world building is, and how intricate the showing, and telling the world building we see in the books, I can deduce that without even having to be told that somewhere in the narrative.

The magic system is really interesting, and makes tons of sense.  There are different magic systems for how humans, dragons, and spirits use magic and even when it’s being explained (it’s explained a lot through the series, it’s a major over arching plot point) never was I confused.  I read that in the third book the human system of magic confused a few people, but it made perfect sense to me.  And, how the dragons overall work is just really great!  I’ve never read dragon fiction before, but in this series, dragons have a human form and a dragon form and it’s just so fascinating and adds so much to the story.
So yeah, all in all, the best world building I’ve read in a modern fantasy series.  I’m not huge into urban fantasy, and wasn’t aware this was going to be one when reading, but it’s so great.



They’re all perfect~

Ok to go into more detail every character is really fleshed out, human, and interesting.  Even the side characters, even the characters that you know are there just to be offed later.  Any important player in the story is very human, very real, and very loveable.  If they aren’t lovable, you understand their motives and are able to sympathize with them to a degree.  I adore Marcy, who is Julius’ best friend/love interest, and all of Julius’ siblings we see (he has a lot of them, his Mother gets busy) wind up having wonderful storylines and plot motivations and by the third book we see something big is coming together, and I can’t wait to see how it will end for our characters.



I mentioned this in my opening paragraph, but the writing is what got me wanting to read this series.  It’s like reading a sit com, but a really good sit com!  Whitty dialogue, great descriptors, really good pacing.  All around just an amazing job from Rachel Aaron.



The Heartstrikers series ventures to answer this question:  Can a genuinely nice person succeed in a world filled with power hungry, aggressive people, and still stay true to himself and his ideals?  Will doing so change his surroundings for the better?  Along with that, we have plotting dragons, humans and spirits just trying to survive, and the magical future of the world coming to a head.  When you think someone is “the villain” you find out their motivations, and realize what they’re trying to do may not be so bad.  It’s a book series about humanity at its core, what drives us to do things, what makes us stay true to ourselves, and how someone we’ve met by chance (or perhaps by fate dun dun dun) can affect us, for better or worse.
nice Dragons Finish Last, One Good Dragon Deserves Another, and No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished are all amazing reads.  I think there are one or two books left in the series that aren’t out yet –shakes fist- but I anxiously await the next installment of the series because ugh this is so good!  I haven’t been this invested in a book series in a very long time.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend you do!  If you have read it, I’d love to talk about it in the comments!


What Characteristics Engage Me in a Story?

I swear this isn’t exclusively a book blog.  I’ve just started an Audible subscription a few months ago, and have been reading like a mad woman.  I’ve seen a lot of people say they prefer to add their own voice when they’re reading, but for me that doesn’t really matter.  If I’m reading an Ebook, or a book in a PDF, my screen reader is doing the reading.  So instead of being able to make my own voice in my head, a robotic voice is reading the text quickly to me.  Between that, or having a human being perform the book like it’s a play, and having voices for the characters pre-made and stuff, I’ll take the Audio Book any day.  There are a few exceptions, like if there is an audio book narrator that bores me to tears, so much so that I can’t finish the book, then I’ll default to my screen reader doing the reading.  One thing that’s majorly annoying, though, is the main Ebook hub is Amazon Kindle, right?  Well instead of allowing me to use NVDA’s screen reading voice, it uses the horrible Microsoft narrator one!  Have you ever heard the Microsoft narrator voice?  If not, go turn on Narrator in the Windows settings if you have a PC, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.  That voice gives me a freaking headache.  So for me at least, reading Kindle books is out.  I guess I coooud get used to it, but I’d rather not spend money on a book I won’t read because I can’t stand the narrator voice.


That tangent aside, I did something that I don’t usually do.  I read the first Throne of Glass book, and then Audible sent me an email for a sale.  First book in the series is 4.99!  As a book fanatic I couldn’t pass that up (I’m terrible at digital impulse buys) and bought a book in my wish list that I’ve been dying to read:  Nice Dragons Finish Last, by Rachel Aaron.  I use Audible like a library, more or less:  browse the digital book shelves for interesting looking titles, then click on the books that interest me and read the summary.  If it interests me, I click on the preview to see if I like the narrator and the writing, and when I did that for Nice Dragons I was instantly captivated by the humorous voice of the author, along with the interesting characters.
My second tangent aside, what I usually don’t do is start one series before finishing the one I had already started.  I like to read series books in a row, because I like to get the full story in a continuous motion:  part of the reason why I like to binge watch a series instead of watching week to week.  So when I finished Nice Dragons Finish Last, I had planned to purchase Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass Book 2) but after finishing it, I had a dilemma.  I was really into Nice Dragons Finish Last!
So that got me thinking:  what made me like Nice Dragons more than Throne of Glass?  I liked Throne of Glass, it was a great read.  But there was something about Throne of Glass that made me not mind not continuing it right away.  Nice Dragons Finish Last, while being a slower read for me (I read five chapters of that a day, while I read one of Nice Dragons – although those chapters were far longer) in the end, Nice Dragons got me to want to read onto the next book in the series right away, while Throne of Glass, I don’t mind waiting to finish up.  That got me thinking:  What draws me into a story?  So let’s break this down after that very lengthy introduction!



I know for me, characters outweigh good plot.  A plot can be generic and overdone because let’s face it, every plot has been done before.  But what I read a book for, or engage in any story for, is good characters.  While the characters in Throne of Glass were really fleshed out and well done, the characters in Nice Dragons Finish Last were quirky, adorable, fleshed out, and so entertaining.  Reading Nice Dragons was like reading a sitcom, it was just so much fun and so funny.  I read the first half slowly (for me, which is in about a week) but the second half?  It picked up, and I read it in one night.  That wasn’t because of the plot, it was because of the characters.  Even the ones you dislike, you still like to a degree and everyone is really fun, even the side characters.  Throne of Glass had that sometimes, but other than Celaena who is amazing, the other characters stuck pretty well to their archetypes.  I’m not saying that’s bad, by any means:  I still enjoyed visiting with them, and will enjoy visiting with them again.  But for a full cast of amazing characters that I hope will grow in its second book, Nice Dragons Finish Last wins in this category.
For the world building too, I think Nice Dragons wins by a landslide.  It’s such an interesting setting!  I’m not a huge urban fantasy fan, but this is like, an urban fantasy with magic, and dystopia, and dragons!  It all merges together into something you think wouldn’t work, but it totally does.  A meteor hit the earth a few decades before the story began, and brought magic back into the world.  So it’s commonplace, and me being a majorly obsessed with magic fantasy fan, I ate this up with a spoon.
Once again, Throne of Glass’ setting isn’t bad by any means.  But what it is, is a typical fantasy world, with magic, and tyrannical Kings, and oppression and I think you get the jist.  It’s a Game of Thrones that I actually can read, so that’s saying something because I find epic fantasy to be too long and drawn out (sorry to any epic fantasy fans).  But once again, I attribute that more to Celaena than anything else.  She’s really the driving force of enjoying Throne of Glass for me.


After writing all of that out, I think I see why I decided to read Nice Dragons sequel over Throne of Glass’.  At their cores, both stories are good, but in the end Nice Dragons Finish Last offers more to me as a reader than Throne of Glass does.  Like I said earlier, Nice Dragons is a light, fun read that read like a sitcom, or dramedy and is really easy to get through. I enjoyed reading Throne of Glass, but it took me a lot longer to read it.  I kept on stop-start reading it over the month of February, and when I really enjoy a book, I can finish it in a week or less.  I’m still going to finish the Throne of Glass series, but after I read all three books in the Heartstrikers series.  I just have to know what happens next in those, where learning what happens next to Celaena will be interesting, but isn’t a priority of mine.
I’m glad I figured that out after writing that novel of a post!  I’d love to know:  what draws you into a story, or series?