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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Last Dragon Standing by Rachel Aaron (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website  
Order “Last Dragon StandingHERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Nice Dragons Finish Last"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "One Good Dragon Deserves Another"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "A Dragon Of A Different Color"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "The Spirit Thief
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit Rebellion” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit Eater” & “Spirit’s Oath” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit War” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Spirit's End"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Fortune's Pawn"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Honor's Knight"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Heaven's Queen"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Rachel Aaron
Read Eli Monpress series completion interview with Rachel Aaron
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Rachel Bach
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Heartstrikers interview with Rachel Aaron
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Second Heartstrikers interview with Rachel Aaron
Read "Why A Nice Dragon" by Rachel Aaron (Guest post)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Rachel Aaron lives in Athens, Georgia with her family. She has graduated from University of Georgia with a B.A. in English Literature. She has been an avid reader since her childhood and now has an ever-growing collection to show for it. She loves gaming, Manga comics & reality TV police shows. She also posts regularly on her blog about publishing, books and several other intriguing things.


There is no way to write a blurb for this final book without spoiling all of the others. Suffice it to say, mysteries resolve, dragons war, pigeons abound, and Julius must risk himself in ways he never dreamed possible as Bob’s grand plan finally comes to fruition.

But the Great Seer of the Heartstrikers isn’t the only one whose schemes are nearing completion. The Nameless End is coming, and even the machinations of the world’s most brilliant dragon seer might not be enough to stop it. As the world comes crashing down, it’s up Julius to prove what he’s always known: that seers can be wrong, and Nice Dragons don’t always finish last.

CLASSIFICATION: The Heartstriker series is an action-packed urban fantasy series with a strong dose of comedy, post-apocalyptic SF themes and dragons.

FORMAT/INFO: Last Dragon Standing is 311 pages long divided over sixteen numbered chapters with a prologue and an epilogue. Narration is in the third person via Julius Heartstriker, Chelsie Heartstriker, Bob “Brohomir” Heartstriker , one person who will have to go unnamed because of SPOILERS. This is the fifth & final volume of the Heartstriker series.

March 1, 2018 will mark the e-book & paperback publication of Last Dragon Standing and it will be self-published by the author. Cover art and design is by Tia Rambaran.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: I was extremely lucky to be able to read the conclusion to the Heartstrikers series in its manuscript form. I can't thank Rachel Aaron enough for her kindness and for being the awesome person that she is.

The blurb of this book is going to be a difficult one as how do you compose one for a series ender. As you can see with the official blurb as well, the author has kept it as spoiler-free as possible. I'll do my best to continue in the same vein but I will presume that if you are wanting to read this book then you have read all of the four preceding titles. Hence some plot information which I talk about might be spoilerific for the previous titles but I truly don’t see a way around it. So be warned if you are wary about even the least bit of spoilers then READ NO FURTHER!

The book begins (in a fashion similar to its preceding titles) within moments of the climax of the previous book (A Dragon Of A Different Color). We also get a prologue from the point of view of the one character (Bob aka Brohomir) that has been pulling all the strings in the background. It's a glorious prologue and one which will answer another fundamental question about the series and is a special treat for fans of Bob.

After the events of the last book, our characters are all within each other’s proximity in the DFZ and are faced with a situation that is literally the end of all things. Once again it's up to our Nice Dragon to do what is required but he's been overwhelmed with ecstasy by SPOILER's return. We get to see Chelsie reunited with her brood & their father. Then there’s the F clutch who are wholly finding their feet and lastly we also get to see all of the characters mentioned so far (Justin, Ian, Svena, Katyana, the DFZ spirit, etc.) come together. There’s also an epic reunion of sorts between a Heartstriker and the daughter of the three sisters (however it’s not the Hearstriker you are thinking). There's also a major confrontation that has been hinted at since book 2 and we get to see play out in all of its glory. I enjoyed reading it and of course so will the readers.

First thing which I loved and want to highlight is the glorious cover. What's even better about is that it's not by series artist Anna Steinbauer but by Tia Rambaran. Who not only managed to keep the style intact from the previous titles and gave us a fantastic Bob alongwith his pigeon. Secondly this book literally has it all from saving the universe to romantic reunions, & explanations about all the things happening so far. The story hinges on two specific events, the first one we get to see in the first third of the book and the second plot thread is the culmination of Algonquin’s action as the end of the fourth book. It will takes everyone’s efforts, dragons, humans, mages & things from the beyond to make sure that the universe doesn’t get devoured. This is truly the crux of the story and longtime fans of the series are in for one hell of a ride with it.

Previously Rachel had mentioned that this is Bob's book and he takes the center stage in the first third of the story. Almost every character has been his instrument in some form or the other. Plus all his stratagems have led to the events featured in this book and Bob is betting it all for the one thing that he prizes above all and also for preserving the universe. He's a character who many fans love to read about and have can't have enough of his antics. In this book, not only do we get to see him in full flow but also see  the "why" behind all of his actions. This not only managed to humanize him but also gave a nice twist of the cool, funny wizard trope.

We also get a renewed focus on Julius Heartstriker who does the impossible by finding solutions where none appear to exist. Rachel Aaron had previously mentioned why she choose Julius as her main character over other stronger and more magical characters. We get another excellent example of that in this book. Even though Julius is a main character, he's been overshadowed by Chelsie, & Marci in the last couple of books. This book he gets back into the thick of things and possibly gets his heart's desire as well. There’s also a potential paternal reveal about the J clutch which was fun to read about and came out of the blue.

This book is the culmination of all of Rachel's plotting efforts and we get to see it spectacularly. From the amazeballs climax featuring almost all the dragons in the world versus something that considers them to be gnats, this book does have a lot of action, magic and upheavals to satisfy most if not all of the heartstrikers fans. The action scenarios are of course in line with all that's been hinted in the previous books but the author goes all out in showcasing why everyone fears dragons. Lastly I wanted to point how truly spectacular a climax Rachel has penned in this book. It measures up to the world shattering events of Spirit’s End (Eli Monpress book 5) and perhaps betters it in terms of sheer imaginative scale.  I sincerely wish that this series gets picked up as a TV miniseries just so that we can get to see the visual imagery as mentioned in this concluding volume.

Somethings that perhaps might cause a hiccup or two for the readers is the plot pacing which is a bit off due to the occurrence of two pivotal events. The first one causes the tension to build up and then once it is resolved, we get a bit of uneven pace until the final showdown. I believe Rachel Aaron will expound on this aspect in her interview with us so watch out for that. Another grouse that I had was that one of my favorite characters had a very reduced role in this book, I can see why that would be the case but considering how much of an action-oriented a character this is, it felt off to not see them in much action.

CONCLUSION: Featuring plenty of action, major major reveals and Dragons in all their glory. Last Dragon Standing is the dragontastic ending to this superb series by Rachel Aaron. Why should you check it out? For an amazing character cast, some wonderful world-building, a fantastic magic system and perhaps the best thing of all, a truly undragonlike dragon who makes everyone around him shine brighter. Last Dragon Standing is a finale that showcases the best of what Rachel Aaron offers and leaves you wondering what genre she will conquer next.


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