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Thursday, August 4, 2016

No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished by Rachel Aaron (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website  
Pre-order “No Good Dragon Goes UnpunishedHERE
Read the first two chapters HERE 
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 "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 "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.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: When Julius overthrew his mother and took control of his clan, he thought he was doing right by everyone. But sharing power isn’t part of any proper dragon’s vocabulary, and with one seat still open on the new ruling Council, all of Heartstriker is ready to do whatever it takes to get their claws on it, including killing the Nice Dragon who got them into this mess in the first place.

To keep his clan together and his skin intact, Julius is going to have to find a way to make his bloodthirsty siblings play fair. But there’s more going on in Heartstriker Mountain than politics. Every family has its secrets, but the skeletons in Bethesda’s closet are dragon sized, and with Algonquin’s war looming over them all, breaking his clan wide open might just be the only hope Julius has of saving it.

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: No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished is 498 pages long divided over nineteen numbered chapters with a prologue and an epilogue. Narration is in the third person via Julius Heartstriker, Chelsie Heartstriker, Marci Novalli, and Bob “Brohomir” Heartstriker. This is the third volume of the Heartstriker series.

August 5, 2016 will mark the e-book & paperback publication of No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished and it will be self-published by the author. Cover art and design is by Anna Steinbauer.

ANALYSIS: After the fantastic sequel that was One Good Dragon Deserves Another, I couldn’t wait to see what Rachel would cook up for Julius, Marci, and the rest of the clan (except Bob because he steers his own path). The following review will contain mild spoilers for the preceding two titles and so readers be forewarned…

The book opens up almost immediately afterwards the events of the 2nd book and we get to see the mayhem that has been caused due to Julius seizing control away from Bethesda. Plus now that there will be a vote for the council membership, all the Heartstriker dragons have assembled into the mountain and it literally turns into a madhouse. Marci has been relegated to the sick bay after the tumultuous events but she’s one person who never lets things go by and with Julius busy, she’s left to her own devices. There’s a whole host of other Heartstrikers introduced in this volume besides Amelia, Bob, Chelsea, Conrad and the others whom we have met so far. Plus the prologue also gives a look into the distant past and we see Chelsea before she has been tuned into her role as enforcer.

This book deals with a lot, a real lot of stuff. There’s twin strands that the plot breaks down into. The first strand deals with Julius as he tries to make sure that the selection for the 3rd council seat goes smoothly. He’s very much unprepared for the venomous onslaught that is coming his way via all the ambitious Heartstrikers. He also has to worry about Bethesda and her backhanded politicking to undo what has happened to her both magically and politically. The second strand deals with Marci who has to fend off on her own in the Heartstriker Mountain and soon realizes that her bond with Ghost has marked her as something very special in the eyes of a certain human faction. She also learns how dangerous it can be for humans to be alone in the Mountain and especially to be associated with the nice dragon. There’s also the human faction who are trying to navigate their way amidst all the spirit and dragon magic and find their Arthurian match. Lastly this book dwells deeply into Chelsie’s past and establishes why she’s doing what she has done so far. There’s also machinations from Bob, Amelia, Ian, Svena and Ghost but I’ll leave the readers to RAFO.

This book like One Good Dragon Deserves Another dwells a lot into a lot of the dragon politics and the magical underpinnings of the world. The last book gave us a solid look into Dragons, their past and how they came to be in this world. This book does something similar but gives us a solid look into human magic. After reading all that Rachel Aaron has written so far, I can safely vouch for the fact that she’s a master plotter. Her series are incredibly planned down to all the minutiae and this series is another shining example of that. Each book so far has slowly unsheathed fascinating details about the world in different areas. I loved how incredibly deep this world is and such an incredible mish mash genre wise. Is it urban fantasy, or SF or post-apocalyptic dystopian thriller? I feel it’s all of those and more.

Going on to the next strength of the book and that’s characterization. Given the huge cast that gets further expanded in this book, it’s always crucial that each character be distinct and have their own voice. Rachel Aaron doesn’t disappoint, not only does she stay true to character voices but we see their development alongside the plot as well. This is truly epitomized with Julius’ arc in this book. He thoroughly believes in the path of non-violence or no killing even to his own detriment (Rachel Aaron talks wonderfully about Julius and his nature in this excellent guest post). He sticks to it so much that at a certain point in the book you might want to punch him for being so na├»ve (you’ll know when you read it). He does redeem himself by following through on his ideals and making a shining example for the entire clan. Julius is truly the nicest dragon and we get a strong inkling as to why Bob hinges his plans on him so much.

Then there’s Marci who gets some fantastic stuff to deal with personally and professionally. This book also shines a particular light on her bond with Ghost and who exactly he might be. There’s also a follow up on the epilogue revelations in OGDDA in terms of what Algonquin is up to and what exactly does the term “Merlin” mean? Like the last book Marci gets a strong focus within this book and by the end I would say her arc outdoes Julius. The book also focuses upon Chelsie who’s been the strong & silent enforcer for the Heartstrikers. In this book, we get a thorough inkling of what exactly happened in China. Why is she with Bethesda and what are her deepest secrets? Lastly there’s also Bob and Amelia who are up to their own machinations and the author reveals some big things in the making from their side.

Going to the plotting, this book takes a figurative backseat to OGDDA but with regards to plot twists, it outdoes its predecessor spectacularly. This book takes quite a few dark turns and none darker than the final twist. If you are like me, you will be cursing and wanting the next book pronto. That’s the hallmark of a well-written and well-plotted book that it shocks you and makes you want to read more at the same time. I couldn’t predict what was going to happen in this book and the events leading up to the climax only foreshadow a grim future (this series is similar to the Eli Monpress books wherein in the 3rd book, the series takes a solid dark turn). Lastly to combat all the darkness, the author does provide a small hope via Bob (who else) and then comes the final shocker via the epilogue. As far as plot twists go, this book has been the best one I’ve read in 2016.

Negatives to this book might depend on your mileage. The story does slowdown in the middle but that’s only because the action takes a backseat to the plotting. Julius’ behavior can seem a bit of a drag but it only proves how much he wants to stick to his ideals and change the Heartstriker clan for the better. Also in this book, the comedic overtones are little less than the previous volumes but given that this book has so much darker stuff in it, I could see why that was the case. Overall there was very little that I didn’t enjoy about this book.

CONCLUSION: No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished is a fabulous book in the Heartstriker series as it outshines all the previous books with its plot twists. Seriously this has been the most enjoyable book of 2016 for me and this book marks out this series for being the special one that it is in the current field of Urban fantasy. 


Melissa (My words and pages) said...

I want to get to this authors works. I really love the sounds of them all and reading your review has me wanting it more. Maybe I can get to the audio versions? I seem to get through them faster than reading these days. Thanks!


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