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Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Dragon Of A Different Color by Rachel Aaron (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Official Author Website  
Order “A Dragon Of  A Different ColorHERE
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 "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.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: To save his family from his tyrannical mother, Julius had to step on a lot of tails. That doesn’t win a Nice Dragon many friends, but just when he thinks he’s starting to make progress, a new threat arrives. Turns out, things can get worse. Heartstriker hasn’t begun to pay for its secrets, and the dragons of China are here to collect. When the Golden Emperor demands his surrender, Julius will have to choose between loyalty to the sister who's always watched over him and preserving the clan he gave everything to protect.

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: A Dragon Of A Different Color is 506 pages long divided over seventeen numbered chapters with a prologue and an epilogue. Narration is in the third person via Julius Heartstriker, Chelsie Heartstriker, Algonquin, Bob “Brohomir” Heartstriker & one more person who will have to go unnamed because of SPOILERS. This is the fourth volume of the Heartstriker series.

July 28, 2017 will mark the e-book & paperback publication of A Dragon Of A Different Color and it will be self-published by the author. Cover art and design is by Anna Steinbauer.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: A Dragon Of A Different Color is the fourth Heartstriker book and the title is a strong indicator about the plot of the book for those who want to take a stab at guessing. The plot of this book literally starts moments after the shocking events of No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished. We see Julius who is very distraught upon learning about the shocking death that was the climax of NGDGU. He's also not entirely prepared to learn about what events have befallen Amelia & Bob. To add to it, Julius and the other heads of the Hearstrikers council soon learn that they are being invaded by the Chinese dragons and to top to it all, the Golden Emperor is on his way. Safe to say things aren't looking all that well and to add to it all Bob has missing and Julius really doesn't know whom to trust.

This book is a hard one to review since it's the penultimate volume so talking about even the basic plot is going to be hard. Simply because many things that are happening/mentioned in this volume will be spoilers for all of the previous volumes. Plus I can't really talk about one whole plot thread simply because of SPOILERS. Still I’ll persevere, the first thread focusses nicely on Julius as we find him at his wit’s end without his support from the earlier books. He has achieved what he set out to do but soon finds that heavy lies the head that wears the proverbial crown. The Heartstrikers Mountain now wears a slightly deserted look and Julius finds himself with more questions as he find out what transpired when he was getting the council instated. But before he can come to terms with his anguish over the loss of his loved ones, he finds that duty calls as the Golden Emperor and the Chinese clan have decided to take over their territory. Julius will soon have to learn why the Golden Emperor is so feared by everyone including his own dragons (the author does a nice twist on the all-powerful emperor trope & as to why is he so feared by his own).

The second tract of the book is amazing and it’s even more horrible as to why I can’t talk about it in this review. But safe to say that it reveals a major secret about what truly happened more than a millennia ago and why did the magic disappear. Why do the spirits fear and abhor human magic? We also get a POV from Algonquin. Lastly this tract runs parallel to Julius and is the more intriguing of the two IMO. The only spoiler I can say about it is that readers who were so distraught by the ending the NGDGU will absolutely love it for a reason they won’t expect and not for the reason that they think. The characterization as with the previous books has been spectacular but with this book we truly get to see some emotional & romantic payback. There’s two scenes both featuring Chelsie which will absolutely pull on the readers’ hearts. I thought that the first one was an awesome tearjerker because of the buildup from book 3 and the latter one just plays out beautifully as it reinforces the bond of family among individuals who have been denied these emotions for a long, long time.

It’s to the author’s credit that these scenes don’t just seem caricaturish but will make the readers truly happy as we get to see the characters experience certain emotions & bonds that have never experienced in their long lives. One drawback though for readers who expect a happy & cheerful Julius will be slightly disappointed as our Nice Dragon isn’t the same with his recent losses but he still has his brains and resourcefulness. Going on the plot of the book, it’s a dual thread one and moves at an absolute breakneck pace so readers will constantly be wanting to finish chapters and move ahead to find what happens in the climax.

Talking about the world building, besides the first book, each book has taken a strong look in to the past and given the backgrounds of several things. The second book dealt with the dragons and revealed all about them. The third book revealed a lot about human magic and the history of the Merlins. The third book also hinted about Chelsie's past and gave several pointers about her big secret. This fourth volume is another crackerjack of a story thanks to the reveal about Chelsie and what really happened in China. This book also deals with spirits and their connections to humans, the land and the source of magic. This book is essentially the big revelation book which kind of unveils all the big secrets that have been hidden so far. This book does everything except tie up the story in a nice bow, you have to admire Rachel Aaron's plotting skills as this story hits so many high points while moving the story in a streamlined way.

These books very much read like seasons of a TV show and I would love it if someone were to adapt to it. This book has it all crazy action, several emotional scenes (this will make sense when you read the book), in fact one character's power hinges entirely on emotion and the way it is resolved is almost beautiful to watch. There's a solid tract that I can't talk and the only thing I can say is that this book lays bare to the whole reason for the return of magic and what truly happened nearly a millennia ago. I loved how carefully the author has structured the story with all of its reveals. Lastly the epilogue of this book is a stunner as it literally sets of a timebomb of sorts.

The last book will be chaotic and intense and potentially world ending exactly as Bob wants it. In case if you are wondering how much of a role Bob has to play, it's exactly as this review, he's there in the start and towards the end but his impact can't be understated. Rachel has specifically stated in her 2016 interview with us as to how important Bob is to the story and in this book we get the biggest confirmation about this fact. Lastly we also learn the truth about Bob's favorite pigeon and the reveal has absolutely been worth the wait. This book is the proper culmination of so many threads that have been running since book 1 and it is an absolute pleasure to read them being brought together in an intense & emotional tapestry. This book’s ending is also going to make you want the last book Last Dragon Standing right now (very similar to its predecessor). I can’t tell you how much I want to read the fifth volume and see what an explosive ending Rachel has planned for us all.

CONCLUSION: I’ve said it all along that Rachel Aaron is one hell of a story teller and her plotting skills & imagination are truly what make one of the best in not only the urban fantasy genre but possibly the whole of speculative fiction. A Dragon Of A Different Color is the penultimate book in the Hearstrikers series but it possibly is the most striking with regards to its emotional resonance among all the books so far. Rachel Aaron continues her fine form and easily shows why she’s the true mother of dragons in the art of storytelling.



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