A Dragon of a Different Color by Rachel Aaron science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsA Dragon of a Different Color by Rachel Aaron science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsA Dragon of a Different Color by Rachel Aaron

Rachel Aaron’s HEARTSTRIKERS series continues with the fourth novel, A Dragon of a Different Color (2017). It’s really no use to start this story here – you should first read Nice Dragons Finish Last, One Good Dragon Deserves Another, and No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished. At this point in the story, it’s hard to avoid a few spoilers for the previous books, but I’ll do my best.

In the prologue of A Dragon of a Different Color, we finally learn the history of the Detroit Free Zone (the DFZ), including how human magicians worked together to banish Algonquin about 1000 years ago and how she eventually came back, killed thousands of people, and nearly destroyed the city. I was glad to get more details about this event.

Then the story picks up only two hours after the shocking and distressing events that occurred in the finale of the previous book. Julius, devastated, does not feel emotionally equipped to be the leader of his clan at this time, but he is forced to step up when, out of nowhere, the powerful Chinese dragon clan arrives at Heartstriker mountain and demands that the Heartstrikers surrender to their Golden Emperor.

This comes at a particularly bad time because, for multiple reasons, the Heartstriker clan is especially weak at the moment. For Julius, who has, until now, managed to be successful with his nice-guy approach to dragon conflict, this encounter with the Chinese dragons is bewildering and there doesn’t seem to be a way out.No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished by Rachel Aaron science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviews

The other main storyline takes place both in the DFZ and in a nebulous void-like magical space. It involves the fallout from the deadly encounter with Algonquin in No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished. This plot will be important to anyone who, like this reader, was traumatized by those events. Here we learn a lot about the magic of this world and its gods (including Ghost, the cat), but the shadowy setting, the frequent infodumps, and the long repetitive conversations and monologues drag it down, though I was satisfied with the way it eventually resolved and the information presented was truly central to the unfolding story.

There are also too many speeches in Julius’s plotline but I found that I was much more interested in his conflict with the Golden Emperor than with what was going on in the DFZ and that magical space. It was good to finally get the details about “what happened in China” and how that resulted in the slavery of Bethesda’s F-clutch. This part of the story is quite exciting.

A Dragon of a Different Color isn’t my favorite installment in the HEARTSTRIKERS series, but fans who want to be well informed shouldn’t skip it. If you haven’t already, you should try the audio editions by Audible Studios. Vikas Adam’s performance is wonderful and adds a lot to the story.

Published in 2017. 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.


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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