I picked up “Nice Dragons Finish Last” because I was looking for some lighthearted escapism that would make me smile. Rachel Aaron’s book delivered that and a good deal more; surprisingly strong and original world-building, intriguing characters, gentle humour and some great actions scenes.
This is a book about being nice, decent, honest, trustworthy and reasonable, It is not one of those knowing, self-mocking books. It occasionally goes right up to the cliff-edge of cute but never drops into the abyss of sugary wholesomeness. Instead it works through the idea that being nice doesn’t have to make you weak, that being fair doesn’t have to make you vulnerable and that being who you are is better than hiding from who everyone else wants you to be.
What spices all that up is that the person addicted to niceness is a dragon. Dragons don’t hold with niceness. Dragon’s are about cunning and power and strength and above all, about winning. Our hero is simply too nice to be a successful dragon, yet, if he fails to display a sufficiently draconian approach to the mission he has been given a couple of days to achieve, his mother will eat him. He teams up with a young mage, who, although she’s human, behaves much more like a dragon than he does: she’s fierce, territorial, always looking to find an angle and never backs down from anyone. Together they make the perfect odd couple.
There is a quest of a kind, labyrinthine intrigues, warring seers, hungry monsters determined to feed and lots of men with guns,
Our hero is congenitally incapable of being nasty and much of the humour in the book comes from the incredulity with which our hero’s attempt to find win-win, conflict-avoiding, solutions to problems that are traditionally resolved by combat.
I found myself slipping more deeply into this world than I’d expected and liking the characters of dragons, even the scary or annoying ones.
So, I’ve bought the next book in the series “One Good Dragon Deserves Another” and I’m saving it for the next time I’m craving lighthearted entertainment backed up by clever ideas and likeable characters.