Audiobook Review: Last Dragon Standing by Rachel Aaron
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Series: Book 5 of Heartstrikers
Publisher: Audible Studios (March 1, 2018)
Length: 13 hrs and 11 mins
There’s a good reason why there’s not an official summary for this fifth and final novel of the Heartstrikers series, and that the description you will find everywhere is a message to the reader from the author about how there’s no way to write a blurb for this book without spoiling all the others. That’s because it’s true. So much has happened over the course of this series, with events and revelations piled up on top of one another, that to single out any thread would be a risk to unravel and reveal more information than I want to give. So, if you’re reading this review, I’ll assume that you are at least caught up to this point in the series, and if you’re not, be aware that there are potential plot details for the previous four volumes.
Last Dragon Standing picks up right up from the events at the end of Dragon of a Different Color. But before the story starts up in earnest, readers are given a brief glimpse into the past with Bob, our favorite dragon seer, who is seen striking a bargain that will change the course of Heartstriker history forever. We are then zipped back to the present, catching up with all our key players who have all gathered around the Detroit Free Zone following the aftermath of what happened to Algonquin, the spirit of the Great Lakes. There have been happy reunions all around—with lovers, friends, family, and even enemies coming together again—and that also includes the return of a couple characters that everyone thought was dead. But the celebrations have barely begun, when a new threat comes looming on the horizon—quite literally.
As epic as this finale was though, I had some concerns. For one thing, I can see why now Rachel Aaron had to make this a five-book series to wrap things up. Don’t get me wrong, I think this final volume was absolutely required, but it irked me a little that so much of it was made up of nothing but talk. If I hadn’t been so invested in the story already, I think I would have been bored to tears, and even then, there were times where the amount of talk really tried my patience. Up to this point, each Heartstriker novel has been a lot of fun, full of action and witty banter. It saddens me that I can’t really say the same for Last Dragon Standing, because at least two thirds of it was filled with our characters doing nothing but just standing around, explaining the situation or discussing battle plans in a very dry, in-your-face tone. Not that this kind of information wasn’t important to the plot, but it still felt an awful lot like blatant info-dumping.
I also think that’s a clear sign of a book trying to do too much when you literally need to have a character chime in and explain what’s happening every single step of the way. In a sense, one of the series’ greatest strengths has become its biggest liability. I’ve always loved the incredible world-building in Heartstrikers and how every book has introduced new elements as well as bigger, badder, and more overwhelming threats for Julius and the gang to face. But now we’ve gotten to the point where the situation has ballooned into something barely manageable, and yet, we still have to tie everything together in one final volume that also happens to be the shortest book of the series.
Still, I don’t know if things could have turned out any differently. As I said before, Last Dragon Standing completes the author’s vision of Julius’ journey, bringing everything full circle back to where we began, in the DFZ. Only now, our nice dragon is no longer alone or quite so powerless. Everything has been building up to this point, and at the end of the day, getting a satisfying conclusion that addresses all questions and conflicts is probably worth putting up a few pacing issues, or having to soldier through some lengthy sections of dialogue. Also, the last quarter of the book was amazing, which went a long way in making up for the tedious talk at the beginning. It was an emotional rollercoaster, and despite feeling confident that Rachel Aaron would leave us all with a happy ending, I still got extremely nervous there for a little while.
Bottom line, as the finale of one of my favorite series, I wish Last Dragon Standing had been a little more fun to read. However, if you’ve been following the books thus far, you probably won’t be too bothered by the lack of action. While this one was mostly full of talk, all of it still went towards building up to the stunning climax. As befitting a series conclusion, the antagonist was an insurmountable threat requiring all our characters coming together to defeat, and that part of the battle was handled in a truly epic fashion. Everyone—and I do mean everyone—we’ve come to know and love in this series will have a part to play, and I really enjoyed the feel-good, fist-pumping energy in the final showdown. All in all, that ending makes this a must-read book in a must-read series, and Heartstrikers will always have a special place in my heart and on my shelves. I can’t wait to see what Rachel Aaron does next.
Audiobook Comments: Vikas Adam has become the voice of this series, and I think I’ll always know him for the incredible performances he has given for these books. He was so good that I’ll even miss his “Bob voice”, which is really saying something! I definitely wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Heartstrikers in audio; I’ve had just as much fun listening to this series as reading it, and both formats have been greatly entertaining and rewarding.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Nice Dragons Finish Last (Book 1)
Review of One Good Dragon Deserves Another (Book 2)
Review of No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished (Book 3)
Review of A Dragon of a Different Color (Book 4)