After foiling one plot by a foreseeing Dragon, Julius Heartstriker, the nicest Dragon in the world, gets dropped into the maw of his family’s machinations by way of a reward in ONE GOOD DRAGON DESERVES ANOTHER, the second Heartstriker novel by Rachel Aaron. One Good Dragon is the sequel to Nice Dragons Finish Last [review here at S&F] and picks up the action a few months after the end of that novel.
Julius and Marci have started their business of dealing with spirit infestations, living a financially precarious but independent life in the DFZ, the Detroit Free Zone, the independent state carved from the United States by the actions of Algonquin, the Lady of the Lakes. Julius and Marci’s defeat of Estella’s plans in the previous novel, however, means that Julius’ grasping, ambitious mother Bethseda might have a use for her most useless and undragonlike son, whether he likes it or not. And as the prologue makes clear, Estella, the dragon who Julius thwarted in Nice Dragons, is far from defeated, and like the Cylons, She Has a Plan. And poor Julius is at the center of that plan. As he is at the center of many other people’s plans as well.
The author does a lot more worldbuilding in this second outing in the Heartstriker universe, even more than the first in some ways. While the first set up the near-future “magic returns” urban fantasy premise quickly and dropped the characters in and presented it to the reader, this novel manages to explain and fill in some of the gaps and questions I had with the world in the first novel. We get a better sense of just how people — the world— reacted to The Magic Returns, and what they are doing about it now. There are also interesting details dropped about the nature of dragons, including an idea I had not seen before (admittedly given my relatively thin reading in Urban Fantasy, it may not be new, but it is new to me).
Another strong element is the characters and characterization. Both Julius and Marci have good, strong, well defined character arcs, forged by the events they undergo, and a lens and means and process by which they meet their respective challenges. Baby Julius at the start of Nice Dragons did a bit of growing up in that novel; One Good Dragon puts that character growth on steroids. Too, Marci undergoes a leveling up as she starts to learn and effectively live up to the potentials of her power, abilities and skills of which she only had previously scratched the surface. We also get good, realistic, almost painfully funny development in the burgeoning relationship between Julius and Marci.
Beyond these two, the novel gives us a whole suite of dragons. Justin is back, facing his own challenges and problems. Beyond him, we get on-screen appearances from a number of other Dragons, both within and without the Heartstriker Clan. I still have a fond spot for Justin, but I have another new favorite, Amelia. Amelia, the eldest child of Bethseda and therefore both heir and threat to her mother, is a dragon who prefers to wander alternate planes of existence and find interesting alcoholic drinks rather than to deal with family politics. When her back is to the wall, though, we learn quickly why Bethseda rightly considers her Eldest a threat to her power, even if Amelia herself really doesn’t want the leadership role.
The novel doesn’t stand alone; it’s impossible to read this effectively without having read Nice Dragons Finish Last first. And I recommend that you do do so. For all of that, in many ways this is a stronger novel that builds and extends its predecessor. The draconic family dynamics, the dueling seers and their attempts to mold their and everyone else’s futures, make this an entertaining turn-page read. As an author, Rachel Aaron knows how to bring fun and entertainment to her audience, infusing that into her work with seemingly effortless joy. One Good Dragon Deserves Another continues that tradition. Like its predecessor, this is the kind of novel to rip through while waiting through the latest delay at the airport, or to while away a day up at the lake while waiting for the sunset light to take some more photos of the landscape.