Julius has always been the disappointment of the Heartstriker dragon clan. He’s small, quiet, unambitious, and spends most of his time in his human form playing video games and getting online degrees. His mother kicks Julius out of the house, magically sealed in his human form, with only one month to prove he’s a worthy dragon. One of his many brothers gives Julius a job to track down a missing dragon in the DFZ, a vertical city built on the ruins of Old Detroit, and he luckily acquires the help of the mage Marci, who needs Julius’ help as much as he needs hers.

In short, Nice Dragons Finish Last is pure YA fun. Julius is, well, a nice guy. He enjoys fantasy books and playing video games online with his human friends, not family drama and politics and power. The world-building of traditional fantasy tropes in a humorous urban dystopian adventure generates a real-page turner, and my favorite details include the different types of mages, vengeful spirits, and a singular ghost cat. Plus there’re some good old fashioned mobsters too.

Julius’ siblings are a large star of the show, in all their arrogant, trigger-happy, and manipulative glory. The oldest is 800-year-old Bob and his ability as a Seer of the future has given the Heartstrikers a clear advantage. The family assassin is 700-year-old Chelsie and eliminates anyone in the family who threatens the clan or steps out of line. 100-year-old Ian is the master manipulator, hiring Julius for the job, and his own 24-year-old clutch mate Justin is a family favorite. Despite his youth, he’s big and strong and a great fighter. There are so many Heartstrikers that their mother Bethesda names each set in alphabetical order, which is a funny but useful running joke.

Recommended as a fun and light coming-of-age a-little-late story!

“I am a mage,” she replied with every ounce of haughtiness three years in a competitive doctoral program had taught her. “We bend the rules of the universe on a daily basis. Presumptuousness is the base line for entry.”