The current conclusion is that this series is fast becoming a favourite urban fantasy series of mine and I guess that speaks for itself. No disrespect to Dresden Files and Kate Daniels at all which are great in their own respect but I enjoyed reading Heartstrikers more.
There might be minor spoilers in my review as it is almost impossible not to mention anything about the plot for this review to be relevant. Firstly, there is a noticeable increase in gravitas to the tone of the story as the series progressed. Dragon politics play a central theme in No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished as Julius sought to change the tyrannical matriarchal rule under Bethesda to one of democracy under a voted ruling Council. Given the many centuries that dragons lived with the notion that might equals power, this idea was met with much mockery and disdain. The entire clan comprising hundreds of dragons descended into Heartstriker Mountain as a call to vote for the final council member aside from Julius and Bethesda. And chaos ensued.
This book has a significantly slower pace with a lot of politics and talking as Julius continues his agenda while trying his best to avoid violence and killing. It felt a bit tiring at first as he had to repeat his message time and time again to stubborn arrogant ears. However, and this where I had to give it to Julius, the youngest and smallest dragon of the clan absolutely refuses to back down. In spite of how repetitive it got, I appreciated that this kind of slower development is required as changes seldom happen overnight.
"If this is going to work, I needed a tool even I couldn’t break, and you can’t know if someone won’t cave unless you push them.”
And Julius was indeed sorely pushed and even abused. Bethesda, didn't want a meek son like him but she couldn't be further from the truth. The strength of Julius' convictions outweighs that of physical prowess. His refusal to fight and refusal to bow was such a paradox that the typical dragon mind cannot fathom a counter strategy except to rely on overpowering through sheer might and strength.
To further prove that no good dragon indeed goes unpunished, the backstory of Chelsie was finally brought to light and it was simply heartbreaking. All of Julius' other siblings that we've come to know and love also continue to play important roles in the story. But as usual, Bob the seer stole the show every single time he appeared, and though was not often enough it was game-changing.
Dragon politics was not the only highlight of the book. Marci and her cat spirit, Ghost, were the centrepieces to the worldbuilding subplot, or perhaps even the larger overarching one. This is the part of the story which I cannot say much about without really spoiling the revelatory enjoyment, safe that the development and growth between Marci and Ghost's binding to each other was truly evolutionary to humanity's magical potential. Julius and Marci's blossoming relationship remains endearing even though they did not get to spend a lot of time together as both get pulled in different directions due to the circumstances they each faced.
The ending of this book left me dazed; the shock of an unexpected event, the marvel at hidden hands that were being played, and the anxious anticipation of what is going to happen next. It left me wistfully hoping to have the fourth book in my clutches right now.