With the story coming so close to its conclusion, I will not mention much about the plot except that all the various key threads from the past few books have evolved into a climax of epic proportions in this volume. As Mr Nice Dragon of the Heartstrikers had to contend with the weight of being one of the council leaders of the clan, all is not what it seemed. Especially when you have Brohomir, the Great Seer of the Heartstrikers, or Bob, pulling at all the strings to achieve his endgame.
The worldbuilding and history aspects of this fantastical version of Earth literally exploded in this book. With the Chinese dragons descending upon Heartstrikers mountain, we finally saw the full glory of the Golden Emperor and the unique magic that he possessed. To that, I just want to say that I loved how Rachel Aaron reimagined the mythology and symbology of dragons in the different cultures of our real world in her worldbuilding.
The other main character's point-of-view was the icing on the cake - a whole mountain of icing, in fact. There was just so much that was revealed about the magic of the spirits and the land, about how magic was cut off a thousand years ago, and how it came back. While it was wholly fascinating, the pacing suffered from the sheer amount of verbiage and revelation delivered through these chapters.
The other niggling issue I had was that there was just a little too much talking between the characters. Julius, oh my goodness, Julius. He truly can talk one to death, or at the very least, into submission. Julius was insanely stubborn and especially now when he was increasingly standing his ground. Fortunately, he tended to have valid arguments such that it didn't feel too convenient or ludicrous. I would also like to point out that some juncture, there was a feeling of familiarity around the perpetuating circle of problems and resolutions where Julius was concerned.
The above issues aside, I still loved this book simply because I was heavily invested in the main characters and the unravelling of the story which I found very engaging. From a character standpoint, a new favourite emerged and one formerly viewed as an antagonist gained my empathy and understanding. I still can't say the same for both Bethesda or the Chinese Empress Queen, they are both equally highly unlikeable.
The intervention of the dragon seers made the story infinitely more intriguing. As much as I would love to have more of Bob making an appearance, I appreciate that doing so will just lessen the intrigue. What really happened in China with Chelsie was finally revealed and some emotional scenes ensued. Even though my prediction turned out to be correct (it was quite obvious though), the reality of its implication was way bigger than I anticipated it to be. I also loved how the romantic arcs in this series were written. It seemed realistic and was not given to unnecessary plot devices. I did at first assume the China incident to be a bit contrived for the sake of drama, but with the complete realisation of what it really meant that initial minor problem went away.
The last few chapters of this book played out like a domino effect of dragon-sized shit hitting the fan the size of a megacity, which proceeded to end with a cliffhanger that promised an even more epic catastrophe to come in the grand finale.
Dragons. Who doesn't want more of them? As one of the coolest characters in the book said,
"Do you know how many stories are there about us? We're practically a genre."
I am also not about to get sick of them anytime soon. So let's keep the genre alive and read Heartstrikers people!