Rating: 4/5 stars
The penultimate installment in the Heartstrikers series could’ve been the best in the series so far.
A Dragon of a Different Color could’ve been 5 stars, but it was bogged down by too much info dump, which I’ll get into later. Following the same tradition as the third book, the story picked up immediately after the end of the previous book. The plotline was told within two main storylines, one in the Heartstriker Mountain surrounding Julius, Chelsie, and Qilin, while the other one is more focused on world-building and the magic in this series. All eventually converge in the end and the book ends on a cliffhanger that prepares the series for the big conclusion in the last book.
“It’s one of humanity’s worst traits. Good intentions justify all kinds of terrible behavior.”
I always emphasize the importance of characters in books and this book clearly show the benefit of wonderful characterizations. The story itself was quite predictable, and yet I always had this “I can’t wait for this moment to happen” thought crossing my mind, and get this, they were all satisfying because I’m just so invested in the characters. Aaron completely blew my expectation away, there are actually a lot of things that I usually hate in my fantasy read here. Romance? It’s here. Keeping secrets assuming things won’t work out? It’s here. Predictable storyline? Here. However, Aaron did them exceptionally well that I can’t help but be completely immersed in the way it all plays out.
My favorite part of the book definitely goes to Chelsie and Qilin’s storyline. Now, Chelsie’s past was utterly predictable, I know a lot of readers would’ve seen her past revelation coming from the previous book. But I certainly didn’t know that the way her past unfolds in the story would become not only my favorite part of the book but also one of the best section of the entire series so far. It was magnificent and the inclusion of Qilin, the Chinese Dragon which is also the symbol of luck in real life, was amazing. The Luck magic system surrounding Qilin could’ve been a deus ex machina plot device but with a simple twist, Aaron changed that perception and made it super compelling and badass.
Julius infuriating ‘nice’ attitudes from the previous book is starting to pay off too. Seriously, this guy talks a LOT. He may be nice but the words that spewed out of his mouth is actually the most manipulative out of the entire dragons’ clan, bending everyone to his will with his nice attitude. If he exists in real life, I’m sure he could win the presidential election on his own and shut off that particular president from tweeting. All other characters continue to have great characterizations but the best ones are for Fredrick, Qilin, and Chelsie.
With all these praises, what stopped me from giving a full 5 stars? Simple, the other main storyline contained way too much info dump. I don’t even know how many actually made it to my head because it got really boring at times, it was as if I was sitting in a lecture with someone talking for 2 hours about magic. The word magic was used 786 times in the book, I’m not exaggerating, it was that long, many, repetitive, and I actually fell asleep at one point. It’s not that the world-building or magic explanation wasn’t interesting, it’s the execution of a non-stop lecture method that bored me. By chapter 10 I was seriously at my limit and I almost skipped an entire chapter. I kept on hoping to get back to Julius’s POV instead and that’s not a good thing. It’s not until chapter 14 out of 17 that this particular POV finally grabbed my attention again.
That said, the last 20% was once again brilliant. All the buildup from the beginning of the series is starting to pay off and yet it also leaves the major revelations for the last book. Do know that the book ends on a cliffhanger that most likely will push the reader to continue to read the next/final book in a heartbeat. Although this installment dragged a lot at times, Heartstrikers has already become one of the best urban fantasy series I’ve ever read. Obviously, I can’t wait to find out how all Bob’s grand plan unraveled in the last book and I will continue to read the next one immediately.