Whenever a new novel by Rachel Aaron is released, there is a lot of squeeing at Maison Heloise. Things were no different when No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished came out a couple of days ago. This time, however, a bit of grumbling was mixed among the squees as I’d always assumed that The Heartstrikers would be a trilogy only to find out that it will take four or maybe even five volumes until all the mysteries will be revealed. Of course, this also means at least one more novel in the series, so the grumbling was very short-lived in the end.
A new novel by Rachel Aaron is also reason to drop everything else I may currently be reading in order to tackle her most recent offering, and that’s what I did this time, too. No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished (I really do love the titles she comes up with for this series) continues right where One Good Dragon Deserves Another left off, with Julius – aka the Nice Dragon aka the Dragon Gandhi (okay, I believe he is only called that once in the novel but it’s a title that is becoming increasingly appropriate as events unfold) finding out that his New Dragon Order won’t be quite as smooth and easy to establish as he had hoped. But then, he is probably the only one who is at all surprised at it, and even as intrigue and infighting among the Heartstriker clan reach new heights, the reader slowly realizes that the focus of this series is actually shifting away from the dragons towards human magic and its implications, with Marci, Julius’ human partner, maybe not completely taking centre stage but becoming as least as important a protagonist as Julius. So we not only find out on the dragon side of things what Chelsie’s secret is (it’s never explicitly spelled out, but the author heaps up so many clues that it’s obvious that the reader is supposed to guess it) but on the human side we learn more about Merlins and why everyone is so keen to have one.
Overall I have to say that I did not like No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished quite as much as the previous novels in the series. It seems to me to suffer somewhat from middle book syndrome – i.e., when everything is said and done and in spite of all the hectic activity, there is just not all that much really happening in this volume and the author seems mostly concerned with getting all of her pieces in place for the end game. Also, there is not enough Bob in this installment (admittedly, there obviously can never be enough Bob, but even so, he is very much in the background this time). Which does not at all mean that this is a bad novel, quite to the contrary, it is fun as always, but just does not quite reach the dizzying heights of reading glee which One Good Dragon Deserves Another scaled. And it should be added that one notices this only after finishing the novel and thinking about it – I believe that Rachel Aaron could not write a dull book if her life depended on it, and No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished is exactly the kind of compulsive and emotionally engaging page-turner that one has come to expect from her.
There was some more grumbling on my part at the end, because there’s a cliffhanger there, and I strongly dislike cliffhangers and think that their use should be punishable by law. At least it’s not the hanging-from-a-cliff-by-their-fingernails kind of cliffhanger, but more the WTF-just-happened-I-want-to-know-what-this-means-right-away kind. But that is a very minor niggle, and needless to say, the fourth volume can’t come fast enough for me.