by GA Aiken, fantasy (2010)
Zebra, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-0888-0
I have to laugh when GA Aiken's Last Dragon Standing exposes just how hypocritical many of the fans of the author's Dragon Kin series are. These fans love it when the heroes nail everything that moves, but when the heroine of this book, Keita the Viper, is shown to be as slutty as her male counterparts, these fans are screeching on Amazon and everywhere else for that big whore to be nailed to the cross and burned to death.
Yes, Keita is slutty. She is, after all, a lusty dragon. She also doesn't hesitate to break the hearts of her conquests when they get too clingy - and when these conquests lose an eye or a wing to her angry male relatives when she sets them on those fools, so be it. However, in this story, Keita will be shown to be more than a spoiled man-eating lady. She will kill you with a smile if she believes that this will protect the ones she loves (which includes her mother, Queen Rhiannon, heh) - and it is very easy for her to do this, because she is very good when it comes to poison...
Unfortunately, Last Dragon Standing is not a good book for new readers to start with, so if you haven't read previous books in this series, do not grab this one just because the heroine sounds intriguing. Keita is an intriguing heroine who breaks many rules in the genre code of conduct for heroines, but this story doesn't do her much justice.
For one, this is a "filler between books" type of story. The plot is not really strong - it serves merely as a bridge between the previous book and the next one. In this one, the lightning dragon Ragnar the Cunning from the North travels with his entourage to Queen Rhiannon's court in the South to negotiate a possible alliance between the two vastly different dragon clans, but not before Rhiannon insists that Ragnar make a detour on his way there to locate Rhiannon's treacherous sister. Ragnar happens to stumble upon Keita along the way. These two have a history together - not the kissing kind, mind you - so when these two end up making their way together to Rhiannon's court, they don't know whether to kill each other or not. Meanwhile, it seems like the Iron Dragons of the West are plotting something that will endanger the remaining three dragon clans.
The plot may sound complete in this review, but this book doesn't really make much progression in terms of advancing the story arc. By the last page, very little of significance has happened for a book that clocks in at over 460 pages. Instead, much of the story is devoted to circular bickering between Keita and Ragnar as well as guest appearances by pretty everyone from the previous books. It's not that this book suffers from sequel baiting - those secondary characters do have their roles to play in the story arc. It's just that the author spends too much time having these characters all behave, banter, and run around doing silly things for way too long. Too much time is spent on these people behaving like boisterous fools or rehashing their stories from previous books. The comedy does work here, but after a while, I become impatient because the story line just isn't going anywhere.
Keita is a fascinating heroine, but she and Ragnar's relationship is mired for too long in a series of circular childish taunting and trying to get the better of each other. It isn't long before these two are completely buried among the many secondary characters in this story, and by the last page, I can only sigh at how the author has failed to capitalize fully on the unique character that she has in Keita.
Last Dragon Standing is still a bawdy and funny book. Keita is a fabulous heroine - there is one scene here that is positively inspired by that infamous scene involving the wicked alien leader Diana in the 1980s TV series V that has to be read, I tell you. However, comedy alone cannot sustain a story that has severe pacing flaws, and eventually I become exasperated by how so little actually happens in this book. This is a "filler between books" entry for an unusual, campy, and funny series that is reminiscent of the greatest hits from Piers Anthony and David Eddings. Unsurprisingly, it's easily the weakest book in the series by far.
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