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Literature / The Heartstrikers

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The Heartstrikers series is a fantasy novel series by Rachel Aaron/Bach. The series takes place 60 years after an unexplained phenomenon that causes magic to return, awaking several spirits and other magical beings who had gone into hibernation, and causing societal disruption on a global level. It also awakened the latent magical potential of a portion of the human population. The story mostly takes place in the DFZ (the Detroit Free Zone), ruled by Algonquin, the Lady of the Lakes.

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The series follows the adventures of Julius Heartstriker, a dragon sealed in human form, and Deuteragonist Marci Novalli, a human mage down on her luck with secrets of her own.

The series consists of five books:

  1. Nice Dragons Finish Last
  2. One Good Dragon Deserves Another
  3. No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished
  4. A Dragon Of A Different Color
  5. Last Dragon Standing

A sequel series, DFZ, released in 2018.

This series provides examples of:

  • Aerith and Bob: Most dragons in the Heartstriker clan seem to have fairly ordinary, human names, even the strongest ones (like Chelsie and Justin). And then there's Brohomir, or as he prefers to be known as, Bob.
  • Alphabetical Theme Naming: Bethesda, Heartstriker clan matriarch, had multiple broods, so each clutch of eggs had names starting with a certain letter. The oldest and strongest are near the beginning of the alphabet (Bob, Chelsie), while younger dragons are farther down the list (Ian, Justin, Julius).
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  • An Aesop: Shortsighted goals lead to short lived victories. If you sell out the future to buy the present nothing will be left for anyone
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: Mortal Spirits are sentient magic given shape by the mass subconscious of humanity.
    • Ghost is death itself, specifically the forgotten dead.
  • Action Girl: despite having to relay in Functional Magic Marci has shades of this. Chelsie fits into this better, also doubling as The Dreaded.
  • Anti-Hero: Surprisingly Marci can be this, but Julius helps keep her grounded.
  • Badass Family: Julius and his family are dragons.
  • Big Eater: A dragon's human form is just a shell of sorts. Everything else is properly dragon-sized, including their appetite. At one point, Justin ate fifty large pizzas, by himself, in one day.
  • Blood Knight: Justin, one of Julius's brothers, is very much this.
  • Born Lucky: Every Chi Lin is this, but only so long as they remain calm and/or happy. If they feel any strong negative emotion their luck goes bad in the worst way possible.
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  • The Chessmaster: Two of them actually both of them Seers.
  • Cool Sword: The five Fangs of the Heartstriker, incredibly old and powerful blades granted only to the strongest of the Heartstriker clan. Since dragons obviously can't use swords, they transform along with their wielder. Bethesda's Fang becomes a diadem, Bob's Fang becomes a pair of heavy gauntlets, Conrad's Fang becomes a massive suit of bone armor, Chelsie's Fang fits over her claws, Justin's Fang becomes a set of literal fangs, and Julius's Fang becomes a crown of feathers.
  • Dark Ages: The magical drought (which started approximately 1000 years ago and ended only about 60 years ago) caused all of humanity's magical knowledge to be lost; though one could make the point that this allowed humans to thrive and become the dominant species on the planet (since they didn't have to deal with the significantly more powerful spirits and dragons tearing them down). Both Myron and Shiro make this point.
  • Dark Secret: "The China incident" is what forced Chelsie into Bethesda's servitude. The secret in question is F Clutch, the downtrodden Servant Race of Bethesda's clan, are not her children, as previously though. They're Chelsie's. Even worse? They're from a forbidden relationship she once had with the Golden Emperor himself. See the Designer Babies trope below to see why this is particularly bad.
  • Designer Babies: Downplayed with the Golden Empire in China, as they only do this with their Golden Emperor. The luck magic that imbues each Emperor did not come about naturally; it was carefully cultivated over thousands of years. As such, each Golden Emperor must find the perfect mate to carry his child, one who is both magically strong and skilled enough to survive pouring most of her magic into the process, as well as being able to combine what would normally be a clutch of 10-20 eggs of either gender into a single, perfect egg containing a male child. The finishing touch is the old Golden Emperor sacrificing his life and pouring it into said egg, passing on his luck magic to the new Golden Emperor. The current Golden Emperor having illegitimate children with Chelsie may have broken this process, possibly forever.
  • The Dragon:
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: Mortal Spirits of death are absolutely terrifying, since they represent humanity's fear of a specific type of death. However, they are also some of the most important spirits, as they are in charge of rescuing humans who have suffered the fate they represent. Without them, human souls are eventually torn to shreds by the Sea of Magic instead of receiving a proper afterlife. Ghost is the Spirit of the Forgotten Dead, the most terrible of all the death spirits. Unfortunately, he's also the only death spirit awake right now, meaning he's in charge of collecting all mortal souls. And since he can only collect a soul once it's been completely forgotten, many souls are lost before he can save them.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Nameless Ends mentioned in third book, gigantic otherworldly monsters not native to this plane of existence. Algonquin's Leviathan is one. Bob's pigeon appears to be the other.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: Augmenting humans with magic to make them superhuman is pretty common.
  • Interspecies Romance: Julius and Marci. Not to mention Katya and Ross, Amelia and the Concept of Mountains, and Amelia and Raven in the distant past.
  • Good Is Not Nice: While Julius is the first nice dragon, he is not the first good dragon. In fact, it seems like most older dragons (with the notable exception of Bethesda) learn how to be more pragmatic over the centuries.
    Conrad: If this is your idea of helping the clan, I think we're safer without you. But stupid and shameful as your actions are today, it is the privilege of the strong to be merciful.
    Greogry: Merciful? Don't tell me the pathetic nice dragon is wearing off on you, too!
    Conrad: Don't be ridiculous. You think this started with a whelp like Julius? Chelsie and I have always been merciful. Why do you think any of you are still alive?
  • Guile Hero: Julius is this (as well as a lot of dragons in general), but Julius falls on the more moral side of the spectrum.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Vann Jeger's main ability, and reason why he is so powerful despite being so far way from his source of power. As the Anthropomorphic Personification of a Scandinavian fjord, he is able to wield the many weapons that were dropped into his waters by the ancient Vikings who lived there.
  • Magic Pants: Averted. Dragons don't keep their human clothing when transforming into their draconic true selves, and thus, when they return to their human forms, they're completely naked.
  • Magic Versus Science: Averted. Magic is treated and analyzed just like really any other force in the world.
  • Magitek: A result of treating magic like a natural force of the universe.
  • Manipulative Bastard: A common trait among dragons.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings/ The Clan: Julius has literally hundreds of half-brothers and half-sisters, due to his mother Bethesda mating with ten different dragons; they all share the family name of "Heartstriker" and their dragon forms all have colorful feathers as well as dragon scales due to Bethesda's father being the legendary Feathered Serpent of Central America, Quetzlcoatl himself.
  • Morality Chain: Julius is this to Justin. And later to Chelsie as well.
  • Physical God: Several spirits and dragons are so powerful they were worshipped as gods by entire civilizations. Even now with all the advance technology and Magitek they still retain their godlike status.
  • Red Baron: Chelsie, Bethesda’s Shade.
    • Many dragons (and a few spirits) have some sort of moniker that describes them, like Estella, the Northern Star or Vann Jeger, Death of Dragons.
    • Empty Wind, Spirit of the Forgotten Dead.
  • Rule of Three: Ever since the dragons came to this plane, they have had three seers at a time—one male, one female, and the immortal Black Reach. When a seer dies, the next dragon of the same sex to be born is automatically their successor.
  • Running Gag: Pretty much every time Amelia is brought up in conversation with someone who doesn't know her, they will ask something along the lines of "Amelia? As in, Amelia?"
  • Shout-Out: When Justin attacks Vann Jeger, Jeger says that he "Can't even kill my boredom". This is what Mihawk said to Zoro in One Piece.
  • Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: How Magitek is even a thing in this universe. By the time the story is set in, the many schools of magic are literally that: schools. Marci herself is working on her doctorate degree in Socratic Thaumaturgy, and the end of the second book mentions Stanford University having its own magic department.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Shamans in general are this compared to Mages.
  • Vice City: The DFZ, as a result of Algonquin not imposing any rules on almost anything, and caring more about fish than humans.
  • White Sheep: Julius, due to being the only dragon in his family who isn't a Manipulative Bastard.
  • Winds of Destiny, Change: The Golden Emperor of China is also known as The Physical Embodiment of Good Fortune due to his ability to manipulate luck itself. Unfortunately, as said luck is tied to his emotions, this carries with it some serious Power Incontinence; he can never be agitated, angry, or tense lest his luck (and the luck of everyone around him) turn very bad, very quickly.
  • World of Badass: With the world being filled (and composing pretty much the entire cast) of dragons, wizards, spirits, and other magical beings this is a given.
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