They say family always sticks together, but when you’re your dad’s only lifeline and the whole world—humans, dragons, and gods—wants you dead, “family bonding” takes on a whole new meaning.
My name is Opal Yong-ae, and I’m in way over my head. I thought getting rid of my dad’s bad luck curse would put things back to normal. Instead, I’m stuck playing caretaker to the Great Dragon of Korea. That wouldn’t be so bad if he wasn’t such a jerk, or if every dragon on the planet wasn’t out to kill him, or if he was my only problem.
Turns out, things can always get worse in the DFZ. When a rival spirit attacks my god/boss with the aim of turning the famously safety-optional city into a literal death arena with Nik as his bloody champion, I’m thrust onto the front lines and way out of my comfort zone. When gods fight, mortals don’t usually survive, but I’m not alone this time. Even proud old dragons can learn new tricks, and with everything I love falling to pieces, the father I’ve always run from might just be the only force in the universe stubborn enough to pull us back together.
We’ve reached the final book in the DFZ series and having to say good-bye to these characters feels a little bitter sweet. I’ve really come to love this world Rachel has crafted and her characters are always a highlight for me.
This book is all about relationships. Sure it’s got a plot, but it’s really about the characters and their story arcs and where those story arcs intersect. Primarily, this is a story about father/daughter relationships and specifically the relationship between Opal and the Great Dragon of Korea. Because I too have a complicated relationship with my dad, this book hit a little close to home for me. Opal’s dad is abusive in his control. Even though he’s looking out for her and doing what he thinks is right to protect her, he’s taking things waaaaay too far and has not let her have a life of her own. This isn’t…love. So, because of some magical circumstances, Opal and her dad are forced to spend this entire book together and he finally gets to experience what it’s like to live in Opal’s shoes. While I did appreciate this and feel like he went through some real growth here through some revelations it doesn’t negate all the harm he’s done in the past. Maybe because of my own messy childhood and petty nature (I’ll admit it, I don’t have the healthiest of attitudes here) I always find the forgiveness of past deeds a bitter pill to swallow, especially when it comes to emotionally abusive fathers. Although many people find catharsis in these things and that’s totally fine, it’s just not something I’m capable at this point in my life when it comes to these specific situations because I haven’t let go of my own anger (and maybe I never will).
Anyway. Like I said, I did appreciate that the bulk of this book focused on their relationship and that it wasn’t just a slap-dash thing. Aaron really made the characters put in the work here and I thought it was a clever thing she used to force their hands into dealing with one another in a way that was productive. Of course, this meant that other relationships, like Opal and Nik fell to the side a bit. It’s not that there weren’t some great moments here, because there were, it’s just that other things took precedence. I could have done with more Nik because I love him and also having them together is usually a lot of fun. I did like that we got a lot more background on Nik in this final book as well, even if it did seem like some of it came out of no where.
Overall, I enjoyed this one a lot even though I probably liked the first two better–but that may be my own personal hang-ups coloring my opinion here. I love Rachel’s work and I can’t wait to see what she does next. 3.5/5 stars.