Book Review : Part-Time Gods

Book Review : Part-Time GodsPart-Time Gods (DFZ #2) by Rachel Aaron
Published by Aaron/Bach on June 11th 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 324
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Life in the magical mess of the Detroit Free Zone is never easy. When you’re laboring under the curse of a certain prideful, overbearing dragon, it can be down right impossible.
My name is Opal Yong-ae, and I’m a Cleaner. At least, I used to be. Thanks to the supernatural bad luck that turns everything I do against me, these days I’m more of a walking disaster. Getting rid of this curse is the only way to get my life back. Unfortunately, dragon magic is every bit as sneaky and deadly the monsters behind it, and just as hard to beat.
But I’ve never been one to take her doom at face value. Cornered doesn’t mean defeated, and in an awakened city that rules herself, dragons are no longer the biggest powers around.

It pains me to say this, but I think Part-Time Gods is one of my least favorite novels written by Rachel Aaron. Don’t get me wrong, Part-Time Gods had plenty of great stuff, the characterization of the god of the Detroit-Free Zone, a swoon-worthy main love interest, interesting magical systems, and returns of familiar favorite characters from Nice Dragons Finish Last. So why did I dislike Part-Time Gods so much? The main character Opal Yong-ae.


Single-handedly, Opal ruined the novel for me. Cursed by her father, the ruling dragon of Korea, in order to prevent her earning money and consequently from paying off her debt to him, Opal certainly has her work cut out for her trying to earn a living. In order to earn money despite her father’s bad-luck curse, Opal spends much of Part-Time Gods desperately searching for a work-around, no matter what the cost. For Opal, her entire life in the Detroit Free Zone (aka the DFZ) and career as a Cleaner is at stake. If she fails to pay her father, Yong, she will be forced to return to Korea to live with her family, a fate that’s worse than death for her, but also one of her own making–in the last novel in the series, Minimum Wage Magic, she came up with a scheme to earn money to pay her father in order to prove her lifestyle was lucrative and valuable–she just didn’t bet on him upping the stakes by cursing her.


Unfortunately, this situation, whether it’s a result of her own actions or not, does not bring out the best in Opal’s character–at all. Anytime she gets backed into a corner, she acts selfishly and impulsively–thinking of nothing, but money and profits–I literally could not stand her. Part-Time Gods tries to paint her as a victim of her father, whom Opal insists only sees her as a possession or pet and, not her own person, but it never quite succeeds. In fact, from the very beginning of the novel, it is demonstrated how much, in fact, her dragon father loves her just from the description:


“His daughter smiled with the same intensity as she cried. The expression suffused her entire body, lighting her up from the inside until Young felt like he was holding thirty-five pounds of pure sunshine, and all of it was for.”


And sure, dragons might love differently than humans, but Opal doesn’t seem to have any love for her father, her mother, or really anyone but herself. If anything, I found that I saw Opal not as a sympathetic person trying to get around an abusive relationship with her father, but the abuser herself. Despite the fact that Opal learns from her desperate human mother that her working around her father’s bad-luck curse, which he only placed on her out of desperation to get her to come home as a direct result of her trick in Minimum Wage Magic, is literally not only robbing him of his dragon magic, but also killing him, an immortal being–she does not stop trying to thwart the curse and never attempts to talk it out with him. Opal simply does not care at all for the being who raised her, sheltered her, provided her with tons of opportunities, and wishes to protect her from the dangerous lifestyle she is living as a Cleaner in the DFZ, working with an ex-criminal, in the most magical city in the world, with his bloodthirsty enemies running around looking for anything or anyone to use against him.


“All he ever wanted was to keep you safe. Never forget that this entire situation was your idea! You deliberately tricked him into this idiotic debt. Now you’re blaming him for holding you to your word? Selfish girl! You constantly accuse the Great Yong of schemes and plots, but you’re the one who’s so caught up in your paranoia that you can’t even accept a gift for what it is. You’ve lost the ability to see that your father and I have only ever tried to do what is best for you.”


Opal also doesn’t care that her father’s death would have far-reaching consequences for the world either–it would destabilize not only Korea, but also the entire dragon world, as other dragons would fight to the death to take over his territory. And even though Opal knows this, and that her banished dragon aunt is circling like a vulture to kill her weakened father (something she’s attempted to do before and failed), she repeatedly continues trying to get around the curse and even goes to fellow dragons (whom he also hates and further puts him at a disadvantage on the dragon food chain) to try to annul his adoption of her. All without every attempting to communicate with him or to compromise. Yikes. I could not get over how heartless she was. All she cared about was her own freedom, at any cost.


No matter how many times Opal demanded to everyone who would listen that she was the victim, all I could see was a selfish, spoiled, rich-kid who didn’t care she was murdering her father in a slow, painful death and refused to listen to any advice or logic that didn’t suit her. View Spoiler »


“No properly prideful, selfish dragon puts himself in this much peril for a mortal. It’s clear to me that, no matter what he might claim, the Great Yong loves you very, very much, and it would be the greatest tragedy to go to war over something as beautiful as that.”


And it’s not just her father that Opal treats like fresh, warm crap underneath her bare foot. Her business partner, friend, and love interest, Nik is also treated abysmally by her. Nik is a great guy who for some reason beyond me, actually cares for Opal, and is willing to do anything for her–even support her financially. He continually puts his personal safety and well-being at risk for Opal, who doesn’t give it much of a second thought, other than to realize she’s costing him money as her business partner due to the curse placed on her.


“You make me want to have two plates…I used to see that stuff as overhead, more useless crap I had to move, but you make me want to have things so that I can share them with you. I get lonely when you’re not around.”


To my absolute horror, Opal even uses her magic as a weapon against Nik, (which horrifically, she doesn’t really have control over at the moment either, making it an even worse decision since she almost blew them both up the last time she used her magic), rendering him completely unable to move. All because he said he wanted to take care of her and tried to follow her in order to talk to her when she was extremely upset at that notion. This use of force is a big red flag in any relationship, and imagine if the genders had been reversed and Nik had used magic to immobilize her!


Despite my absolute hatred of Opal, I still managed to find the book entertaining. I love Rachel Aaron’s ideas–a moving city that is an actual god is such a unique idea. I also loved the rest of the magical system–comprised of two different types, Shamanism and Thaumaturgy–and Opal’s realization that her prejudice against shamanism was wrong. And against my better judgement,this realization gives me hope that Opal can grow as a human being and to treat others better. I know the next novel also deals more with her relationship with her father, and I truly hope she can make some huge amends with him–and with Nik.


As in all Rachel Aaron novels, she has a wonderful sense of humor. Even when some of her novels aren’t quite as good as others, they are pure fun. There’s traffic jams from the constantly moving city, invisible magic draining slugs, potatoes as magical tools, smart-talking AIs, reappearances from a deadly dragon who keeps a pet pigeon, and other familiar faces. Plus, seeing the world that Julius, now known as the Peacekeeper, managed to build and to successfully make peaceful is so fulfilling. It is truly a testament to Aaron’s writing ability and world-building that she wrote such a despicable main character in Opal and that I still want to root for her to mature and to grow and to read the follow-ups to Part-Time Gods.

Book Review : Part-Time Gods - Blogging with Dragons

Posted June 5, 2020 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

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One response to “Book Review : Part-Time Gods

  1. Reb

    Thank you for a fantastic review of this series! Although I have a bit more sympathy for Opal learning how to be a better person given that she grew up in a dragon household, I too think that was terrible to Nik in the end.

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