Never Steal From Dragons is a fun cozy sci-fi/fantasy heist adventure. A lot of the expected tropes are present: a group of very highly skilled by very different individuals are forcibly assembled by a mysterious powerful individual who wants them to steal something in return for basically making their dreams come true; it is of course an offer that cannot be refused. Chaos, clever remarks, etc. ensues.
In the world of Harmony, there are any number of beings recognizable from folklore including pixies, dragons, kitsune, elves, dryads, mages, dwarves, domovoi, and quite a few others. No humans; they were apparently left behind on the Old Earth which we had ruined so badly that most all of the magical creatures decided to leave for a different realm/planet/whatever. Anyways, the Hub is the part of the world where you’d expect the master thieves like pixie Gelsey, mercenaries like nagual Lorcan, mages like Kelthar, con artists like kitsune Silai, smuggler Aikila (not sure what she is but she has almost a siren-like power and mesmerizing eyes), and Nyx, an elven decker (denizen of the cyber-realm, similar to Neuromancer or Ghost in the Shell). Most everyone has cyber modifications of some kind, although a few characters have more than others. Somehow a high ranking dragon has gotten a hold of their deepest secrets and promises them their deepest desire if they do this heist for him; part of the problem is that there are 3 rules of the Hub: 1) Don’t steal from dragons, 2) see rule 1, and 3) don’t work for dragons.
The story is told from alternating perspectives, but thankfully not alternating voices; that way, everyone gets some development, although it’s not totally even, and no irritating attempts to completely reinvent the narrating voice every few pages. It seems like Nyx has the least personality, and if you don’t know William Gibson, quite a few of Nyx’s parts may not make a lot of sense (the author acknowledges Gibson and Neuromancer specifically as an influence, along with Seannan McGuire and Leigh Bardugo). Aikila has the least character development, while Silai, Lorcan, and Kelthar seem to have the most backstory. Of those three, Silai has the most personality, and it feels like, more page time. Her’s might be the niggest secret, but since it’s not entirely a secret from the reader, it is interesting watching hwr try to hide it.
This leads me to the one big question that never gets answered: how does Ancep (the dragon who starts the whole thing) get everyone’s personal backstories, histories, and exact right pressure points to ensure that he gets them to do what he wants?
The plot is there and it moves pretty well, but it is somewhat predictable, but that’s part of the cozy. Of course things will go wrong with the heist, there will be problems and secrets afterwards, but the good guys (?) probably kind of will be ok. Bad guys, definitely not. The cover of the books suggests this could become a series (Pixie Punk #1) which I hope does continue. The team as they are at the end is already gearing up for a new mission, and there’s also some other interesting hints about Silai and what Lucrea might know or want from her; he’s probably the one side character with any individual personality and presence besides Ancep, and I’d love to see more of him (Lucrea that is). The whole thing is mostly just fun. Fingers crossed there’s more to come.