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The children of dragons and humans, the dracons, control eighty percent of the world’s governments. Humans worldwide are either subservient or prey. On the small vacation island of Mabi, humans call for war.

Sixteen year old Dakota Kekoa lives a double life. By day, she pretends to be a human to infiltrate Mabi Academy, a 'humans only' high-school. At night, she works as a henchman for her draconic mafia family, utilizing her ability to steal and manipulate emotions.

When Dakota’s human friend is kidnapped, she takes on the mission to find her. This is not just any mission though; she is diving head first into the escalating conflict between humans and dracons. As more girls disappear and some are discovered dead, Dakota realizes her first honorable mission may also be her last.

468 pages, Paperback

First published January 12, 2016

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About the author

Rita Stradling

34 books831 followers
Rita Stradling is a USA Today Bestselling Author with an all-consuming addiction to popcorn.

She writes young adult and new adult romances about flawed people who find their perfect together (often these people are dragon-shifters, werewolves, or have magical powers).

Rita believes in soulmates, happily ever afters, and that love can overcome any obstacle.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 112 reviews
Profile Image for Gavin.
862 reviews392 followers
September 11, 2018
I bought this on a whim just on the basis of the title alone. I thought this was going to be another superhero/supervillain story but I was way out on that expectation as this actually turned out to be a YA UF/PNR. The good news is it was a fun story regardless!

This story was set in an UF world where 80% of the worlds governments were controlled by dracons. Dracons being the offspring of full dragons and humans. Not that dragons and dracons were the only supernatural creatures as the arrival into the human realm by the dragons sparked all sorts of infections stemming from dragon blood and magic that has resulted in all sorts of supernatural creatures popping up. Dakota Kekoa's grandfather is the dracon in charge of running the holiday island resort of Mabi and he tends to be more tolerant of humans than most of his kind. Too tolerant say a few as the humans there are plotting rebellion! 16 year old Dakota, with the use of a magical charm, is working undercover at a the local human only Mabi Academy in order to get close to the family of the political leader stirring the talks of rebellion. She soon gets caught up in a ton of trouble as one of her classmates goes missing right around the time when a powerful dragon lord and his entourage visit the islands. She has to help find her friend before tension hit boiling point!

The story was pretty enjoyable. Dakota had a few cool magical powers and her and her friends were easy characters to sympathise and root for. The mystery and action in the story were also quite engaging. As well as the mystery and action we also got a bit of romance. Even the hint of a love triangle as Dakota found herself torn between the human high school boy she was investigating for her grandfather and the son of the visiting dragon lord. I felt like Stradling handled the romance well and things played out in a way that left me happy.

All in all this was an enjoyable YA UF and I'll definitely pick up the second book to read more of Dakota's adventures!

Rating: 4 stars.

Audio Note: I felt like Sorrel Brigman did an OK job with the audio. Her cadence was a bit weird at times and her male voices were not the best but she was OK on the whole.
Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 180 books1,408 followers
September 7, 2016
This book came to me at exactly the right moment. This is a fast paced, imaginative world full of so many great characters. There are times in your life when you just need something to sweep you off your feet and this did that for me. I truly got pulled into Dakota's world and have felt a little book drunk ever since. This book didn't take the turns that I thought it would. And I would also say it's not the same throw up of some paranormal darkness that we're all used to. This one is uniquely different. Thank. You. God. I'm so tired of the same paranormal plot done over and over again with the same characters. Okay, I'll get off this soggy soap box now. Anyway, I really felt captivated by this read. It pulled me and gave me a new take on dragon-blooded humans. I could tell the author had done her homework and researched this greatly. A wonderful start to a great series. I recommend.
And the narrator also did a fantastic job. She told the story instead of getting in its way. She did a fantastic job with the characters. You'll enjoy.
Profile Image for Carla.
163 reviews20 followers
February 26, 2016
**I received a free eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

Dakota, a teenage girl working undercover for her dracon family, has a special power: she can see people's souls. All dracons inherit "aspects", which are pretty much considered superpowers, and that's one of Dakota's.

One day a human girl she knows from school is kidnapped, and Dakota tries her best to find her. But she's not on her own. A very powerful and well-known dracon is helping her, and he also has other plans in mind when it comes to Dakota: he wishes to make her his future bride.

I loved reading about Wyvern and Dakota looking for clues leading to the missing girl, although I have to admit that I didn't like the guy that much in the beginning, but that changed after he started to show a little bit more of his true self. Wyvern thinks he's a bad boy, but he really isn't.

Between him and Keanu, I didn't know which one of them I preferred at first. Keanu seemed like a nice guy when Dakota hung out with him before things started getting crazy. And Wyvern was nice too after a while, what did bother me about him though was how possessive he was, but that's apparently a dragon thing... Oh and his driving is awful.

I also admired Dakota a lot, she worked very hard to take care of her family. But why did they have to live in a huge, fancy house when they didn't even have any money?

And it made me a bit mad to see how sexist dracon rules were. So, dracon women are trained for marriage since birth, and a male dracon can have as many wives who are able to reproduce as he can afford.


Because thing is, too much dragon blood makes dracon women barren, but men don't have this problem... Am I the only one thinking that this should be the other way around? Shouldn't the women have more husbands since there are more men who can reproduce? No? Or am I just confused?... Anyway, I'm not a big fan of the way female dracons are treated, it's like those men don't want to acknowledge it's the 21st century already. Like it says in the book: "Dracons are old-fashioned in the worst ways". The good thing is Dakota doesn't want to be a part of that. She's a soldier.


But seriously though! Her grandpa has 53 living sons and even more daughters than that!

Part of her family is still amazing, I really loved uncle Bobby. And her sisters were nice too, I liked her relationship with Lorelei. And all those names were great, Mabi kinda felt like Hawaii, I think.

The author later explains that the story is loosely inspired by Pride & Prejudice, which just confirmed to me that Dakota's older sister was, just as I thought, a dracon version of Jane Bennet (I know my Pride & Prejudice).

And finally, that villain! I was not expecting that, it was very well done! But I'm going to need the sequel, like, right now. I want to know what happens next! I love that Dakota respects herself so much and knows she's worth it!!


Oh and did I mention that there aren't just dracons in the story, but also other creatures like vampires, werewolves and witches? Yup.

More reviews on my blog: Lipstick and Mocha
Profile Image for Brittney.
180 reviews19 followers
November 18, 2015
***I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review***
I can honestly say that when I received this book I was expecting it to become another "meh" type of book that I would have to drag myself to finish. I was definitely in for a huge surprise when I first began reading this book. I feel in love with the character of Dakota since she was definitely very spunky and outgoing. She is the type of girl that I would want to know because she always has fun things happen around her and she always has a retort for anything that might be said.
The author also did a fabulous job in the characterization of Dakota's family. It makes a book fantastic when a person is able to be obsessed with the main character's family. Her family never ceased to entertain and they were a necessary element to the story in order to add another layer to the big pile of awesome.
This book had all of the elements I love in my novels from a touch of romance (not too much) to fantasy to detective work with a mystery. This book has something for everyone within it. Personally, I would read the book just for her family.
I did enjoy to dash of romance due to the addition of Wyvern on the scene. It creates another little subplot that makes the conversations between Dakota and Wyvern much more exciting. The only reason I did not give this novel 5 stars is because it lacked that extra "uumph" that makes you want to cry because you finished a book and can not longer be in that particular world anymore. It is very hard to explain but you know it when you cannot put a book down and have a countdown for the second book that comes out in 2 years. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book by Rita Stradling and I hope to read more about Dakota's adventure in the next book!!!
I have to say that everyone should take the time to read this book!
Profile Image for Sarah.
832 reviews231 followers
July 10, 2017
Henchgirl is a YA urban fantasy that shows promise. Unfortunately, the love interest is a grade A jerk and my feelings towards the book devolved to mainly anger.

In the world of Henchgirl, those who are descended from dragons rule the world. Dakota Kekoa is 1/8th dragon, which gives her special abilities, in her case to manipulate people’s emotions. With three sisters and a mentally absent mother, Dakota supports her family by working for her grandfather’s mafia like organization, which includes infiltrating an all human high school. Dakota manages the precarious situation until she’s given only a week to turn up several thousand dollars of rent money and is demoted by her grandfather at the same time. At the same time, girls all over the island are going missing, including one of Dakota’s human friends.

The world building probably could have been better, but it mostly worked. I thought it was inventive and interesting, something different from a lot of other urban fantasy novels. I got a feel of the world having it’s own history, and everything mostly held together.

The book held my focus up to about two thirds of the way in, when I started considering quitting. Although the early sections did hold my attention, it takes a while for the plot to get off the ground. A lot of time is spent on introducing the world and various characters before Dakota’s friend disappears. Despite this, I enjoyed the first half substantially more than the last half. Why? As it neared the end, ever more focus was put on a character I despised: the love interest, Wyvern, who’s creepiness level is up there with Christian Grey.

Wyvern is hot, powerful and rich. He does whatever he wants and seems to show interest in Dakota only because she sasses him and doesn’t grovel at his feet. The only emotions he seems capable of feeling are anger, possessiveness and desire.


source – Domestic Violence and Abuse: Signs of Abuse and Abusive Relationships

Do you see that list of questions? Wyvern is a big fat yes to most of them (he throws cash at her to “prove what a great provider he is” so I guess he doesn’t meet the fourth one). He tricks her into a marriage contract where he has to be in touch with her every six hours. He hires someone to follow her. He moves into her house despite her protests. He kidnaps her. He goes through her phone and reads all her text messages. He hacks into her computer to read her emails. He assumes Dakota will move hundreds of miles away with him (even when she says she won’t), leaving her family for a guy she’s only known a week. While the text says he’s nineteen, he feels substantially older. Oh, and there’s also a scene where he turns into a raging monster and injures fourteen people. And yet he’s oh so romantic.

In short, the love interest is a predatory monster and it infuriates me to see his behavior treated as romantic and acceptable.

Actually, Dakota’s done her share of morally iffy things herself, and she’s also always treated as in the right and justified. I mean, think about it. She works as an enforcer for a crime lord and manipulates what people feel without their consistent. Yet, she’s treated as a heroine and not an anti-heroine.

Oh, and in addition to everything else, there was also a pointless love triangle.

If you liked Twilight, there’s a shot you might like Henchgirl. Everyone else should steer clear.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page.
Profile Image for Agnieszka.
102 reviews26 followers
January 5, 2016
So... This was a weird book for me to rate in terms of stars, because although I enjoyed this book rather a lot, and it had me reading till early morning, I had quite a few issues with it.

So as you can see through the synopsis, we have a 16 year old girl called Dakota who is a dracon, a half dragon/half human. Basically the story follows her adventures of fulfilling missions and what not, hiding who she is trying to get it done. The world is controlled by Dracon’s and has been since the beginning. We get an outline of what went down that made things this way at the start of the story, and more throughout. It’s a modern, mythical, contemporary, romance mystery all rolled into one. That is quite a mouthful, tbh. While this book started off really well, and the world building was quite good, I felt as though there was too much time focused on romance rather than action. The action scenes were all great and had my heart pounding, they were all fantastic. The inclusion of dragons was also exciting, but they didn't have nearly enough of them in the story.

The world building was well thought out, being set in a island type setting with volcanoes and what not, and reminded me a bit of Hawaii, which I guess is what the author was going for. However, although there was information on everything dracon, I felt they spent too little time on the war going on between humans and mythical creatures, and too much on the romance.

The character Dakota was alright, and I liked her enough, but hated how every other person around her wouldn’t let her in on things, then being mad when does something she didn’t know she couldn’t do.It got a bit infuriating after a while, and I was glad that about half way through the book she actually started to stand up a bit for herself. Not a lot, but enough to keep me reading.

Then there are the other characters, Mele and Honua I really liked, though I wish we got more of them.

Keanu seemed too perfect since the beginning, which made everything about him predictable, along with the reveal at the end which made me go “Yeah, of course.”

Now, Wyveryn on the other hand... Although at times I liked him, he was extra creepy with capital E. His possessiveness was a bit gross and in all seriousness pretty abusive. Dakota liking it at the end though made me ?? And I’m not sure it’s the right kind of message to be sending out to people? Just my opinion though I guess.

The story itself was okay, It kept me going because the world was really intriguing and I would have liked to have read more about it, but like I said, there was just far too much romance and not enough focused on the ongoing “war” and the politics a bit. The magical stuff was fun, but there also wasn’t enough on certain the mythical creatures which I would have liked to have seen more of.

There were also a few parts in the story that could’ve used more editing, and I think there wasn’t enough proper punctuation used in some of the paragraphs. It wasn't enough that made me go “bleh I can;t read this, but it was enough to make it noticeable.

Overall, I would recommend this to people who liked City of Bones, and to people looking for a really intriguing dragon/human/mythical being modern world.
Profile Image for Danielle's.
Author 1 book140 followers
November 5, 2016

This book is unique and I could not put it down.

It's probably the best fantasy novel I've read in a while (In fact I will to be bold enough to say the best I've read this year). The ideas were original and the story was addictive.

I don't want to give too much away but this book has a bit of everything; Dragons, Romance, Action, Mystery and Magic.

The book is nice and long so you can really get your teeth into it. The characters are all unique and loveable.

I would recommend it to any true fantasy fan
5* out of 5.

The only negative comment I have is that this book most definitely has a sequel and I don't want to wait to read it

Fantasy Novel

344 pages. £1.99 for Kindle readers or free for kindle unlimited.

Expected publication: January 12th 2016

*A free copy of this book was given to me via the Author in exchange for an honest review*
Profile Image for Melissa Souza.
185 reviews50 followers
October 3, 2016
4 full stars!!!

I really did not know what to expect from this book when I first started reading it. The blurb sounded interesting and I saw that many other readers gave this one a high rating. So, I thought I'd give it a shot. But can I be honest here, the cover isn't all that great. I would have liked to see something that played along the lines of the fantasy genre.

Anyway, the story is an urban fantasy with a twist which I liked. We meet a sixteen year old girl named Dakota who comes from a powerful dracon family (human - dragon hybrid). She works for her grandfather, who owns various hotels across a fictional island called Mabi, as his "henchgirl". Using her powers, she handles reconnaissance work and finds key information to help him maintain his empire while at the same time providing money for her family. In the morning, however, she pretends to be a human girl and has a crush on a guy named Keanu. Unfortunately, a run in with a half-dragon named Vern ends up in her missions going awry and when his sister goes missing, her life seems to take a turn for the worse.

I have to say the beginning this book was very confusing. It's like you are just thrown into the middle of an on going story. The worldbuilding was written in between and I really felt like abandoning this book at the time. Along with this, there are huge grammatical errors that didn't help and made the reading experience challenging. But, I'm glad I kept at it because by the end, I loved the story and here's why.

The MC Dakota is a really interesting character. Finally, we get a girl who can fend for herself. She doesn't need a guy to always look out for her. I also liked the fact that she wasn't described as this beautiful girl with a great body and perfect everything. The focus was more on her personality. Yes, she has above average looks but it wasn't shoved in your face all the time. I really liked how she interacted with her family. She tries so hard to look after them even though no one acknowledges it. I also loved her relationship with a grandfather. Her seems to really understand that she has a rebellious side to her. The only times when I did find her irritating was when she was with Vern. I mean many times she would get angry with him, forgive him in her mind but stay annoyed regardless outwardly. I thought that was petty and childish of her. She also has a very stubborn streak and likes things her way. Hopefully, she matures in these aspects in book two.

Vern, on the other hand, was a true alpha. He was so swoonworthy. I loved how he kept pressing Dakota's buttons. I loved his interactions with her. I know some people have said he was very rough with her and was bossy. But that's what alpha guys do in these fantasy books. But he was also so sweet to her and very protective especially when she got into dangerous situations. I would love to see these two get together in the end. I am shipping for them so badly. So, you can see why I could care less about her feeling for Keanu. He was just too cliche.

In terms of the other characters, they were all easily likeable. I loved getting to know each of the Dakota's sisters. I especially liked her Uncle Bobby. He's a wonderful character. I liked how Rita creates this wonderful world with the characters. Usually in books, minor characters play a role and then just disappear. But here they are a part of Dakota's life and without them, the story would have been pretty dull.

The worldbuilding had a very Hawaiian vibe to it. It was a little hard to get into. The magic system and hierarchy in place was a bit over the place and I guess it needed a bit more of an explanation. I also would have liked a bit more of information on how the dracon "aspects" (powers) work and the war between them and the humans. I felt, at some point, the romance took over the story and this part of the plot got sidelined. Maybe this will be explained more in the second book. There also was plenty of action in the story which was refreshing. I wasn't bored at any point. Unfortunately, the reveal was as exciting as I hoped it would be. But, it did tie up the loose ends.

All in all, the story was a great start to the series. The story has loads of potential. For those who love dragons, romance and urban fantasy this one should definitely be on your TBR list. I look forward to reading "Rex" next. :)
Profile Image for AudioBookReviewer.
949 reviews162 followers
June 3, 2016
My original Henchgirl audiobook review and many others can be found at Audiobook Reviewer.

Henchgirl by Rita Stradling is the first young adult fantasy novel in the series called Dakota Kekoa. It features 16-year-old Dakota Kekoa as she navigates the politics of the dragon, dragon-blooded human or Dracon, and human communities. While only 16, Dakota, a Dracon, has been working undercover for her grandfather, a powerful Dracon and businessman, to infiltrate the human community by pretending to be a human student at a high school. The rest of the time, she uses her Dracon-given powers to manipulate the emotions of her grandfather’s enemies to bend them to his will. In addition to these responsibilities, Dakota assumes the responsibility of both providing for her wayward, human mother and sisters as well as keeping their need for support a secret from her Dracon grandfather. The relationship between the Dracon and Human communities is a tense alliance that Dakota must further test when her Human friend goes missing.

I really enjoyed this novel. The world building surrounding the interface of the Dracon society with the Human society and the interweaving relationships of all the characters are quite complex. Living at the interface of the two communities, Dakota’s position is especially unique. As a Dracon female with a certain amount of dragon blood, she could be trained to become a good Dracon wife. However, as soldier for her grandfather’s and family’s interests, she is able to avoid this. But the fact that Dakota could be facing that fate, especially if she falls in love with a Dracon, makes the romance in the novel particularly complex. There were aspect of the romance that I didn’t like, and I hope Dakota is more convincingly able to take a stand for herself as the story continues into the sequel. The concept and explanation of the dragon culture were interesting as was the existence of the Dracon with their unique powers. Dakota’s power of soul manipulation was especially fascinating. I wasn’t completely convinced by the mechanics of Dakota’s power and how it related to the soul. I think there could have been more nuance to the power, but I liked how it used. I liked all of the characters and their interactions with each other. The plot building was also pretty good. I was surprised by the end and the storyline was dynamic and exciting. I would definitely recommend this novel.

The narration by Sorrel Brigman was good as well. The voicing of each of the characters was distinct so it was really easy to tell the characters apart. This was especially important because there are so many characters to keep track of. But the narration made it easy. The production quality was good as well. I would recommend this novel to anyone who likes young adult fantasy novels, especially those with dragons.

Audiobook was provided for review by the author.
568 reviews19 followers
November 2, 2015
Henchgirl offers a delightful surprise. It's a mix of standard YA tropes re-packaged into a fun, readable, engaging volume that isn't afraid to allow its characters to struggle, grow, and change.

Rita Stradling re-engineers the familiar "Hot Boy Love Triangle" into something new and worthy, building on familiar magic systems and worlds to create a mystery-romance-fantasy book whose DNA includes a little Twilight (but in a good way), a little Kathleen Woodiwiss (again in a good way), a little Janet Evanovich (but with far more restraint and fewer exploding cars), and Diana Wynne Jones, who pioneered a movement of gritty realism intertwining with fantasy.

Like the best of YA fiction, Dakota Kekoa's life isn't pure wish fulfillment. She has genuine struggles and emotional needs (to a point, this is YA fiction after all), while she works as magical "muscle" for her dominating grandfather. As the book starts, she's currently on assignment at a local high school, which sounds like it could wind up being about the worst bits of cliques and academics, but it doesn't.

Instead, she's quickly thrown into a complex mystery involving a good friend, where the story behind this girl's disappearance isn't nearly as simple as it could be. The typical outcomes of Dakota's "henchgirl" assignments are pleasantly dark compared to the norms of the genre. Sadly, the motives of various antagonists are not always explored as well as they could have been but this is light fun reading, not literature.

Dakota's impossibly handsome and famous interloping suitor is treated with unexpected humanity and humor, which is a feat given how rich, handsome, and typical he appears at the start. He's introduced as a "tsundere" (go look it up) and doesn't grow an awful lot from that but this isn't his story, it's Dakota's.

Dakota's first person narration is funny and wry. Her dysfunctional family is better drawn than I expected. Notably, Dakota's almost-but-not-quite-Hawaiian society has depth that I did not expect -- there's a cracking mythological twist that comes towards the end. Plus, Stradling takes the time to flesh out her world, her story, and her characters, without rushing the narrative. This is a solid book that feels like a real novel and not a novella.

I was given advance access to the book galley through Netgalley, in order to be able to write up a review. I assume by the time the book hits print many of its small grammar flaws will be reviewed and fixed. I read a manuscript that was clearly distributed before the copy edit stage.

Henchgirl uses a few naughty words and has a bit of passionate kissing. It is otherwise suitable for teens who are going to love this book. I can't wait for the sequel and the book hasn't even been printed yet.

Profile Image for Janira.
13 reviews6 followers
November 11, 2015
I must admit, the last thing I expected when I started reading Henchgirl was to like it. It took me a while to get into it, I struggled, but was worth it.

Let's begin with the story. Dakota Kekoa is a sixteen years old dracon (child of a dragon and a human woman) who works for her grandfather. Her life is anything but perfect, with a conflict with money and her alcoholic mother who spends all the cash Dakota makes or her grandfather provides her family. As a result, Dakota takes the responsibility of work and support her mother and her sisters.

Unlike other books, it didn't revolve too much about her alcoholic mother, so it's something to point out. There wasn't a place for self-pity. Instead, Dakota accepted it and dealt with it.

The way the story is told makes oblivious what is going to happen next. Don't assume. Nothing is what it seems. Dakota's narration is fresh. The sensations and feelings were well described. I liked how important was the relationship between Dakota and her family and it's interesting how romance didn't eclipse the plot... Till the end of the book.

And here is when I want to talk about the writing. I had a conflict with the way some situations and explanations were written. It made me re-read a whole paragraph, which it seems like over-writing. Dense. There are phrases that could be just write simply, but it was the opposed, or obvious things that didn't need clarify:

"Her and her adopted mother, your aunt Glenda should be arriving any minute", my grandfather said."

Is it really necessary to say that Ashley was adopted? It is point out at the beginning of the book. Last thing I want to mention about the writing is that I expect the grammar to be reviewed before its publication.

The events take place on the Mabi Island (which was inspired by Hawaii) and I didn't feel it was an extraordinary place, because even though is a fantasy book it doesn't seem like it's so different from our world. And because of that, Stradling must to rely on all the creatures (especially the dragons) and magic, which she does quite well. Maybe on the sequel we'll see more of the other lands.

It has potential and I expect a lot for the sequel.

ARC kindly provided via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
8 reviews1 follower
December 7, 2015
This book was awesome. The world, the mythology, and the characters were seamless and went well together. I really enjoyed reading this book and was quite upset that I had to wait another year or so for a second one. I had one problem. WYVERN. He may be pretty awesome later on in the book and I felt like he was a redeemable character in the end but dang it if I wasn't annoyed with his possessiveness. LIKE DAMN who downloads a goddamn program to decode their significant other/marriage prospect's passwords, that's in line with like Christian Grey level creepy. PLUS WHO TRICKS SOMEONE INTO A MARRIAGE CONTRACT ESPECIALLY SOMEONE THAT YOU JUST MET.THAT'S SCUMBAG BEHAVIOR. I loved Dakota, she's everything that a female role model should be, strong, decisive, made her own place, and works hard to achieve her goals. She is the foil to her mother's vapid and wasteful lifestyle and I loved that foil a lot. Overall, this book was quite the surprise and I wish I could visit the Maiibian Islands one day.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for A.J. Benson.
Author 1 book6 followers
February 22, 2016
Henchgirl was worth reading. I gave it four out of five stars. The author did a fabulous job of twisting the plot. She kept me believing that I knew where it was going, and then gave me a fork in the road where I was uncertain. I enjoyed being surprised by where the plot went. I did not see the end coming!

I loved the fantasy components of Ms. Stradling’s work. They included the culture of dracons (part dragon, part human), as well as other infected creatures like werewolves, vampires and witches, and what traits (or aspects) each non-human possessed. She also took concepts like the soul and used them to create depth in both individual characters and the storyline. The description of the layers of the soul was interesting.

Ms. Stradling did a great job helping me to relate to her characters. I loved the strong female main character. I connected with her confusion in moments and her anxiety at being out of control (of both her circumstances and herself).

There is a little YA appropriate romance in this wonderful fantasy novel. It had a bit of in depth description of teenage kissing. It was PG or maybe PG-13. The protagonist was a typical teenage girl in that respect.

I gave the book four stars instead of five only because it took a while to get into it. There was a lot of background given to help you understand Dakota’s loyalties. That said, I am looking forward to the next book about Dakota’s life!

Also, let me give you a quick review from my ten year old son: “I thought it was great as I got into it, but I did not like the teenage gossip. It began to get really interesting about a third of the way through–great plot. I loved the parts about the infections and the dracons. It is worth reading!”
Profile Image for Kathryn Patterson.
Author 4 books6 followers
October 28, 2015
"Henchgirl" by Rita Stradling brings to life an alternate world where dragons live and breed with humans to create dracons. Backed by their dragon parents, dracons control over 80% of the world. The protagonist, Dakota Kekoa, is a 16-year-old dracon who works for her grandfather as a type of enforcer. Dakota's mother is a selfish alcoholic who drinks or spends every penny she gets her hands on, so Dakota works to support her mother, her sisters, and herself.

Ms. Stradling immerses her readers in this new world from the beginning. I can feel the heat of the islands where Dakota lives, hear the hate speech from the full-humans, and understand the dread of being accidentally turned into a vampire or werewolf. I want to bitch slap those who are rude to Dakota, and yell at her mother for letting her daughter shoulder the responsibility of taking care of the entire household. If you let it, this story will suck you in and hold you to the edge of your seat as Dakota muddles her way through visiting dignitaries and the vanishing of one of her true friends.

"Henchgirl" is clean in term of no grammatical or spelling errors. But more than that, all the details line up. Not once did I hit an inconsistency that can pull a reader from the narrative. Instead, I lost track of time while reading.

I give this book 5 stars out of 5, and recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy books.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Brianna.
223 reviews1 follower
September 7, 2016
In a world dominated by Dragon-human hybrids, or 'Dracons', Dakota attends a special school for humans, little do they know, she isn't human at all. Dakota has one eighth dragon blood, making her the only kind of female dracon capable of producing off-spring. Not wanting to spend her life being used for her womb, Dakota becomes a soldier for her grandfather. But when one of her best human friends disappears, everything starts to change.

Dakota is the best kind of protagonist; witty, headstrong, and sarcastic while still being vulnerable and scared at times. She's a heroine who isn't afraid to ask for help when she needs it or to speak her mind. Her lack of manners and etiquette was charming and relateable. Her loyalty and trust for her friends makes her exactly the kind of girl I would've wanted as a best friend in highschool.

I am seriously so happy that I read this book and I can not WAIT for the sequel.

***I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review***
Profile Image for Mel Goethals.
164 reviews6 followers
August 3, 2021
This book was such a pleasure to read. At first it was a tad hard to get into because I hadn't had read many books that deal in a similar world as this one so there was some confusion and figuring out things on my part, as well as the names that were very unique. (At least for myself, they might be the most normal names for someone else).

Once I really got into the world and the story, it was so hard to put the book back down. With characters that have so many layers to them and political issues that seem very realistic for a magical world as the one Dakota lives in, this book really became one of my favourite Fantasy YA books. It's not too heavy but also not too light as a read. It knew very well the balance between solving the mysteries of book and developing the characters and their relationships.

I was very glad to read that this book will also have a sequel which I am anxious to read.

I received a copy of this book for free via NetGallery in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Gillian Murrell.
521 reviews
March 27, 2017
This was a good book but it had its faults. I know it was influenced by Hawaii but I found a lot of the names sounded so similar that I kept getting them confused. The way the Dragons treated women with 1/8th dragon blood was pretty shabby, I felt like they were only good for having babies. While I quiet liked Wyveryn/Dakota romance it got a bit to mushy at times and toward the end I found Wyvern way to bossy. Dakota needs to stand up for herself more. The action side of the story was good I would like to have seen more of that. It would be nice if we see more on the uncles and brothers and sisters in the rest of the series.
Profile Image for Wendy.
2,322 reviews40 followers
January 15, 2016
"Henchgirl" is an imaginative and unique story set in the exotic landscape of Mabi with a volcano that once was a gateway to the Four Kingdoms of the Dragons. In this world children infected with the blood of dragons (dracons) are rich and powerful while humans are in the minority, subservient or prey. Inequality between the two societies has bred discontent which in Mabi has resulted in a fragile truce.

In this atmosphere sixteen year old Dakota Kekoa a henchgirl (soldier) who can siphon and manipulate emotions works for her draconic grandfather, going to a humans - only school water warded against dracons. Her assignment is to make friends with Senator Hale's children and discover what she can about his clandestine activities. But when one of her best friends, the sister of the dracon rex disappears Dakota is hired to investigate little realizing that her contract includes more than she bargained for.

In an intoxicating plot overflowing with magic, dracons, and a mystery, the action never stops especially after Honua disappears and Dakota and the Wyvern discover that she's only one of several girls missing and that infected people using water charms are suddenly dying. Well-developed and enthralling the story not only follows Dakota's investigation, the war brewing between dracons and humans, but her unintentional romance with Vern, the dracon rex. With every twist and turn clues are unravelled as tension and suspense mount until finally culminating in a frightening confrontation that brings the Hell's Hogs ( a local motorcycle gang) to the rescue.

With a smooth, flowing writing style Rita Stradling weaves a page-turner filled with romance and wry humour as Dakota not only has to deal with her high school crush on Keanu Hale, but her escalating attraction for the snobby, aristocratic Vern Manderson, a dracon noble. The fun, fire and laughter in Vern and Dakota's relationship quickly heats up when he tries but often fails to control the independent and feisty soldier.

A score of characters infuse this unforgettable story with passion, high-energy and drama including Dakota Kekoa who's haunted by the murder of her father and plagued by a dysfunctional mother. Working as a soldier for her grandfather she's smart, observant and highly independent, but is insecure about her looks and often suffers from panic attacks. Of her sisters Claire is beautiful but weak, and Lorelai spirited and clever while Mele Alana, her best friend is loyal, resilient and very adaptable. Rich and good-looking Wyvern (Vern) Manderson the dracon rex seems contained, controlled and guarded but is protective and patient when dealing with Dakota's stubbornness and unpredictability. In contrast Keanu Hale is charismatic, funny and charming but hides a darker side. All the characters have imperfections and faults that make them complex, realistic and memorable.

I thoroughly enjoyed "Henchgirl" and would recommend the story to any teen girl who loves reading about an unconventional, independent and feisty heroine in a fantasy adventure filled with magic, mystery and intrigue. I look forward to the sequel to see what happens next to Dakota as the discontent mounts between humans and dracons.
December 28, 2015
The last thing that I expected to say about this book is good. The synopsis gives the feel of "been there, read that" and I did not expect much.

However, when I started reading I was slowly getting invested in Dakota's life. The writer instantly introduces her vulnerability. She is a sixteen year old in huge debt and with an overbearing mom. That what intrigued me to this character and kept me reading.

The Story

The story revolves around Dakota's undercover mission to uncover the murderer of her father. Soon, Dakota's friend Hanoua, whom she met on her mission, disappears leading to questions whether the person she suspects of killing her father is the one behind Hanoua's kidnapping. Also, the story introduces the mythical part of the dragon world. Especially the bloody world of dracons, the children of dragons from human women. Dakota finds herself under a lot of pressure to change who she is and what she wants.

The writing was pretty easy to follow. It reminded me of Richelle Mead's writing style in which she conveys the vulnerable side of her characters so well. The plot might be hard to follow at first but it all makes sense toward the end. There's also plenty of different characters especially those on the side of "the dragon/dracon clan". Even though there were so many of them I felt each is unique with how they relate to Dakota's life.

The Romance

It was good at first and I expected more from the character of Wyvern, in terms of more relatable backstory. But we got only few glimpses of his life. His relationship with Dakota took a really quick turn and needs to be more explored, which I think, judging by the ending, would be front and center in Book 2 of the series. Personally, by the end of this book, I did not feel as strongly about Wyvern as I first thought. He's become seriously overbearing no matter how Stradling wrote him so sweet and caring. I don't doubt the effect he had on Dakota's life and how she deserves to be loved. But I don't know, he's become a turn off for me but I hope he changes in Book 2.

The End

The end was really satisfying for me. It leaves the door open for more stuff and I hope Dakota keeps doing what she is doing because she is awesome at it.
Profile Image for BookLoversLife.
1,801 reviews9 followers
April 7, 2016
I didn't expect to enjoy this as much as I ended up enjoying it. I had a few niggles but overall i really liked it. I'm going to break this review down into likes and dislikes, so let's get the negative out of the way first, bear in mind, these were only minor annoyances!


Love Triangle..... Need I say more! I hate them, and unfortunately this has a one at the start. I'm gad that it wasn't played out through the whole book, but even so!!

Wyveryn and his possessiveness. My god, he was outrageous, and even though the author explained why he was like that, I really thought it sent a negative message.

Lastly, I was a little surprised that this had so much romance in it! I thought it would focus on the action and plot a little more, but it is heavy on the romance.


I really liked Dakota! She was fun, sassy and able to handle herself.

I liked her extended family. Some of them were awesome and I hope we see more of them in the future.

I loved the world and the word building! The lore of the Dracons was fascinating and engaging. It's explained really well and I loved learning about them.

The writing style was another positive. The whole book is well written and developed. (despite my little niggles ;) ) The author gives enough information and doesn't dump a lot on us at any one time.

The characters, some of them were fascinating, Like Dakotas' Grandad and Wyveryns dad, even Wyveryn himself.

The different species of fantastical beings! Vamps, Werewolves etc!!!

The pace of the plot. The pacing was steady and kept my interest throughout.

In all, this was a thoroughly entertaining read. I was hooked right from the start and despite my annoyances, I still enjoyed this and look forward to more. It's one I can really recommend and encourage people to listen to/read.

Now onto the narrator. Sorrel Brigman did an OK job with it. She had trouble pronouncing certain words and her cadence was a little up and down at times. She also needed to ramp up the tension a bit, I think anyway. I found myself wandering during what were exciting times in the book, and having to go back and listen again. I didn't find her exceptional and because this is such a long book, you need someone who captures your attention, and holds it!
Profile Image for Janice Bold.
409 reviews
November 4, 2015
I received this book through LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.

After the first few pages I was worried I wasn't going to like it. I couldn't put it down. I fell in love with Wyvern (what a jerk he can be!) and with Dakota and her crazy family. I really grew to dislike her mother, but the author was able to give her some saving grace in the end.

This is not my normal genre for books, but I was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed the author's writing style. I could picture Dakota's world and Wyvern's crazy suits! I will be recommending this book to friends.

I finished this book in sections today in 4 hours while at a trade show! I just couldn't stop reading it.

Great read!
January 1, 2016
ARC from netgalley

I absolutely loved this book it was well written and excellently paced. It was masterfully constructed, kudos to the author. I loved Dakota her character was not perfect and had flaws, her family was all drama llama (especially the mother) too but she loved them anyways and that made me love her. And Wyvern (even if he did some questionable things) too if I say anymore I might give away spoilers. But for Pete's sake if you actually want to read a very good book read this one or I might hunt you down and force you to, just ask my friends if you don't believe me, trust me you will not regret it. Soooooo......when is the next book coming out? ;-)
279 reviews11 followers
November 19, 2015
I really enjoyed this story, I liked the universe created in this story. I've always liked the fantasy stories, and boy is this story packed with it, we have were-people, half dragon half humans. It's not just a fantasy story it's really more set in the real world and it's very well written. The main character Dakota, felt like a full well-written character, and I felt for her struggles and what she felt was her responsibility to her family. I also liked that the supporting cast felt real and were fun characters. I can't wait for the sequel and seeing more from the author.
Profile Image for Being Noor.
15 reviews8 followers
April 25, 2016
I cant belive i took almost 2 weeks to finish this book! I absolutely loved everything about this book. Impatiently waiting for the sequel! Thank you Rita for this wonderful read! Full review coming up on

thebookminer.wordpress.com. Stay tuned!

Profile Image for Xena Elektra.
334 reviews1 follower
February 18, 2019
After such high reviews, I was very disappointed in Henchgirl. Besides the opening, which holds one mission as a henchgirl, we see no other action of that type as Dakota is suspended.

In an effort to avoid being a "breeder" in a world that only values fertile women like the part dragon/part human dracons for their ability to have kids, Dakota took on the role of henchgirl. Sounds interesting and there was a point where the events did intrigue me.

As other reviewers have mentioned, this book needed some editing help.

But the biggest flaw was the romance. It wasn't even the sorta love triangle that fizzled out early on that did it.

No, it was the creepy jerk love interest. Our dracon prince, Vern.

We're talking a guy that TRICKS our MC into a marriage contract that she can't get out of (only men can break the marriage contracts just because. Women have to prove the men can't protect them by hiding for 6 hours.). He then stalks her, breaks into her computer, goes through her phone, gets her medical records, invites himself into her house, tells her she has to sleep in the guest room with him and can't leave or he'll come after her. Tells her she can't go where she wants to go and that he has to go everywhere with her. He physically restrains her at points and despite her trying to tug away, etc, he continues to hold her.

Dakota puts up very little fight and because he makes her feel all tingly when he touches her, she is willing to put up with anything. I'm serious, there was so many lines about how she got all fuzzy and tingly when he held her hand. It's a stupid reason to love someone and it's a stupid reason to put up with the controlling/dominating factor.

At the end he decides she's going to move off the island, away from her family, and go with him somewhere else. She finally puts her foot down and after he continues to insist, she finally tells him the contract is over, he needs to leave, and she's staying. He calls her a coward--because I guess defending yourself and refusing to be manhandled is cowardly--and leaves. She wakes up to find two strangers in her room that inform her they've been hired to follow her while Vern is gone. She tells them there's no contract and they tell her that Vern told them that no matter what Dakota says, she's in contract until he says so.

SHE WALKS OUT SMILING! Like she's secretly happy this guy isn't respecting her wishes.

I don't understand how SO many people found his behavior romantic and acceptable. If someone really loves you, they won't trick you into a marriage contract, they'll respect your wishes, not break into your stuff, not stalk you, and if they realized they screwed up they will APOLOGIZE and release you. Vern could've told her he was sorry and let her out of the contract and decided that he'd be a nice person and see if she'd fall for him that way. But he didn't.

There was other issues with this book(they crazy mom who is more concerned with spending money on luxuries than paying for rent, electricity, and food). The family in general, Dakota's got some major flaws. The fact that the villains are humans who are so desperate to protect their women from being raped or tricked into thinking a dragon/dracon is human and sleeping with them(which almost always kills the woman) that they hide them(by kidnapping a lot of them).

Like seriously, out of all the messed up crap going on they picked the probably LEAST messed up/evil thing going on to fixate on. It's not a good thing to kidnap these women to protect them, but come on that shouldn't be the number one evil thing going on that everyone is determined to fix.

It just makes me sad that this is shown as an ideal romance. Girls/women shouldn't be learning that this is an acceptable/romantic way to be treated. And boys/men shouldn't think this is a good way to treat women and that they can assume that despite resistance or verbal no's/disagreements that it's good to continue to force something or yourself on a woman because they might secretly like the warm fuzzies you're giving them.
Profile Image for Veray.
1,184 reviews
February 12, 2018
I haven't read very many dragon stories and I liked the premise of this one. Dragons came from volcanoes and were never meant to be part of our world, but by mating with human women there became half dragons and part dragons and people with special powers. The main character is a rough and tough girl with amazing powers who is independent and very stubborn. Along comes a half dragon who I think was amazing and turned her world upside down. The ending was kind of sad, but I believe the rest of the series shows great promise.
Profile Image for Mandy Stump.
618 reviews4 followers
April 15, 2018
 "I received an ARC copy of this book via Instafreebie."
This book was fantastic. Loved it. The main characters was soooo good. Loved Vern too. Hated that she got scared and let him go. Hopefully they end up together!
Profile Image for Bailee.
19 reviews10 followers
January 6, 2016
I’ve always been a huge fan of fantasy novels, which has led to me reading and owning more of this genre than any other one, and I have to say that this book is a great addition to my collection. Honestly, I wasn’t too sure what I would think of this novel because the title didn’t necessarily capture the beauty of the text. Lesson number one, never judge a book by a title because it could very well surprise you. This was the case with this novel, and in some ways, I am grateful that I was able to come into reading this novel with an open mind and low expectations. If you have too high of expectations and anticipate picking up the next great fantasy novel every time you pick up a book, you are bound to be disappointed. Okay, okay, I am done being scattered; here are my thoughts on the novel.

Dakota was an interesting main character, which stemmed mainly from the fact that she was determined to do anything in order to avoid marriage. She preferred shooting guns to picking out wedding dresses, and I admire that more than I dare express. I wish more heroines echoed this sort of attitude, where they indulge in relationships but do not change because of them. She maintains her position on many things required of her throughout the novel and I appreciate that. I really liked the fact that despite all of her potential perfections, there are a lot of moments where she displays her weaknesses and opens herself up to being judged or hurt. I think that there is a fine line for a lot of heroines between heroine who stands on her own because she can or heroine who stands on her own because she has to. The author of this work maintains this balance very well, and I am impressed.

Wyvern is the main… love interest, I suppose. He is an attractive guy, who wields so much power that he cannot imagine that he doesn’t control Dakota as well. He is both charming, sweet, and arrogantly naive in the ways of women. He expects Dakota to fall all over herself around him, and even when she realizes just how powerful he is, she refuses to bow down and let him control every aspect of her life. There are moments, however, where I cannot ignore the fact that these two characters are beyond perfect for each other because they are both so used to being in control that neither of them even realizes that they both have to be willing to sacrifice. My hope is that this stubbornness and arrogance will at least weaken over the course of later stories.

There is a large cast of characters that make up the world of Dakota, and all of them are beautifully composed in a way that makes them both believable and interesting to read about. In some ways, I wish that there was a more in depth background for some of the characters where their darkness and their potential is mentioned sometimes in very vague terms. I am interested to see these characters be built upon and entwined in intriguing ways throughout future stories. Characters such as Dakota’s Grandfather prove to be individuals to watch out for, and by the end of the novel, I have more questions than answers about him.

I am really glad I had the chance to read this novel, because it definitely furthers my point that fantasy novels can be some of the greatest books out on the market. While it hasn’t always been a popular genre, I think that the rise in interest will only prove to make reading and reviewing so much more interesting. Also if you get a chance, you should definitely read some of the notes that the author provides at the end of the novel, which explain some of the ideas that took shape in the novel.
Profile Image for Amanda [darjeeling_and_jade].
361 reviews59 followers
March 30, 2016
Dakota, our protagonist, works for her grandfather, who is part dragon. Her job is to use her powers to manipulate her grandfather's underlings; to remind them that her grandfather holds all the power over them. Dakota can manipulate emotions in people, bending them to her will. When Wyvern, an annoying yet mysterious almost-adult comes to the island, hiding who she is from the people around her gets more difficult. All she wants is for things to go back to normal. But was her life ever really normal to begin with?

This is one of those books that had a good idea, but poor execution. I can see why there's a lot of fans of this book, however; it's urban fantasy, it has its own set of legends, and it has a smoldering love interest with the added benefit of enemy-turned-lover. I like that angle. What I didn't like was the instant-love that happened in this book. Dakota, the protagonist, goes from someone who loathes Wyvern, to a kissy-kissy moon-eyed girl who completely lacks any agency. You've known him for about a day and a half. Calm down. She could have been this powerful character--she had the powers for it--instead she worried if his feelings for her were real. Oh, and the missing girls--that's bad, I guess. The true issues of the world took such a backseat that they felt forgotten.

I've read young adult romance books that are masquerading as fantasy books before. It happens and it doesn't always bother me. This one did, however. It wasn't the story. The story was fine. It was the writing. I'm not sure why this book has made it so far. I'm legitimately curious, because it read horribly. Granted, in my reviews there are times where I question if I'm using punctuation correctly. I don't pretend that I am a perfect writer, nor do I expect to be. But when there are gads of mistakes my assumption is that there was no copy-editor who read this before giving it to the reading community to consume. There were just too many mistakes. I realize that this is an ebook I received from NetGalley and that things may have changed before publishing. However, I will reiterate: there were just too many mistakes.

After the shower, I locked myself and Stacy, when she wouldn't stop knocking, in my room which had been enough to keep my mom from barging in.

Just one of the many frustrating incorrect uses of commas in this book. There were moments when I couldn't understand what the author was trying to convey. The author also didn't use any contractions (that I remember), and that made the dialogue very stilted and awkwardly formal.

Overall, I wish this book had gone through a series of edits before publishing and focused more on the aspect of using Dakota's powers to find the missing girls. The balance of romance and fantasy tipped too far on the romance side, and reminded me a bit of the creepiness of Edward and Bella's relationship in the Twilight series.

2 stars.

I received a copy of Henchgirl from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Zori Amber.
38 reviews6 followers
January 23, 2016
Henchgirl is a fun and engaging adventure fantasy that meshes together some of what we thought we knew about dragons with a modern setting, and all the angst and joy of following your gut and doing what is right and best for you.

At first, when I first started reading the book, within the first few chapters it became obvious that this book was somewhat inspired by Pride and Prejudice. However, despite this sense of plot deja-vu, there was enough character and world building within the story - especially through side characters - that Henchgirl still felt like its own story and not just taking Austen's characters and putting them in a more modern and magical setting.

Dakota lives in a world where basically the descendants of dragons walk the earth and rule with a few places that are solely for humans. It's really interesting to see the dynamics between the humans and those that are considered non-human. At some points, I never knew if I was pro-human or pro-magic because there are extremists on both ends who are in positions of high power and influence. You have the dragons who either use humans or part humans solely for reproductive means and then you have humans who will kill their own children, whether or not they did something wrong if they are thought to be one of the "infected". There are just several levels of discrimination happening in this book, even amongst those on the same side that really adds depth to the character and the plot.

I did worry that Dakota would seem too much like a Mary Sue, or the "too perfect heroine" but I believe that Stradling did a decent job of either shifting the reader's focus to another character or was able to show Dakota as what she is - a 16 year old girl trying to balance a lot on her plate. The romance is somewhat admittedly cliche but honestly I would be lying if I said I wasn't waiting for more Dakota and Wyvern moments in the next book. Along with being interested in seeing where the romantic elements will be taken in the series, there are many moments where I sensed foreshadowing or future development of the certain parts (like who was behind the initial attack of Dakota's father) that get me really excited for the next book.

Overall, I really enjoyed Henchgirl and could not put it down because it was an entertaining read. I look forward to seeing how Rita Stradling develops not only Dakota and Wyvern in the next book but also the side characters like certain members of Dakota's family like her sister or her friend (don't want to say which one in cause it's kind of a spoiler) who goes through some pretty traumatic life changes. There's just a a lot of side characters that I would love to learn more about. Anyway, if you like fantasy young adult books, give Henchgirl a shot!

I received a copy of this book from the NetGalley and the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
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