The dragon is probably one of the most iconic (if not the most iconic) creature featured in magical or fantasy stories. For centuries, these amazing beasts have fascinated humans throughout the world, from ancient Chinese cultures to the Anglo-Saxons. The symbolism of the dragon ranges from malice and destruction to prestige and magic. No matter how many different ways dragons are portrayed, you can’t deny that we humans absolutely love our dragons and these beautiful creatures will not fade from the fantasy genre any time soon.
The next list of fantasy recommendations in my series A Thousand Lives is, of course, seven fantasy books/series featuring dragons, or fantasy reads that are heavily centered around dragons.
1. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
For a thousand years, the House of Berethnet has ruled over Inys. Queen Sabran the Ninth is still unwed, but must conceive a daughter soon to protect her realm. However, assassins are arriving closer and closer to her door. Although Ead Duryan rises to the position of Sabran’s lady-in-waiting, she still remains an outsider to the others at court. She must protect Sabran with forbidden magic.
On the other side of the sea, Tané has trained and waited all her life to be a dragon rider. But at the moment when her dream might come true, she must make a decision that could throw her life into disarray.
The East and West is divided, but an ancient enemy lurks just beyond their mist, ready to destroy everyone and everything in its wake.
This magical, beautiful story will draw you right into its world. Although the novel is a long one, at over 800 pages, you will have a difficult time setting it down as suspense, betrayal, romance, and adventure prevail throughout Shannon’s magnificent work. The Priory of the Orange Tree contains all the elements that are sure to make this novel become a classic one day.
2. The Rage of Dragons (The Burning: Book 1) by Evan Winter
For nearly two centuries, the Omehi people have fighting for a war they cannot win. A few of these people’s warriors are born “gifted.” For every two thousand women, only one holds the power to call upon the dragons. Only a few men can transform themselves into the strongest and largest warriors.
Tau is aware of the nature of his society, but could care less about honor and glory. He plans on getting himself injured, then settling down to raise a family. All that changes when the people closest to him are murdered, and their killers walk away unharmed. Suddenly, Tau is driven by fury and hunger for revenge. He will become the greatest warrior the world has ever known, and will risk everything and everyone around him for even a single chance of taking revenge on those who wronged him.
Described as a cross-over between Game of Thrones and Gladiator, The Burning series is perfect for those who love learning and reading about training and battle. Even if those elements are not your favorite, you’ll still be captivated by Evan Winter’s incredible, African-influenced world, magic, and characters. The driving plot and feeling of suspense at every turn will cause you to not want to put the book down.
3. His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire: Book 1) by Naomi Novik
Set during the Napoleonic Wars, soldiers take to the skies for aerial combat on the backs of dragons, rather than aircrafts. Captain Will Laurence’s life is forever changed when his ship the HMS Reliant manages to capture a French frigate carrying an unhatched dragon egg. Will must now learn how to master this daunting form of aerial combat with his new dragon, Temeraire. As France’s dragon forces gather their strength and set to breach British soil, Will and Temeraire must rise to the challenge and “soar into their own baptism of fire.”
Totaling nine books in all, the Temeraire series is certainly one that lovers of fantasy and historical fiction won’t want to miss!
4. Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa
Every thousand years, one person may call upon the Kami dragon and ask for one wish. In order to do so, this person must hold the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers. This critical time is almost near, and the search for the missing piece to the scroll will take place throughout the land of Iwagoto.
Yumeko must flee her home after demons murder her adoptive family. She carries one part of the scroll. Fate leads her to cross paths with Kage Tatsumi, a samurai. He may be the only one who can help Yumeko survive, but he is also under order to retrieve her piece of the scroll. Their circumstances mean Yumeko and Kage must navigate this “uneasy alliance.” Yumeko needs to guard her secrets, as they not only mean a matter of life and death for her, but are also “the key to the fate of the world.”
This Japanese mythology-inspired trilogy will keep you wanting more as you dive into Kagawa’s intriguing world, bizarre creatures, and complex characters!
5. A Natural History of Dragons (The Lady Trent Memoirs: Book 1) by Marie Brennan
Lady Trent is regarded as the world’s most renown dragon naturalist. She helped evolve the study of dragons from mythology to modern science. However, before she gained her prestige, she was a young woman who loved books, and her passions for learning, natural history, and dragons went against the societal norms of her day.
Her true story is laid out for all to read in her memoirs. She tells of how she risked her reputation, prospects, and her “fragile flesh and bone” as she set out to follow her dreams, find love and happiness despite her many eccentricities, and venture to the Vystrana mountains, where she made the discovery that would forever alter the fields of science and history, as well as the world.
Reminiscent of Newt Scamander from the Harry Potter world and his experiences writing Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, this five-part fantasy series will leave you wishing that dragons were real, and wondering if they ever were. The Lady Trent Memoirs is told in a Victorian-era style narration that will draw you in and inspire you with Lady Trent’s spirit, bravery, and knowledge.
6. Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle: Book 1)- Christopher Paolini
Eragon is a poor farm boy who lives with his uncle and cousin. He lives a relatively simple, predictable life until he stumbles upon a mysterious blue stone while hunting in the woods. He takes it home and later that night, the stone hatches into a beautiful blue dragon. Eragon is soon marked as a Dragon Rider, a legacy almost as old as the Empire itself.
Eragon and his family are now in danger as the evil forces of King Galbatorix learn of the dragon’s whereabouts. He flees his village with his dragon, named Saphira, and Brom, the village storyteller, and travels far away from the only home he’s ever known. Eragon must now carry the burden of knowing he may be the only one who can save the humans, elves, dwarves, and all others who dwell in Alagaësia from Galbatorix.
Eragon was published by Christopher Paolini when he was only nineteen, but the four books in the Inheritance Cycle are perfect for fans of The Lord of the Rings and other classic epic fantasy stories.
7. A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire: Book 1) by George R.R. Martin
Since Daenerys Targaryen is my all-time favorite character from the A Song of Ice and Fire series/the Game of Thrones HBO show, I couldn’t create this list without paying tribute to the Mother of Dragons herself. Although Daenerys is only one of the many (many) characters in Martin’s epic fantasy series, she and her three dragons are critical to the story’s plot.
The end of spring is near, and winter is coming. Eddard (Ned) Stark is the Lord of Winterfell, the northernmost kingdom in Westeros. There he rules in the name of King Robert Baratheon, who dwells far away in King’s Landing. Ned lives with his wife Catelyn, their five children and Ned’s bastard son Jon Snow. North of Winterfell, beyond the Wall, the Wildlings roam free, along with other creatures far more terrifying than anyone could image. What once was seen as a myth and old-wives tales is becoming more and more real as the cold weather emerges.
Another threat arises, closer to home. Jon Arryn, Hand of the King to Robert, has died under suspicious circumstances. Robert suddenly rides to Winterfell with his wife, Queen Cersei, their three golden-haired children, and Cersei’s siblings: “Kingslayer” Jaime Lannister and the clever, cunning, and usually drunk dwarf, Tyrion Lannister. The meeting between Ned and Robert will forever change Westeros and all who dwell in the Seven Kingdoms.
Across the Narrow Sea, Prince Viserys Targaryen sets his sights on winning back the Iron Throne, stolen from him by the usurper Robert Baratheon, and setting revenge on those who murdered his father, the “Mad King” Aerys, and older brother Rhaegar. To fulfill his goals, Viserys will need an army. He must marry off his younger sister, Daenerys, to Khal Drogo, leader of the Dothraki. Little does Viserys know that the “fire and blood” of House Targaryen stirs within Daenerys far more than he could ever expect.
BONUS: If you haven’t already, check out Fire & Blood by George R.R. Martin, which chronicles the reign of the Targaryen dynasty (and their dragons) centuries before the events featured in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. Read about the ancestors of House Targaryen and experience living in Westeros when they ruled the kingdoms and their dragons ruled the skies.