No mythical creature exemplifies fantasy fiction more than dragons, whether it’s the cunning, predatory dragon of the west or the wise, benevolent dragons of the east.
Beowulf is a Scandinavian hero who saves the Danes from the seemingly invincible monster Grendel and, later, from Grendel’s mother. He then returns to his own country and dies in old age in a vivid fight against a dragon. The poem is about encountering the monstrous, defeating it, and then having to live on in the exhausted aftermath, themes that feel both remote and uncannily familiar at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
“Accomplishes what before now had seemed impossible: a faithful rendering that is simultaneously an original and gripping poem in its own right.”
—New York Times Book Review
Seraphina is a half-dragon, descended from a dragon mother who took human form and a father who has no particular fondness for Seraphina’s kind.
Not that anyone else does either. Hers is a world where dragons and humans live and work side by side—but below the surface, tensions and hostilities are on the rise. Seraphina guards her true self with all of her being, but when a member of the royal family is brutally murdered, she’s suddenly thrust into the spotlight, drawn into the investigation alongside the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian.
As the two uncover a sinister plot to destroy the wavering peace of the kingdom, Seraphina’s struggle to protect her secret becomes increasingly difficult… and its discovery could mean her very life.
“[A] lush, intricately plotted fantasy.”
—The Washington Post
Jane is trapped as a changeling in an industrialized Faerie world ruled by aristocratic high elves and populated by ogres, dwarves, night-gaunts, and hags. She is the only human in a factory where underage forced labor builds cybernetic, magical dragons that are weaponized and sent off to war. When the damaged dragon Melanchthon tempts Jane with promises of freedom, the stage is set for a daring escape that will shake the foundations of existence.
Combining alchemy and technology, a coming-of-age story like no other, The Iron Dragon’s Daughter takes place against a dystopic mindscape of dark challenges and class struggles that force Jane to make costly decisions at every turn.
“Combining cyberpunk’s grit with dystopic fantasy, this iconoclastic hybrid is a standout piece of storytelling”
This is the tale of a family dealing with the death of their father, of a son who goes to court to claim his inheritance, a son who agonizes over his father’s deathbed confession, a daughter who falls in love, a daughter who becomes involved in the abolition movement, and a daughter sacrificing herself for her husband.
Everyone in the story is a dragon, red in tooth and claw.
It’s a world of politics and train stations, of churchmen and family retainers, of courtship and country houses. On the death of an elder, family members gather to eat the body of the deceased. Society’s high-and-mighty members avail themselves of the privilege of killing and eating the weaker children, which they do with ceremony and relish, thereby growing stronger.
“It’s a rare book that leaves me wishing it were twice as long, but Tooth and Claw is one such.”
—The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
In a world that’s a fusion of the cultures of ancient Egypt and Atlantis, a young slave dreams of becoming a jouster—one of the few warriors who can actually ride a flying dragon. And so, in secret, he begins to raise his own dragon…
“This uplifting tale… is a must-read for dragon lovers in particular and for fantasy fans in general.”
Holger Carlsen is a rational man of science. A Danish engineer working with the Resistance to defeat the Nazis, he is wounded during an engagement with the enemy and awakens in an unfamiliar parallel universe where the forces of Law are locked in eternal combat with the forces of Chaos. Against a medieval backdrop, brave knights must take up arms against magical creatures of myth and faerie, battling dragons, trolls, werewolves, and giants.
Though Holger has no recollection of this world, he discovers he is already well-known throughout the lands, a hero revered as a Champion of Law. He finds weaponry and armor awaiting him—precisely fitted to his form—and a shield with three hearts and three lions emblazoned upon it. As he journeys through a realm filled with wonders in search of the key to his past, Holger will call upon the scientific knowledge of his home dimension, the destinies of both worlds hanging in the balance.
As a vicious dragon stalks the Southlands, Crown Prince Gareth ventures to the forbidding North in search of the only man who can kill it. He is Lord Aversin, the Dragonsbane, whose dragon-slaying days have won him renown across the land. But when Gareth finds Lord Aversin, he discovers the mighty hero is squat and bespectacled, the ruler of a mud-village who admits that he killed the dragon not with a lance, but with ignoble poison. Still, he’ll have to do. Gareth and Aversin set off in company with Jenny Waynest, a witch with great ambitions but disappointingly puny powers. They’re a ragtag crew destined to become legendary, or die in the attempt.
Too much time has passed since the powerful dragon Tintaglia helped the people of the Trader cities stave off an invasion of their enemies. The Traders have forgotten their promises, weary of the labor and expense of tending earthbound dragons that were hatched weak and deformed. If neglected, the creatures will rampage—or die—so it is decreed that the dragons must move farther upriver toward Kelsingra, the mythical homeland whose location is locked deep within the dragons’ uncertain ancestral memories.
Thymara, an unschooled forest girl, and Alise, wife of an unloving and wealthy Trader, are among the disparate group entrusted with escorting the dragons to their new home. And on an extraordinary odyssey with no promise of return, many lessons will be learned—as dragons and their escorts alike experience hardships, betrayals, and joys beyond their wildest imaginings.
“Hobb’s meticulously realized fantasy tale is a welcome addition to contemporary dragon lore.”
Martha Macnamara knows that her daughter, Elizabeth, is in trouble—she just doesn’t know what kind. Mysterious phone calls from San Francisco at odd hours of the night are the only contact they’ve had for years. Now, Elizabeth has sent her mother a plane ticket and reserved a room for her at the city’s most luxurious hotel. Yet, since Martha checked in, she still hasn’t been contacted by her daughter, and is feeling lonely, confused, and a little bit worried.
But Martha meets someone else at the hotel: Mayland Long, a distinguished-looking and wealthy Chinese man who is drawn to Martha’s good character and ability to pinpoint the truth of a matter. They become close quickly, and he promises to help her find Elizabeth. Before he can solve the mystery, though, Martha herself disappears—and Mayland realizes that he’s in love with her.
Now, a man whose true nature and identity is unknown to those around him will embark on a potentially dangerous adventure in a city on the verge of exploding with its own sort of magic as technology spreads through the region that will become known as Silicon Valley.
“A small masterpiece, setting a fantasy story against a contemporary background.”
In the aftermath of a colossal battle, the future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance. Beset by newly emerging threats from every direction. In the east, Daenerys Targaryen, the last scion of House Targaryen, rules with her three dragons as queen of a city built on dust and death. But Daenerys has thousands of enemies, and many have set out to find her. As they gather, one young man embarks upon his own quest for the queen, with an entirely different goal in mind.
Fleeing from Westeros with a price on his head, Tyrion Lannister, too, is making his way to Daenerys. But his newest allies in this quest are not the rag-tag band they seem, and at their heart lies one who could undo Daenerys’s claim to Westeros forever.
Meanwhile, to the north lies the mammoth Wall of ice and stone—a structure only as strong as those guarding it. There, Jon Snow, 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, will face his greatest challenge. For he has powerful foes, not only within the Watch but also beyond, in the land of the creatures of ice.
“Long live George Martin… a literary dervish, enthralled by complicated characters and vivid language, and bursting with the wild vision of the very best tale tellers.”
—The New York Times
It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for forty years. They have proven the existence of dragons—a landmark discovery no one could ever believe is real, and a scientific revelation that will amaze the world. Now the Chinese are ready to unveil their astonishing findings within the greatest zoo ever constructed.
A small group of VIPs and journalists has been brought to the zoo deep within China to see these fabulous creatures for the first time. Among them is Dr. Cassandra Jane “CJ” Cameron, a writer for National Geographic and an expert on reptiles. The Chinese hosts assure the visitors that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts, that the dragons are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong. Of course it can’t…
“Plenty of action….For over-the-top adventure addicts, a Reilly novel is like a new roller coaster opening at Great America. Lines form, fans swoon”
Ged was the greatest sorcerer in Earthsea, but in his youth he was the reckless Sparrowhawk. In his hunger for power and knowledge, he tampered with long-held secrets and loosed a terrible shadow upon the world. This is the tumultuous tale of his testing, how he mastered the mighty words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death’s threshold to restore the balance.
“The magic of Earthsea is primal; the lessons of Earthsea remain as potent, as wise, and as necessary as anyone could dream.”
—Neil Gaiman, author of The Sandman
Karadur Atani, a man born of a dragon king, must free his land from his evil twin, a wizard who has stolen his birthright.
“Utterly engrossing, Lynn’s first novel in 13 years demonstrates the command of her genre that has earned her two World Fantasy Awards.”
Jonathan Thomas Meriweather is a typical college student, interested in girls, music, and an occasional taste of reefer. But when a journey through an interdimensional portal lands him in a world of talking animals and ominous sorcery, he finds he is on a very different trip indeed. Here, when he plays a strange instrument called a duar, peculiar things happen: powerful magic is released that may be the only way to stop a dark force that threatens his new world—and his old one. Reluctantly, he finds himself teaming up with a semi-senile turtle wizard; a thieving, backstabbing otter; and a bewildered Marxist dragon to rally an army for the war about to come.
“One of the most consistently inventive and fertile writers of science fiction and fantasy.”
When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes its precious cargo (an unhatched dragon egg) fate sweeps Capt. Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future—and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.
The Hobbit, of course, launched Tolkien’s literary career and forever changed the landscape of fantasy writing.
Bilbo Baggins enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely traveling farther than the pantry of his hobbit-hole in Bag End. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard Gandalf and a company of thirteen dwarves arrive on his doorstep to whisk him away on a journey to raid the treasure hoard of Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon.
On a beautiful world called Pern, an ancient way of life is about to come under attack from a myth that is all too real. Lessa is an outcast survivor—her parents murdered, her birthright stolen. She’s a strong young woman who has never stopped dreaming of revenge. But when an ancient threat to Pern reemerges, Lessa will rise—upon the back of a great dragon with whom she shares a telepathic bond more intimate than any human connection. Together, dragon and rider will fly… and Pern will be changed forever.
I’m a huge Terry Pratchett and Discworld fan, and this book is one of the best in terms of clever plot, fascinating characters, interesting use of magic, and Pratchett’s clear-eyed but sympathetic take on human nature. It’s also hilarious.
Long believed extinct, a superb specimen of draco nobilis (“noble dragon” for those who don’t understand italics) has appeared in Discworld’s greatest city. Not only does this unwelcome visitor have a nasty habit of charbroiling everything in its path, in rather short order it is crowned King (it is a noble dragon, after all…). How did it get there? How is the Unique and Supreme Lodge of the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night involved? Can the bumbling City Watch restore order—and the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork—to power?
“This is one of Pratchett’s best books. Hilarious and highly recommended.”
Dragons for Younger Readers
Here are a number of excellent books featuring dragons for young adult readers and below.
Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke
The Fire Within by Chris d’Lacey
How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
Wings of Fire Book One: The Dragonet Prophecy by Tui Sutherland
Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville
Dragon’s Blood by Jane Yolen
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Dragon and Thief by Timothy Zahn
Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede