Warning: I devour any and all books, movies, or shows that feature dragons. I’ve exhaustively researched dragon mythology. I refused to play Magic: the Gathering in 9th grade because they wouldn’t give me any dragon cards. Also, I’m an attorney. Taken together this means that I have opinions about dragons in popular culture.
So, without further ado, I present…
The Five Dragon Books You Should Have Read Already!*
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Poor Smaug, napping on his hoard of unparalleled treasure, minding his own business, literally embedding his flesh with diamonds to render him impervious to weapons – you know living out the dream of the 1% – when some pint-sized moron gets conned into stealing from him.
Thieves! Fire! Murder! Such a thing had not happened since he first came to the Mountain! His rage passes description – the sort of rage that is only seen when rich folk that have more than they can enjoy lose something they have long had but never before used or wanted.
Rather than get distracted from his vengence by some leggy blonde (I’m looking at you Dragos), Smaug goes on a rampage, reigning fire and destruction down on all those in his path, forcing the 99% to unite in defense against his wrath.
Smaug gets bonus points for actually utilizing his treasure hoard. Primarily as a bed, but also as a secondary defense system. As an aerial creature, your primary weakness is ranged weapons. Embedding diamonds into your flesh while napping is a stroke a brilliance.
The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley.
Damar has two varieties of dragons. The whole country is lousy with the little ones. They breed like rabbits and will infest any home, barn, or village if not kept in check. A nuisance, but only a real danger to animals, children, and the really stupid adults. These fire-breathing reptiles are the midget inbred cousins of the Great Dragons. Such as Maur. The Black Dragon. Sleeping for centuries, lulling humans into a false sense of superiority, allowing all the dragon-scholars and dragon-defense-systems to die out, this bad-ass wakes up fully prepared to triumph over all.
Which is fucking brilliant from a world-building perspective. The evolution of fire-breathing reptiles. All the larger/smarter dragons stay in hiding, growing in strength and numbers until the tactical advantage is too great to ignore!
Or it could be an example of devolution caused by human encroachment into an endangered species’ ecosystem territory. Only the smaller dragons escaped extermination by trophy hunters. But with smaller skulls came smaller brains….and so dragons went from mighty beasts capable of laying waste to entire kingdoms, to fire-breathing shrews. A tragedy of epic proportions. (Not that I am discounting the mighty shrew. I’m an Alaskan. Shrews are vicious. These little vermin can chew their way into a live grizzly bear. Just ask Google.)
Regardless of how the dragon split came about, it’s amazing and unique, and, most importantly, keeps Aerin’s story from aping King Arthur.
Emperor Mage (The Immortals #3) by Tamora Pierce.
Dragons are not native to Tortall. They are an overly-educated, magic-using species of immortals that live in the Divine Realm. Obviously. Through a series of unfortunate events, Skysong, a hatchling, ends up in Tortall being raised by humans.
By the third book in the series our orphaned dragon, who answers to Kitten, starts coming into her own. (Who doesn’t love the idea of nick-naming a dragon ‘kitten’? Hah! I want a pet dragon that I can hide in my room and blame ‘kitten’ when roommates ask about smuggled food, funny smells, or mysterious gouges in my flesh.) She is discovering new abilities every day – such as lock picking or magic detecting – and does not hesitate to show off her skills at any time.
This leads to several fabulous exchanges when Kitten is sent out with a party of diplomats to treat with a hostile nation. The smart ones see her as a tactical asset – and attempt to bribe or lure her to their side. The dumb ones? The dumb ones underestimate her intelligence, seeing her as nothing more than an interesting pet that can easily be caged.
The dumb ones suffer for underestimating youth and non-human sentience. Basically, in this book, a lone dragon, cut off from her kind, really learns how she fits in the human world and human affairs. (Some other things happens too. Zombie mammoth army. Human soldiers brought down by mice. Epic mage showdown. Borderline pervy teacher/student relationship. You know. Stuff.)
Now I’m sure some of you are asking why I am giving Kitten’s coming-of-age story in Emperor Mage more props than her highly adventurous birth in Wild Magic? Kitten’s pregnant mother takes down warships! How is that not a more worthy read?
Here’s a hint: Dragons are immortal. Very magical. Amazingly educated. And you expect me to believe a goddamn brilliant ancient dragon with potentially limitless magical powers doesn’t know she’s pregnant, or realize she’s giving birth until a human teenager points it out? I call bullshit. Ergo, Kitten outranks her mother in awesome. Kitten’s mother is a contender for the draconic darwin awards.
Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls by Jane Lindskold.
Betwixt and Between are the two-headed dragon companions/advisors/protectors to Sarah, a life-long mental patient who can communicate with inanimate objects. Sarah is only capable of speaking in famous quotations, so Betwixt and Between have an incredible ability to contextualize and analyze the literary masters. (We’re talking at least Ph.d in literature. And a Masters. Probably a divinity degree as well. The Revs. Drs. Betwixt and Between, Esq.)
Nevertheless it would be foolish to underestimate their street savvy. Most people dismiss Betwixt and Between as a rubber toy, but that is just part of their cunning disguise! Together they help Sarah outsmart mad scientists, avoid forced prostitution, find refuge in a street gang, and commit elaborate heists. All while expanding her appreciation for literature and fine art.
Note: I have, in fits and starts, attempted to annotate Sarah’s dialogue ever since I got my hands on this book. Sadly, many of the sources elude me. I emailed Jane Lindskold once to find out if she had an annotated copy….and it turns out she did most of it from bloody memory! That is twisted intellect that creates a two-headed bad-ass dragon companion and disguises them as a toy. Diabolical Frakking Genius.
Dealing with Dragons (The Enchanted Forest Chronicles #1) by Patricia C. Wrede.
The dragons in the Enchanted Forest like to keep things simple. Why change titles based on the person doing the work? Ridiculous! As all readers quickly learn, the King of the Dragons is a job that can be held by any dragon, regardless of gender identity. Perfectly reasonable – as are all draconic behaviors. Unlike moronic human tendencies to confuse titles with gender. (You know who wouldn’t have freaked out when Hillary Clinton was running for President because we wouldn’t know what to title her husband? The dragons of the Enchanted Forest.)
Did you ever wonder why dragons were so interested in kidnapping princesses? Turns out they really aren’t. Princesses are a hassle. They aren’t flame-retardant. They aren’t particularly tasty. Most of them aren’t exactly useful around the house. And to top things off? Once you get saddled with a princess, there is an inevitable barrage of knights and princes, barging into your home at all hours of the day and night to engage in various ill-advised rescues.
Which is why Kazul jumps at the chance to acquire a volunteer princes. All the status, none of effort – but plenty of dragon-intrigue. Plus magic, buckets of water, powdered hen’s teeth and FEMINISM!!!!!!!
These 5 books all get 5 starts from a diehard dragon fan who is utterly unforgiving of anything less than draconic perfection.
Honorable Mentions: 4 Star Series Featuring Dragons. For those of you who prefer your dragons on an epic scale.
Currently Sitting in My Dragon TBR Pile:
*In no particular order.**
**No, seriously, not ranked. I don’t need any outrageously pissed off dragons laying waste to the western U.S. because I dared to label them inferior to some other dragon.
*** SURPRISE GIVEAWAY ***
Every year I purchase at least 3 copies of Dealing with Dragons to gift. I’m currently over-stocked. There was a lack of impressionable young minds to convert to dragon obsession this year. One of my primary goals in life is to nurture nascent nerds. Anyone know a person in desperate need of an introduction to the brilliance of all things dragon? With bonus feminism? Whomever shares the most need of a draconic-infusion in the comments shall win a copy. Open internationally. Because when you live in Alaska, everything is international.