Dragons are back with a vengeance, and they’re not just burning down local cities or setting villages on fire. They’re stoking a flame under the fantasy genre! It’s been six years since Naomi Novik’s sweeping, celebrated Temeraire series, in which dragons served alongside humans in the Napoleonic wars, concluded, but several writers have taken up the torch to keep dragons flying across the pages of our fantasy books.
Here are six recently published dragon novels you should grab for your own hoard.
“The Roots of Chaos” Series by Samantha Shannon
With The Priory of the Orange Tree
in 2019, Bone Season
author Shannon launched readers into an epic world of dragons, both good and evil, as nations face the dire threat of the Nameless One. Banished a thousand years before, this ancient evil dragon is hell-bent on destruction. But in order for the nations to come together to face this threat, they must also figure out a compromise in how they look at and understand these creatures. For the people of the East, dragons are noble and divine. For the people of the West, dragons are a fire-breathing threat, meant to be destroyed by knights. Over a span of more than 800 pages, Shannon’s characters—a sprawling cast led by a secret mage dragonslayer and a dragonrider on whom the fate of the world hinges—dance through intricate court politics, weaving together the tapestry of a deep world.
While The Priory of the Orange Tree is stand-alone, the world is rich enough that Shannon will return to it in a prequel, A Day of Fallen Night, which releases in February, 2023. Set almost five hundred years before the events of Priory, the prequel centers once again on multiple strong women characters on whom the fate of the world depends. This is another doorstopper, full of political complexity, with an order of dragonslayers doubting the need for their existence after the defeat of a legendary foe, and the people of the East waiting for the dragons to rise from their slumber. Be prepared for epic fantasy, intrigue, and plenty of dragons.
While Yoon Ha Lee may be best known for his epic space operas (with a sideline into some truly excellent middle grade mythology-based star travel), the 2020 standalone Phoenix Extravagant
is a phenomenal and under-read piece of fiction.
In a secondary world that draws on Korea under Japanese occupation, artist Jebi does everything they can to just keep going, to produce art. If this means becoming a citizen of the occupying nation and accepting the new world order, they’re fine with it—unlike their sister, the revolutionary, who hopes to see their colonizers overthrown. But Jebi takes a job working for the new government, because any job for an artist is a good one, and they believe this is the way forward, until they realize just what the art they are creating costs.
When they become friends with a mechanical dragon, a war machine with the heart of a pacifist, things get progressively more complicated, thrusting Jebi into the larger world they always tried to ignore. Come for the gorgeousness of magic paint, stay for the mechanical dragon, and then revisit for the themes of identity after colonization and the horrors of war.
The Dragon’s Promise by Elizbeth Lim
In this 2022 YA fantasy, Elizabeth Lim continues the story begun in Six Crimson Cranes,
her loose retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Wild Swans,” but set in a world shaped by East Asian folklore. In the first book, Princess Shiori promised she would return a broken pearl to its rightful owner—which means traveling to the kingdom of dragons to keep her word. The Dragon’s Promise
takes Shiori to Ai’long, a dragon kingdom heavily based on the underwater land of dragons of Chinese folklore.
Shiori has more than just her promise to worry about, though; there are people who want to kill her because of the magic in her blood, so she must pose as a perfect princess, or find a way to change the world around her. In addition to the duology having their own strong story and romance, told in a fairy tale tone, there are also cameos of characters readers loved in Lim’s previous “Blood of Stars” duology.
Love in the Age of Dragons by Fatima Henson
Dragon stories don’t have to be set in worlds long ago and far away; in Henson’s post-apocalyptic 2022 YA novel Love in the Age of Dragons
, a wormhole allowed dragons from another planet to come through and turn Earth into ruins. Ayanna is the apprentice doctor under a mentor whose heart is failing. In order to get him the herbs he needs, she needs to venture aboveground, away from the safety of the human hidden complex and into the world the dragons have conquered.
This breaks the rules of her community—if she’s discovered, it could mean isolation as punishment. But worse is the risk of the dragons, who infest the water and the skies. Though much of the story takes place in the below-ground settlement of Terra, the novel centers on the idea of surviving a world taken over by monsters, with an unsettled ending that hints at more to come.
The “Blazewrath Games” Series by Amparo Ortiz
Between secondary fantasy and dystopia lies Amparo Ortiz’s urban fantasy series, where an international sports competition involves riding (and running from) dragons. In Blazewrath Games,
Lana Torres is determined to become the Runner—the only player position to not ride a dragon—for Puerto Rico. Though she lives in Florida with her white mother (her father, who gave her the passion for dragons and the World Cup, lives in Brazil), the Puerto Rican team allowed members of the diaspora to compete for the position when their Runner was kicked off the team. Lana earns the spot, but soon realizes that things aren’t right at the Cup: a former player is now in league with a dangerous terrorist, putting everyone’s safety at risk.
In the sequel, Dragonblood Ring, the stakes have changed, and Lana and a fellow player discover that the dragons themselves are in danger. Lana’s strong narrative voice makes her a compelling narrator, and the blend of tech and magic (plus the very dangerous games) give the world a feel similar to Aiden Thomas’s Sunbearer Trials. The world is fun to explore, and the connection between people and dragons is at the heart of Lana’s story.
Dragons of Deceit by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
For many readers who cut their teeth on the fantasy of the 80s and 90s, returning to the setting of Dragonlance, co-created by Hickman and made famous by the novels he penned with Weis, is a joy.
Dragons of Deceit is the first book in the Dragonlance setting of Krynn that Weis and Hickman have written since the 2009 conclusion to their “Lost Chronicles” series, and it introduces a brand new heroine, a chaotic time travel plot, and the reappearance of fan favorite character Tasslehoff Burrfoot. For fans of the original Dragonlance series, this is a chance to see how the world has changed and progressed since the War of the Lance—as well as a reminder of how the Dragonlance setting has always emphasized the dragons of Dungeons and Dragons.
Alana Joli Abbott is a reviewer and game writer, whose multiple choice novels, including Choice of the Pirate and Blackstone Academy for Magical Beginners, are published by Choice of Games. She is the author of three novels, several short stories, and many role-playing game supplements. She also edits fantasy anthologies for Outland Entertainment, including Bridge to Elsewhere and Never Too Old to Save the World. You can find her online at VirgilandBeatrice.com.