The best books for people who love seeing dragons as central characters

Why am I passionate about this?

Dragons are my passion, I've lovingly been referred to as The World's Foremost Dragon Authority, and I've made it my mission to consume as much dragon media as I can. As someone who also loves science, I'm especially drawn to media that addresses draconic physiology, evolution, and culture. I can name every taxonomic family, genus, and species in the order Draconidae, and there's nothing I love more than sharing my dragon knowledge and stories with others!


I wrote...

Dragon Speaker

By Elana A. Mugdan,

Book cover of Dragon Speaker

What is my book about?

Though Keriya Nameless has no magical powers, which is considered a disability in her world, she's recruited to save the last living dragon. Keriya leaps at the chance to prove her worth, though failure could mean the destruction of everything she holds dear.

Dragon Speaker offers a fresh take on the classic dragon/rider trope. Where many stories treat their dragons as accessories or plot devices, The Shadow War Saga dragons are central characters with agency. They're intelligent, autonomous beings (as opposed to the cliché one-dimensional villains or simple-minded work beasts we often see). If you're a fantasy aficionado, this series offers you a vibrant world filled with magic, adventure, and – most important – dragons!

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Dragon's Bait

Elana A. Mugdan Why did I love this book?

This is one of my all-time favorites. It tells the story of Alys, who's wrongly accused of being a witch, and is sentenced to death by dragon. However, it turns out that the dragon in question, Selendrile, is not a mindless, maiden-eating beast. He's an intelligent shapeshifter, and he's fond of revenge. He assumes human form and vows to help Alys get back at the people who wronged her.

My favorite thing about this book was that both Alys and Selendrile are morally gray. Selendrile makes Alys worse by leading her on a path of vengeance; Alys makes Selendrile better by accepting his nature; eventually, they meet in the middle as partners-in-crime. If you like your dragons to be charismatic, layered, and ever-so-slightly feral, check out Dragon's Bait!

By Vivian Vande Velde,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Dragon's Bait as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Fifteen-year-old Alys is not a witch. But that doesn't matter—the villagers think she is and have staked her out on a hillside as a sacrifice to the local dragon. It's late, it's cold, and it's raining, and Alys can think of only one thing—revenge. But first she's got to escape, and even if she does, how can one girl possibly take on an entire town alone? Then the dragon arrives—a dragon that could quite possibly be the perfect ally. . . .


Book cover of Darkstalker

Elana A. Mugdan Why did I love this book?

Although this book is aimed at a younger audience, it's one of the most compelling villain origin stories I've ever read. It's a spinoff novel based on lore from the bestselling Wings of Fire series, but can be read as a standalone. It shows the early life of the titular dragon, Darkstalker, who becomes a deadly antagonist in the main novel series.

This was shockingly dark and graphic for a middle grade novel, but I loved that about it, too. Add in the fact that every character in this book is a dragon, and you have a recipe for success. Though the narrative voice reads a little young (hey, it is meant for young readers), Darkstalker's journey toward evil is realistic, poignant, and, at times, heartbreaking.

By Tui T. Sutherland,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Darkstalker as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the SeaWing kingdom, a young prince learns he is an animus-capable of wonderful magic that comes with a terrible price. In the mind of a NightWing dragonet, a thousand futures unfold-and almost all of them, she knows, lead to disaster and destruction. And under three full moons and the watchful eyes of his NightWing mother and IceWing father, the most powerful dragon Pyrhhia will ever know is clawing his way out of his egg. Darkstalker, the dragon who will change the world forever.


Book cover of Fireborne

Elana A. Mugdan Why did I love this book?

Although the dragons in Fireborne aren't technically “central characters,” they are certainly central to the plot. That, plus the fact that the human relationships were so wonderfully balanced and beautifully nuanced, ensured this book made it onto my list.

This is one of those classic dragon/rider stories. Our two protagonists, Lee and Annie, have both become dragon riders in a post-revolution society where they – and their draconic mounts – are sworn to protect the populace. I loved the depictions of dragons competing, flying, and bonding with their riders, but I enjoyed the politics and human drama just as much.

By Rosaria Munda,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Fireborne as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

"Fireborne is everything I want in fantasy." -Rachel Hartman, New York Times bestselling author of Seraphina

Game of Thrones meets Red Rising in a debut young adult fantasy that's full of rivalry, romance . . . and dragons.

Annie and Lee were just children when a brutal revolution changed their world, giving everyone-even the lowborn-a chance to test into the governing class of dragonriders.

Now they are both rising stars in the new regime, despite backgrounds that couldn't be more different. Annie's lowborn family was executed by dragonfire, while Lee's aristocratic family was murdered by revolutionaries. Growing up in the…


Book cover of His Majesty's Dragon

Elana A. Mugdan Why did I love this book?

If you haven't delved into the Temeraire series yet, pick up book one! Temeraire's tale begins in His Majesty's Dragon when he hatches on a ship and chooses his future rider and captain, Will Laurence. Temeraire grows and trains, becoming one of the largest and most intelligent fighters in the British army's Aerial Corps.

The most unique thing about this book is that it's historical fiction. The series takes place during the Napoleonic Wars, and shows what warfare would look like if massive dragons partook in the battles. However, the fantasy aspect of the book outweighs the historical aspect. There are dragons of all shapes and sizes on nearly every page, and Temeraire makes for a lovable and sympathetic deuteragonist.

By Naomi Novik,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked His Majesty's Dragon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Naomi Novik's stunning series of novels follow the adventures of Captain William Laurence and his fighting dragon Temeraire as they are thrown together to fight for Britain during the turbulent time of the Napoleonic Wars.

As Napoleon's tenacious infantry rampages across Europe and his armada lies in wait for Nelson's smaller fleet, the war does not rage on land and water alone. Squadrons of aviators swarm the skies - a deadly shield for the cumbersome canon-firing vessels. Raining fire and acid upon their enemies, they engage in a swift, violent combat with flying tooth and claw... for these aviators ride…


Book cover of Given

Elana A. Mugdan Why did I love this book?

Given is a fantasy romance, centering on the relationship between Yenni and Weysh. Yenni is a princess of the Yirba who ventures to a distant land to seek a magical cure for her ailing father; Weysh is a charming and troublesome dragon shapeshifter who believes Yenni is his Given, or destined mate.

In addition to offering a unique spin on dragons, Given has wonderful world building. We learn about the intertwined history of three cultures: the Yirba, the Creshens, and the once-mighty dragons. While the draconic aspect is what drew me to this book, I also loved learning about the magic system, and how each culture approaches magic use. The romance is sweet and understated, and is well balanced with Yenni and Weysh's personal goals.

By Nandi Taylor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Given as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As a princess of the Moonrise Isles and one of its fiercest warriors, Yenni has always put duty before her own desires. When her father falls gravely ill, she knows she must find the cure and sets out on an arduous journey that takes her to a magical academy in the far reaches of the Empire of Cresh.

There is no room for failure, but Yenni struggles to learn the strange magic of Cresh as a cure continues to evade her. And complicating matters is Weysh, a dragon shifter who says Yenni is his Given―his one true partner ordained by…


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Ferry to Cooperation Island

By Carol Newman Cronin,

Book cover of Ferry to Cooperation Island

Carol Newman Cronin Author Of Ferry to Cooperation Island

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Sailor Olympian Editor New Englander Rum drinker

Carol's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

James Malloy is a ferry captain--or used to be, until he was unceremoniously fired and replaced by a "girl" named Courtney Farris. Now, instead of piloting Brenton Island’s daily lifeline to the glitzy docks of Newport, Rhode Island, James spends his days beached, bitter, and bored.

When he discovers a plan for a private golf course on wilderness sacred to his dying best friend, James is determined to stop such "improvements." But despite Brenton's nickname as "Cooperation Island," he's used to working solo. To keep historic trees and ocean shoreline open to all, he'll have to learn to cooperate with other islanders--including Captain Courtney, who might just morph from irritant to irresistible once James learns a secret that's been kept from him for years.

Ferry to Cooperation Island

By Carol Newman Cronin,

What is this book about?

Loner James Malloy is a ferry captain-or used to be, until he was unceremoniously fired and replaced by a girl named Courtney Farris. Now, instead of piloting Brenton Island's daily lifeline to the glitzy docks of Newport, Rhode Island, James spends his days beached, bitter, and bored.

When he discovers a private golf course staked out across wilderness sacred to his dying best friend, a Narragansett Indian, James is determined to stop such "improvements." But despite Brenton's nickname as "Cooperation Island," he's used to working solo. To keep rocky bluffs, historic trees, and ocean shoreline open to all, he'll have…


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