The best books with girls and dragons, or girl dragons

Who am I?

I grew up reading and re-reading Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. But it always bothered me that there weren’t many girls or women in those books—and most of those that did appear were pretty, perfect, and—well—kind of boring. In college, I studied literature, myths, and fairytales and found that most of the female characters in those stories didn’t reflect women I wanted to be or know, either. So, I wrote my own high fantasy novel and continue to seek out great fantasy, sci-fi, and fairytale-inspired literature featuring strong female characters that are dragons on the inside—and sometimes on the outside, too. 

I wrote...

Dragon's Truth

By Leanne M. Pankuch,

Book cover of Dragon's Truth

What is my book about?

A fast-paced tween/YA high fantasy adventure with a strong female main character, Dragon's Truth captures the spirit of Tamora Pierce's Alanna and a setting that evokes a mash-up of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones.

Fourteen-year-old Rhyan dreams of dragons, wizards, and magic but feels constrained by her ordinary life and overshadowed by her older sister Elspeth. When Elspeth is kidnapped, Rhyan embarks on a journey to save her sister and face the evil threatening their world. She finds friendship—and the magic and power she's been craving but also begins to sense a growing darkness within herself. In order to save Elspeth, Rhyan must embrace the truth of who she really is and harness the dragon’s deadly power.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Dragonsong

Leanne M. Pankuch Why did I love this book?

Dragonsong is the science fantasy story of an isolated teenage girl who runs away from home when forbidden to pursue her passion for music. She stumbles on a nest of fire lizards—the legendary ancestors of the dragons that keep her world safe—and must stop hiding her identity and use her gifts to aid the dragonriders in their crucial mission. 

This book has the SF/F holy trinity of great plot, characters, and world-building—but what really hooked me was the multi-dimensional female main character that I connected to immediately. I’m a musician and creative thinker, too, so I could see myself in Menolly. This book is for anyone who has ever been told to hide part of who they are—and anyone who loves dragons, of course.

By Anne McCaffrey,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Dragonsong as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

Let Anne McCaffrey, storyteller extraordinare and New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling author, take you on a journey to a whole new world: Pern. A world of dragons and other worldly forces; a world of mighty power and ominous threat.. If you like David Eddings, Brandon Sanderson and Douglas Adams, you will love this.

"Anne McCaffrey, one of the queens of science fiction, knows exactly how to give her public what it wants" - THE TIMES
"Do yourself a favour and read ANYTHING by this Author, you won't be sorry" -- ***** Reader review
"A real page turner" --…

Book cover of The Priory of the Orange Tree

Leanne M. Pankuch Why did I love this book?

The plot of Priory of the Orange Tree centers on the return of an ancient dragon villain known as The Nameless One. Multiple factions in the West—where politics rules and dragons and magic are forbidden—must come together with those in the East—where scholars abound, and water dragons are worshipped—to defeat The Nameless One. 

Priory of the Orange Tree is one of the best epic fantasies I’ve read in the past few years. The unique world-building is extensive, the story is twisty, and the female characters are diverse, strong, and dynamic. The chosen one aspect can be tiresome, but in this tale, it definitely works. Best of all, dragons are an integral part of the narrative—not just mindless beasts or weapons used to melt enemies.

By Samantha Shannon,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Priory of the Orange Tree as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Get ready for Samantha Shannon's new novel, A Day of Fallen Night, coming in February 2023!

The New York Times bestselling "epic feminist fantasy perfect for fans of Game of Thrones" (Bustle).

AMAZON (Top 100 Editors Picks and Science Fiction and Fantasy) * CHICAGO PUBLIC LIBRARY * BOOKPAGE * AUTOSTRADDLE

A world divided.
A queendom without an heir.
An ancient enemy awakens.

The House of Berethnet has ruled Inys for a thousand years. Still unwed, Queen Sabran the Ninth must conceive a daughter to protect her realm from destruction--but assassins are getting…

Book cover of The Hero and the Crown

Leanne M. Pankuch Why did I love this book?

This is a beautifully written YA fantasy that has the flavor of a traditional epic—like the Lord of the Rings—but also brings us intimately close to its characters, their individual cares, and their unique world. The story centers on Aerin, the king’s daughter, and her journey from being an outcast at her father’s court to becoming a hero in her own right—at the expense of a dragon, unfortunately. 

The Hero and the Crown is often praised as an example of classic feminist fantasy. It was one of the first stories I encountered where the goal of the female main character wasn’t to be rescued or married. But in my opinion, it’s McKinley’s lyrical and compelling prose and fantastic world-building that truly makes this a not-to-be-missed read.

By Robin McKinley,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Hero and the Crown as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

A Newbery Medal Winner

Although she is the daughter of Damar's king, Aerin has never been accepted as full royalty. Both in and out of the royal court, people whisper the story of her mother, the witchwoman, who was said to have enspelled the king into marrying her to get an heir to rule Damar-then died of despair when she found she had borne a daughter instead of a son. But none of them, not even Aerin herself, can predict her future-for she is to be the true hero who will wield the power of the Blue Sword...

“[The Hero…

Book cover of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Leanne M. Pankuch Why did I love this book?

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (TGWCFinaSoHOM) is the story of a girl named September who is invited (enticed/stolen away) to Fairyland and ends up setting out on a quest to steal back a spoon for some friendly witches. Sounds cute, right? This book is anything but.

Categorized as tween/younger YA fantasy, TGWCFinaSoHOM is a modern take on Victorian fairytales, filled with darkness, dragons (wyverns, actually), off-kilter sentient beings/objects (á la Alice in Wonderland), and some fairly mature themes. It’s simultaneously complicated, ridiculous, wonderful, and the stuff of nightmares—picture something like the 1985 dark fantasy movie, Return to Oz. The twists and layers of TGWCFinaSoHOM kept me constantly guessing—and turning pages. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the books in the series.

By Catherynne M. Valente, Ana Juan (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

"One of the most extraordinary works of fantasy, for adults or children, published so far this century."—Time magazine, on the Fairyland series

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can…

Book cover of Shatter the Sky

Leanne M. Pankuch Why did I love this book?

Shatter the Sky is a quick-read YA high fantasy. It’s the story of Maren, who wants to live an ordinary life with her girlfriend, Kaia. When Kaia is kidnapped, Maren decides to apprentice herself to the Aromatory—the emperor’s mysterious dragon tamer—as a first step in her rescue plan. 

Shatter the Sky features a number of diverse characters and a sapphic romance and has been highly praised for breaking ground in the YA fantasy realm. I particularly enjoyed the Aromatory, the new take on dragons, and a main character who begins by viewing herself as unimportant but progresses to accepting her power and recognizing her value. Maren’s story continues—with ramped-up stakes, more dragons, and a complicated political plot in the meatier second book in this duology—Storm the Earth.

By Rebecca Kim Wells,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shatter the Sky as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

New England Book Award Finalist

“A top-notch dragon story…Both nuanced and real.” —Shelf Awareness (starred review)
“I absolutely devoured it.” —Mackenzi Lee, bestselling author of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
“Perfect for fans of Tamora Pierce, Renée Ahdieh, and Cindy Pon.” —Saundra Mitchell, author of All the Things We Do in the Dark and editor of YA anthology All Out

A determined young woman sets out to rescue her kidnapped girlfriend by stealing a dragon from the corrupt emperor in this stunning fantasy debut that’s perfect for fans of Margaret Rogerson, Rae Carson, and Rachel Hartman.

Raised among…

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Brother. Do. You. Love. Me.

By Manni Coe, Reuben Coe (illustrator),

Book cover of Brother. Do. You. Love. Me.

Manni Coe Author Of Brother. Do. You. Love. Me.

New book alert!

Who am I?

As a gay man born into an evangelical Christian family, my coming out story was wrought with pain, trauma, and separation from family and loved ones. In the same year I lost my best friend in an accident. My world tumbled and I had to crawl back to a place of reckoning. Walking became my path to healing. So when my brother Reuben, who has Down's syndrome sent me a message from the isolation of a care home in the pandemic, I knew he was in trouble. Those five words - ´brother. do. you. love. me.´changed our lives. I thought I might know a way to save him.

Manni's book list on memoirs that capture the struggle of everyday life

What is my book about?

Brother. Do. You. Love. Me. is a true story of brotherly love overcoming all. Reuben, who has Down's syndrome, was trapped in a care home during the pandemic, spiralling deeper into a non-verbal depression. From isolation and in desperation, he sent his older brother Manni a text, "brother. do. you. love. me."

This cry for help, this SOS in the sand unleashed a brotherly love that had Manni travelling back to the UK mid-pandemic to rescue his brother from the care home, and together they sheltered from the world in a cottage in deepest, darkest Dorset. There began a journey of recovery and rediscovery. Little by little, the brothers had to piece back together Reuben's world, help him to find his voice and find ways for him to trust the world again. This is a book about care, about Down's syndrome, about love. It is a story of resilience and patience in a world that Reuben thought had abandoned him.

Brother. Do. You. Love. Me.

By Manni Coe, Reuben Coe (illustrator),

What is this book about?

The story of two brothers, one with Down syndrome, and their extraordinary journey of resilience and repair.

"Profoundly moving and hugely uplifting."—Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Reuben, aged 38, was living in a home for adults with learning disabilities. He hadn’t established an independent life in the care system and was still struggling to accept that he had Down syndrome. Depressed and in a fog of antidepressants, he hadn’t spoken for over a year. The only way he expressed himself was by writing poems or drawing felt-tip scenes from his favorite musicals…

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