Please recommend to me books prominently featuring dragons that will meet my rather high (and specific) standards. Lots of details to calibrate your suggestions inside.
posted by Caduceus to media & arts (37 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
I have always loved the fantasy genre, and I have also always loved dragons, but seldom have the twain met--dragons, it seems to me, are pretty low hanging fruit, and people who like dragons will read not very good books as long as they have dragons in them. Some authors have based their entire careers around this. I also find it harder, as I have gotten older and found myself with less and less free time, to find novels that I find fun or interesting enough to devote the time investment required to read them. After all, I could be spending time with my fiance, playing a video game, or reading Metafilter instead.
Further, I like only certain depictions of dragons. I don't like dragons that are dumb beasts, and I don't like dragons that don't feel very much like, you know, Dragons with a capital D. I want big, powerful, smart, fire-breathing monsters. Many books I've tried that feature dragons basically feature human minds with the bodies of dragon. Smaug is basically the best dragon villain that I have encountered in literature. Other than Smaug, my favorite version/depiction of dragons are those in the Shadowrun roleplaying game setting--smart, devious, dangerous creatures with both personality and mystery, though note I've never managed to get through a Shadowrun novel.
I don't need dragons to necessarily be the protagonists, but they do need to feature fairly prominently. I like fantasy set on Earth, particularly modern Earth, more than I like fantasy set on other worlds, but other worlds are fine if the book is good. I tend to favor more modern writing, but I certainly won't turn down older books, as long as they're not too dry or difficult to read. To help calibrate your suggestions, here are some books I do and do not like.
-The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher: one of my very favorite series of novels, maybe my very favorite simply based on the fact that there is more of it than any of the others. This is the ideal thing I'm looking for, action packed, fun, not too heavy, and reasonably well written.
-The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, by Patricia C. Wrede: basically my favorite series of novels featuring dragons. The dragons are a little on the human side, personality wise, but they still feel enough like dragons to be satisfying to read about.
-The Dark Tower series by Stephen King: I like a lot of King's stuff, though I attempted to reread a few things that I loved the first time through recently (Needful Things and It) and found myself wishing someone would get the man an editor who would stand up to him and actually cut some shit. And that's his older books. I have not read the most recent Dark Tower, but I have read the rest of the series three times and enjoyed them.
-The Kingkiller Chronicles (?) by Patrick Rothfuss: fuck this dude can write. Don't love his dragons, though. Seriously, there's crazy weird fae and murderous demon dudes, but dragons are just big dumb lizards?
-Early Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter novels, by Laurell K Hamilton: I really enjoyed the first... six? Before they started getting too terribly sex heavy and she started losing control of her story lines. She writes great action scenes. I found the Dresden Files searching for a replacement for this. I have yet to find other "urban fantasy" that I like as much as those two.
-Harry Potter: Potter is great. Don't dig the beast type dragons, though.
-Neil Gaiman: I love everything by Neil Gaiman.
At One Point I Liked:
-The Dragonlance Chronicles and The Death Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman: I loved both these series when I was a teenager (partially because of the dragons) when I was a teenager. I have tried to reread them both in the past five years or so and just lost interest early on.
-The Wheel of Time by Jordan et al: Again, when I was a teenager, and had approximately the same maturity level as the male protagonists, I really dug this series. I tried to reread the first book two or three years ago, and it was a real bummer. The writing was not what I remembered, and the gender dynamics were just the pits.
-The Word and the Void trilogy, by Terry Brooks: Pretty good. A little darker, but good modern earth fantasy with some pretty good action. I used to really love them, but have not revisited them recently.
Fine, don't love them:
-Anything by Terry Pratchett: He's a very good writer. He does not write books I love to read, though Thief of Time is an exception to that; I remember really loving that one, though I have not revisited it. I have not read more of his books than I have read; I think I got through about ten before I decided I had gotten it. Note: Please do not answer if your goal is to get me to reconsider Pratchett. Though I will certainly consider any Pratchett novels prominently featuring dragons that I may have missed.
-Temeraire, by Naomi Novak: I enjoyed the first... two(?) of these, and then simply didn't get around to reading anymore. So I guess I didn't love them. They are fun and I will probably get around to the rest of them eventually, but I'm not a huge fan of novels where the humans have the dominant position in the human-dragon relationship dynamic. See also that one series by Harry Turtledove, which I read all of for some reason, even though the dragons were dumb beasts and it was basically exactly the same as all his other books except he replaced the rifles with magic sticks.
-The Hobbit: Pretty easy read, pretty fun, pretty old fashioned. And Smaug is totally great. Just the epitome of evil dragon.
Do Not Like:
-Pern: those aren't dragons, they're genetically engineered teleporting fire-breathing lizards, and also there's even more sex than Anita Blake. No thanks.
-A Song of Fire and Ice: Just a total bummer. Did nothing but make me sad, until I gave up a third of the way through the first book. I'll probably give the show a shot at some point when it's easy to access.
-Earthsea: Just... very dry and slow. I tried real hard, and just gave up after a while.
-Mercedes Lackey and Andre Norton: I think I read some of each when I was a teenager, and probably finished but did not love their books even then.
-Everything else by Terry Brooks: He just had to go and connect his one good series, The Word and the Void, to fucking Shannara. Good grief.
-The Lord of the Rings: It took me six months to read the Two Towers because it was real, real boring, and then I got to the literally hundreds of pages of Hobbits walking through a wasteland in Return of the King. Man oh man.
-China Meiville: He's like the shitty, pretentious Neil Gaiman.
Hopefully that is enough to give you something to go on. Thank you very much in advance, sorry this is so long just for book recommendations.