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January 20, 2019 5:30 PM   Subscribe

I would like to read some fantasy novels (ideally aimed at adults) that feature unicorns or dragons as characters, rather than cool-but-not-sapient horses/lizards. Protagonists, antagonists, or support characters are all good, so long as they're prominently featured. Other snowflake details below.

I'm okay with a certain level of violence, but would prefer to avoid the grimdark or sexual violence in specific. Please assume that I am familiar with the works of Tolkien and Peter S Beagle.

Thank you!
posted by darchildre to Media & Arts (28 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Are you familiar with Pern? That’s the obvious series that springs to mind for me; lots of dragons who are real fleshed out characters.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:33 PM on January 20 [6 favorites]

You need the Birth of the Firebringer trilogy.
posted by TwoStride at 5:35 PM on January 20

Jo Walton's Tooth and Claw, in which dragons are Anthony Trollope characters.
posted by clew at 5:39 PM on January 20 [9 favorites]

Oo, also Pamela Dean's The Secret Country trilogy. The dragons and unicorns are fairly confusing to the protagonists, and definitely not human, but definitely people. I really like those books.
posted by clew at 5:40 PM on January 20 [3 favorites]

I’ve been reading and enjoying Rachel Aaron’s Heartstriker urban fantasy series about a clan of dragons in the magical future dystopian Detroit Free Zone. They are very people-like, albeit potentially thousand year old, near impossible to kill, amazingly beautiful, heartless people who can turn into enormous fire breathing magic reptiles. It’s funnier than it sounds.
posted by hungrytiger at 5:40 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]

Ariel, by Steve Boyett. The title character is a unicorn although she's not the main character.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 5:49 PM on January 20 [2 favorites]

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. Seraphina is the protagonist and she is half human, half dragon.

Naomi Novik's Tremaire series, which starts with His Majesty's Dragon. It's like Master and Commander but with dragons.
posted by tofu_crouton at 5:50 PM on January 20 [14 favorites]

Fire and Heist was fun, but YA. Rachel Aaron wrote a series about them, starting with Nice Dragons Finish Last.
posted by jeather at 5:52 PM on January 20

Naomi Novik's Temeraire series (named for the main dragon character!) might hit the spot. Aimed for adults and frequently on the NYT bestseller list, imagine O'Brien's Jack Aubrey series if dragons featured prominently...
posted by invincible summer at 6:00 PM on January 20 [8 favorites]

Eragon. It's YA but still highly enjoyable. Get through the first novel in the series and then the fun begins.
posted by Temeraria at 6:03 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]

MacAvoy’s Tea with the Black Dragon is a blast from the past with ambiguity about whether a character really is a dragon or just a charming mad man. I liked it because the central romance was between middle aged characters.
posted by jadepearl at 6:06 PM on January 20 [6 favorites]

I think you might enjoy Patricia C. Wrede's The Enchanted Forest Chronicles: Dealing with Dragons, Searching for Dragons, Calling on Dragons, and Talking to Dragons.
posted by Hermione Granger at 6:15 PM on January 20 [13 favorites]

Another vote for Naomi Novik's Temeraire series. The series really develops the dragons as characters. They start out as a sort of sentient flying “ships of the line”, but in later books there are draconic civil rights campaigners, not to mention some dragons who invest their treasure hordes in mutual funds!
posted by monotreme at 6:20 PM on January 20 [4 favorites]

Another vote for Naomi Novik's Temeraire series.

posted by pompomtom at 6:34 PM on January 20 [4 favorites]

Audrey Faye’s Dragon Kin series is YA but sweet and well-written the Dragons are important characters.
posted by agatha_magatha at 6:43 PM on January 20

I also came to recommend the Enchanted Forest series, the dragons are complex characters with complicated politics and varied personalities.
posted by a hat out of hell at 6:53 PM on January 20 [4 favorites]

Sorry, I should mention - I have read the Temeraire series. (They were great.)
posted by darchildre at 7:01 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]

Jo Walton's Tooth and Claw is a v subtle, v. funny, comedy of manners, but the manners here being about dragons. Really like Trollope, but dragons.
posted by PinkMoose at 7:02 PM on January 20

Your question reminded me of the Epyllion RPG (softcover, pdf-only, dragon deck), which is a little off-topic, but a cursory glance at your posting history suggested you might enjoy it as well.
posted by Wobbuffet at 7:55 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]

Genevieve Cogman's Invisible Library series has several dragon characters and the later books have dragon-intensive plots.
posted by mogget at 7:58 PM on January 20

Barbara Hambly's Dragonbane, and sequels.
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:13 AM on January 21 [1 favorite]

I really love the way the dragons are written in Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea books. The Farthest Shore is the one with the most dragon content-- it's part of a series, but works as a standalone book also.
posted by ITheCosmos at 4:13 AM on January 21 [1 favorite]

I think you might enjoy Patricia C. Wrede's The Enchanted Forest Chronicles: Dealing with Dragons, Searching for Dragons, Calling on Dragons, and Talking to Dragons.
posted by Hermione Granger

Yesssss, I jumped in here like lightning to recommend these books. I just reread them for the first time in 15 years and they held up perfectly! Technically YA, but just as good as any lighthearted adult fantasy out there.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 6:03 AM on January 21

You might try Dawn Cook's Truth series, though I can't be explicit about where the dragon-like beings come into it, because of major spoilers.
posted by gudrun at 7:28 AM on January 21

Thirding Tooth and Claw. Quite unlike anything I'd read before—an attempt to posit "what if the characters were obliged by biology to act the way people act in regency romances, and were also dragons." It was a very rewarding read.
posted by Sokka shot first at 7:39 AM on January 21

Robin McKinley's DragonHaven features many dragons. Explaining too much would be spoiler-y but suffice it to say it meets your criteria even though at first it appears it will not.
posted by DSime at 8:20 AM on January 21 [1 favorite]

Patricia Briggs' Dragon Bones and Dragon Blood. Also an unusual and moving take on the `mighty-thewed warrior of the north'.
posted by clew at 12:18 PM on January 21

There are dragons in The Magicians series but they are minor characters.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 3:32 PM on January 21

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