There’s something about The Year of the Dragon (really, just say it aloud) that is going to get any self-respecting fantasy geek pretty stoked. With that in mind, we’re going to embrace this draconic year, which began this week, by noting all the books you’ll want add to your reading list, lest you upset the fire-breathing lizard looking over your shoulder.
“A Dance with Dragons” by George R.R. Martin
Could this list have started with anything other than the fifth book in Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series? He’s played up the character drama and intrigue and played down the supernatural for four books now. With the trouble in the North brewing and some winged beasts afloat, look for “A Dance with Dragons” to start your year off grizzly and brutally, but right.
“Inheritance” by Christopher Paolini
If you haven’t started the YA phenomenon the Inheritance Cycle, you’re missing out on one of the most-loved dragon-themed fantasy collections ever written. Go back and start from the beginning if need be, but if you’re all caught up, expect an exciting conclusion to the tale of Eragon and his dragon Saphira.
“Dragonflight” by Anne McCaffrey
McCaffrey’s series, begun in 1968, is timeless. Start with “The Dragonriders of Pern” and jump to the “Renegades of Pern” and “Harper Hall” as well. The story focuses on the symbiotic, telepathic relationship between humans and their dragons and their never-ending battle against a looming threat dubbed the Thread. There’s enough reading here to keep you in Pern for the entire year, and characters like Lessa are compelling enough that you won’t mind at all.
“Beowulf” by Unknown (Seamus Heaney translation)
This classic poem is likely more than 1,000 years old and an epic in the same vein as Homer’s “Odyssey.” Grendel might be better remembered as the villain here, but think of him as a pit stop before a dragon jumps in the mix. Even if it’s not the first dragon story ever written, it’s one of the best.
“Dragons of Autumn Twilight” by Margaret Weis
Similar to the Dragonriders series, Weis’s Dragonlance series could take over your life if you’re not already well into it. Overall, there are more than 90 (yes, 90) books to wade through, but the journey is going to be a rewarding one. By the time it’s finished, expect to live through more than a few lives in more than a few worlds—Krynn being a world that’s very difficult to forget. Start with “The Dragons of Autumn Twilight,” published in 1984; and by all means, skip around a bit.
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson
So, not exactly a dragon, but Lisbeth is sometimes scarier than one. A different beast entirely from the fantasy on this list, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is a shocking mystery that should only be jumped into with a strong stomach and an open mind.
“His Majesty’s Dragon” by Naomi Novak
The first book of the Temeraire series, Novak’s “His Majesty’s Dragon” is an alternate history tale that puts dragons in the skies during the Napoleonic era. Capt. Will Laurence inherits a dragon egg and that starts an aerial war of dragon-on-dragon action for the glory of the Empire. The latest book, “Tongues of Serpents” (book six) was released in 2010, and the next, “Crucible of Gold,” is scheduled for a March 2012 release. Read quick and you’ll be ready when it drops.
“Bazil Broketail” by Christopher Rowley
Just because a book has friendly dragons, that doesn’t mean it’s destined for kids. Rowley’s Bazil Broketail series, starting with this episode, is an under-the-radar gem. The books are tough to find, but seeking them out online is worth the effort. Bazil and his orphan-friend Relkin are memorable characters and their seven-book journey is a worth-the-work adventure.
“Eona,” by Alison Goodman
The second book in the young adult series by Goodman, “Eona” is the story of Eon, a dragoneye—a human link to a dragon’s power. Eon’s no longer disguised as a boy in a class system where girls can’t aspire to learn dragon magic, so expect more drama concerning her unique powers this time around. The series is a duology, so it’s easy enough to start and finish quickly and yet another spin on dragon-human relationships.