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13 of the Best Dragons in Fantasy Fiction

Be your own Khalessi and tame these dragons.

If we’ve learned anything from Daenerys Targaryen, it’s that being Khaleesi is hard work. Not only do you have to constantly emerge unscathed from blazing infernos to awe your enemies, but there’s also an army of Unsullied to lead, a kingdom across the ocean to reclaim, and of course, three teenage dragons to deal with. We hear you—that’s why we’ve put together an epic list of books that will help you channel your inner Khaleesi and slay/tame/befriend those real, or figurative, dragons. 

Buy Dragonsbane at Amazon

Dragonsbane

By Barbara Hambly

As a vicious dragon stalks his kingdom, a young prince has no choice but to seek help from a warrior who’s seen better dragon-slaying days and a witch with a lot of ambition, but not a lot of ability. You know what they say: What you lack in ability … will most likely get you sautéed by an angry dragon, so best stay home. Sadly, in order to save his kingdom the young prince, the aged warrior, and the almost-witch must join forces and defeat the dragon, or, well, die trying. 

Dragonsbane

By Barbara Hambly

Buy Spellsinger at Amazon

Spellsinger

By Alan Dean Foster

Jonathan Thomas Meriweather is a typical college student, constantly thinking about girls, music, and getting high. But when a journey through an interdimensional portal lands him in a world of talking animals and dark magic (as they do), he finds he is on a very different trip indeed. Now he must learn how to use a magical musical instrument and team up with a semi-senile turtle wizard; a thieving, backstabbing otter; and a bewildered Marxist dragon to prepare an army for the war to come. 

RELATED: The Re-Read: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe 

Spellsinger

By Alan Dean Foster

Buy The Hero and the Crown at Amazon

The Hero and the Crown

By Robin McKinley

As the daughter of a rumored witch, Aerin is an outcast in her own father’s court. That’s right, she’s the daughter of the king. What is she to do but befriend her father’s retired warhorse and experiment with an old recipe for a dragon-fire-proof ointment? When there is news of a marauding dragon, Aerin slips off alone to fetch her horse, her sword, and her fireproof ointment. Aerin will find her way into your hearts as she rides full force towards a battle against the last of the great dragons. 

The Hero and the Crown

By Robin McKinley

Buy Dragon's Winter at Amazon

Dragon's Winter

By Elizabeth A. Lynn

How cool would it be to shift into a dragon? Imagine soaring through the skies and eating, like, an entire cow? Ok, maybe just that first bit. Born to the shape-shifting dragon king of Ippa, Karadur and Tenjiro are twin brothers, but do not share a bloodline. Only Karadur carries dragon blood, which means he is destined to one day become a dragon and rule the kingdom. But in an act of jealous betrayal, Tenjiro steals the talisman that allows Karadur to take his dragon form, only to reappear years later as an evil sorcerer. Now that his brother has returned, Karadur must lead his shape-shifting warriors on a journey to defeat his Tenjiro and reclaim his destiny. 

Dragon's Winter

By Elizabeth A. Lynn

Buy Three Hearts and Three Lions at Amazon

Three Hearts and Three Lions

By Poul Anderson

When a World War II fighter is transported to a medieval realm of magic and myth, he has more to worry about than just the lack of penicillin and modern weaponry—things like dragons, trolls, werewolves, and giants are amongst the creatures living there. Not only that, this new land seems to have been waiting for him all along. Now stuck in this mysterious land, he must undertake a great but perilous quest in search of the key to his past, while the destinies of both worlds hang in the balance. 

Three Hearts and Three Lions

By Poul Anderson

Buy His Majesty's Dragon at Amazon

His Majesty's Dragon

By Naomi Novik

Do you ever wish history had more dragons? Us too. In His Majesty’s Dragon, Naomi Novik adds a thrilling new element to the Napoleonic Wars—you guessed it: DRAGONS. Captain Will Laurence’s life is turned upside down when an unhatched dragon egg comes into his life, forging an unexpected kinship and thrusting him into the world of Aerial Corps (aka dragon riders). Laurence and his dragon, Temeraire, must prepare to fight, as France’s own dragon-borne forces try to breach British soil. 

His Majesty's Dragon

By Naomi Novik

Buy The Dragon Keeper at Amazon

The Dragon Keeper

By Robin Hobb

Without dragons like Tintaglia, the Traders would be defenseless against their enemies. But dragons are a dying breed, and Tintaglia needs help from the Traders to travel upriver with a set of newly hatched—not to mention vulnerable and damaged—baby dragons in order to restore her species. The Traders recruit Alise, a dragon expert, and Thymara, a young girl who can communicate with dragons, to care for the injured creatures and escort them to their new home. Together, these two embark on a journey that holds no promise of return, but will be one wicked adventure. 

RELATED: 10 Epic Fantasy Books Like Game of Thrones 

The Dragon Keeper

By Robin Hobb

Buy The White Dragon at Amazon

The White Dragon

By Anne McCaffrey

Dragons really make the best friends. Not only can they fly, but they’re very helpful if you ever want to make campfire s’mores. Such is the bond between Lord Jaxom and his extraordinary white dragon, Ruth. Pure white and incredibly agile, Ruth is much more than the runt of the litter. Ruth and Jaxom train in secret, and can even travel back in time. It’s their friendship that will lead them to the most breathtaking discovery of all. 

RELATED: 15 Best Time Travel Books You Haven't Read Yet 

The White Dragon

By Anne McCaffrey

Buy The Dragon and the George  at Amazon

The Dragon and the George

By Gordon R. Dickinson

The once human Jim Eckert is now a dragon, which would be less problematic if the love of his life wasn’t still human. To add to the problem, his beloved Angie has been taken prisoner by an evil dragon and held in an inaccessible creepy tower. Now, Jim must figure out how to save the love of his life (without taking a bite out of her) and use the immense magic of the land to return to his human form. 

The Dragon and the George

By Gordon R. Dickinson

Buy The Great Zoo of China at Amazon

The Great Zoo of China

By Matthew Reilly

Governments keep many secrets, but none is bigger than the existence of actual, real live dragons! As the first to scientifically prove that dragons exist, China has big plans for their findings, including opening the greatest zoo ever created to house these creatures. If it sounds like an idea up there with a theme park filled with dinosaurs (looking at you, Jurassic Park), you are totally right. When a small group of VIPs and journalists travel to China to see these fabulous creatures for the first time things go perfectly fine and everyone has a good time. Just kidding. Because to quote Dr. Ian Malcolm: “Life … uh … finds a way.” 

RELATED: 7 Compelling Michael Crichton Movies 

The Great Zoo of China

By Matthew Reilly

Buy Guards! Guards! at Amazon

Guards! Guards!

By Terry Pratchett

Truly a master of combining humor, heart, and fantasy, Pratchett is not to be missed. If you haven’t read any of his work (gasp!), the Discworld series is a great place to start. In this series within a series, we enter a land where the draco nobilies (“noble dragons”) have long believed to be extinct … until now. Not only does this creature tend to charbroil everything in its path, it also manages to be crowned King—and you thought American politics were scary. Now it’s up to the City Watch to restore local order and the kingdom. Magic, mayhem, and a marauding drago … who could ask for anything more? 

Guards! Guards!

By Terry Pratchett

Buy A Wizard of Earthsea at Amazon

A Wizard of Earthsea

By Ursula K. LeGuin

In the first book in the beloved Earthsea series, we meet Ged, the greatest sorcerer in the land, when he was … just Ged, a kind of reckless Sparrowhawk that has a lot to learn. In the grand tradition of the inexperienced ruining things for the rest of us, his hunger for power and knowledge leads him to tamper with long-held secrets, releasing a terrible shadow upon the world. Nice going, Ged. This tale follows how he finally mastered the words of power, tamed an ancient dragon, and crossed death’s threshold to restore the balance. 

A Wizard of Earthsea

By Ursula K. LeGuin

Buy Tooth and Claw at Amazon

Tooth and Claw

By Jo Walton

So far we’ve encountered dragon riders, dragon slayers, and humans who can shapeshift into dragons, but we’ve yet to hear a story from the point of view of the dragon itself. That is, until now. Did you know that dragons could fall in love? That they could struggle with grief and responsibility? Tooth and Claw is a classic tale of family, love, tragedy, and honor in which the mythical creatures are no longer things to be destroyed or conquered, but beings that love, experience loss, and grapple with politics as we do. Trust us, you have never read anything like it! 

Tooth and Claw

By Jo Walton

Featured Photo: Game of Thrones (HBO)

Published on 24 May 2016

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