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Best Dragon Fantasy Books

Fantasy Books with Dragons as Major Characters

One subgenre that hasn't really formally been defined is “dragon fantasy” – those books in which dragons feature as a major part of the book, even being cast as one of the major characters. Typically, these creatures are majestic, rarified, and have some ability to communicate with other individuals, either through speech or telepathy.

Many fantasy books have dragons, but few feature dragons as something other than wild beasts to be ridden or slain. This list gives you some of the best out that contain dragons as major parts of the story or even major characters in the story itself. In this specific list I rank the books here keeping in mind the strength of the story, the characters and setting, and how important dragons are to the story (which is why you may see some fantastic fantasy books feature lower on the list than you might expect as dragons in those books don't play as central a role as in the other books). If a dragon is not a central part of the story, plot, or a character itself in the novel, it WILL NOT BE ON THIS LIST.

Because I'll invariably receive comments asking about this: I've intentionally left off many books from this list which I don't consider 'the best' dragon fantasy. This includes Eragon and the Dragonlance novels.


Hobb’s Farseer trilogy incorporates a dragon theme into the mythos of the world, though dragons are not really a tangible presence in the day-to-day happenings of the book. Her not-quite-a-direct-sequel series, Live Ship Traders, introduces more of her vision of dragons to the reader, and dragons do play a central role in the series (though the book is not necessarily directly focused on them). However, her new trilogy, Dragon Keeper, is all about dragons and humans. Hobb really makes dragons central characters (even protagonists) to the story. She knows how to write and how to create indelible characters and complex relationships (and in this case, she really plays on the human-dragon relationship idea). One of the best series out there that creates well-drawn, realistic dragon characters who are real personalities. You don’t necessarily have to read Farseer or LiveShip Traders before Dragon Keeper, but both series really build up the mythos of Hobb’s world and the stories are somewhat (if indirectly) connected. To get the full picture, you should read the prequel series first.

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Dragons are a central part of the mythos of the story and become very important in some of the later books. However, they are not day-to-day characters, but rather a more abstract concept. Dragons start becoming more and more central to the story in the later books (book 5, for example).

This is a fantastic series, indeed, one of the best fantasy series in the genre. But the focus of this list is actually on Dragons and while Dragons are important to the central story in Martin's work, they are more of a back story for most of the series. If you want a book with dragons that focus more heavily on dragons or sentient dragons who play a big role in the book, then skip this recommendation.

Books in A Song of Ice an... Series (7)

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The Iron Dragon's Daughter

(Michael Swanwick)

Not a standard fantasy. This is one of those books that puts the onus on the readers to understand the story, characters, and setting. But if you put in the work, you may find the whole thing enormously enjoyable. The prose is deliberately ponderous, slowly peeling away at the plot one onion skin at a time. Yes, there are dragons here in this novel, ruthless sentient creatures used as weapons of mass destructions by the elven lords that command them. It’s a simple story on the surface featuring a human who works in a dragon factory. She’s a changeling – a human who can manifest different forms. She’s contacted by an ancient dragon who suggests a means by which she and he might escape the factory prison. Thus begins the complex relationship between Jane and the dragon – a relationship that underpins and directs much of what happens in the novel. Read this one for a good mix of steampunk and fantasy and a non-standard tale that with a bit of work, you will enjoy.

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With a Martin-esque plot and Jim Butcher pace, The Axe and the Throne is a definite "must read" for even the pickiest fantasy fans.

In his stunning debut, Ireman has built the type of world so vivid and engrossing that leaving it at the end is agony. In spite of leaning toward grimdark, where authors often enshroud every scene in depressing darkness, there is no lack of cheerful moments or brilliant scenery. Yet the pangs of near-instant nostalgia that come after you put down a book like this have less to do with the inspired setting, and far more to do with those who inhabit it. 

From savage, unremorseful heroes, to deep, introspective villains, the cast of this story is comprised of believable characters capable of unthinkable actions. And it is these characters -- the ones you wish you could share a drink with or end up wanting to kill -- that forge the connection between fantasy and reality. Keethro, Titon, Ethel, Annora. These are names you will never forget, and each belongs to a man or woman as unique as they are memorable. 

No book would be complete without a its fair share of intrigue, however, and there is no lack of it here. Each chapter leaves you wanting more, and Ireman's masterful use of misdirection leads to an abundance of "oh shit" moments. Do not be fooled (or do -- perhaps that's part of the fun) by storylines that may appear trope-ish at first. This is no fairytale. 

Available on Amazon & Audible, Barns & Noble, iTunes, Google, and Kobo.


His Majesty's Dragon

(Naomi Novik)
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Award Nominations:2007 HUGO

Think Napoleonic Wars, but with talking dragons instead of ships for navel warfare. The first three books in the series are by far the best, after which the series declines in quality. However, the dragon concept portrayed in the books is very well done and the dragons are an integral part of the story and in fact, they are characters in their own right. If you like dragons, you won’t want to miss this series. The unique setting and re-imagined period history makes the books all that much better.

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Dragon Champion

(E.E. Knight)
(Age of Fire)

Unlike the other entries on this list, Age of Fire actually stars dragons as the characters. It’s an interesting twist with the story being solely about dragons. This carries on the popular animal-perspective fantasy (Watership Down, Redwall series, etc), but one that features dragons, not moles or rabbits. This is not a gentle fairy tale though, and there is plenty of violence and death in this story. The author renders both human and dragon characters in shades of grey. Knight E.E. takes many of the typical dragon conceits (dragons love gems and gold, all dragons are violent beasts, etc) and changes them around, injecting his own mythos into the world; it works, and the world he creates feels realistic and well drawn. Overall, a well done series. A must read if you are a dragon fan.

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Tooth And Claw

(Jo Walton)
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Awards Won:2004 WFA

Another dragon tale that’s not your standard fantasy with dragons. This one throws a few interesting ideas into the mix: everyone in the book is a dragon. You see, the author reimagines a world where humans are, well, dragons. Scheming clergymen, petty nobility, heroic do-gooders – everyone is a scaly 15 + foot dragon. The narrative is well done in this one, with a similar style to say Jane Austen or even Lois Bujold. The premise sounds a bit strange when you first start into the book, but you soon suspend all disbelief as the narrative skillfully leads you into the thick of things. A great read and if you are sick to death of all the overdone standard fantasy tropes, this very well written, fresh take on the dragon subgenre will delight you.

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Award Nominations:1987 CLARKE

Features a dragon theme. Complex characters and relationships make this a compelling read. The author really plays around with gender identity issues here, but does so in a way that's not too hamfisted. It's a great read for anyone who likes fantasy that takes a bite out of some of the social issues we have.

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One of the more interesting dragon tales out there. Arlian, a young boy, survives a dragon attack which destroys his entire village. Dragons, you see, are evil, heartless creatures that appear suddenly from nowhere and prey on man. He’s the sole survivor of a rare dragon attack and he has a dark secret: not only has he’s survived the dragon attack on his village, but he’s survived the dragon venom that runs in his veins and with it, inherits powers that come with a terrible cost. This takes the young-man-wrong-grows-up-and-seeks-revenge tale and breaths some fresh life into the tale, incorporating Dragons into it. You might think of this as The Count of Monte Cristo, the dragon edition. It’s entertaining and exciting the whole way through and certainly one of the better books that feature dragons as a major part of the story; a solid read from an author that’s underappreciated.

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Award Nominations:1986 LocusF

Barbara Hambley almost seems forgotten in most fantasy circles these days, being eclipsed by the new modern crowd of fantasy writers like Martin, Lynch, Erikson, and the like. But in her prime she created some great books. Dragonsbane is one of her best. It’s a tale that incorporates some of the standard sword-and-sorcery tropes but innovates. The characters are all well drawn and complex. Not your proto-typical hero on a quest to slay a dragon at all.

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Featuring dragons and funny as hell. Enough said.

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The Hobbit

(J. R. R. Tolkien)

A band of adventurers set out to plunder the horde of Smaug, the dragon. A lighter tale than Lord of the Rings, but every bit as good. The whole story revolves around reaching (and defeating) the talking dragon, but most of the story focuses on the journey itself and the adventures characters face in actually getting to that point first. Peter Jackson is releasing a cinematic take on The Hobbit in December, so I expect The Hobbit to soon become uber popular (not that it hasn’t been already for decades).

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The Dragonriders Of Pern

(Anne McCaffrey)

(Dragonriders of Pern)

An older fantasy series about dragons and the humans that ride them; these novels are perhaps the first that really explored human-dragon relationships in great detail. The dragons are real characters, not just beasts of burden to be slain or ridden (though both happen).

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If you want a fresh (and more fantasy instead of sci-fi) update to the Pern series, you probably won’t find anything closer than Mercedes Lackey’s Dragon Jouster series. They are decent, though not spectacular reads.

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Publicly Ranked Version of the List

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