Best Dragon Fantasy Books

Fantasy Books with Dragons as Major Characters
Flight of the Ancients: The Best Dragon Fantasy Books Unveiled

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.

Books in Rain Wilds Chronicles Series (3)

Because, duh, it was going to be on here somewhere. I almost feel as if it isn't worth writing an entry on this one, because everyone knows it so well, but here goes.A Game of Thrones was the forerunner of the modern grimdark fantasy movement, and popularised the sort of gritty realism that is present in so many fantasy books today. Without it, it's likely that many of the other books on this list would exist. However, as the series progresses it does become bloated, and it's concerning that the series doesn't seem to be nearing completion anytime soon, but I digress. The first book is amazing, and if you haven't read it, you can't rightly call yourself a modern fantasy fan, you peasant. George R. R. Martin wasn't afraid to break with convention and just kill the shit out of his protagonists, or maim them in the most horrible ways, and coming from the eighties and nineties where most fantasy books were decidedly clean and heroic, that was a big deal. Thanks George.Read this if: you are a human being with eyes.

Books in A Song Of Ice And Fire Series (7)

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.
The Napoleonic Wars seem to be an especially fascinating era for writers; this series is the second on the list set in this time period at the turn of the 19th century. His Majesty's Dragon, the first in the Temeraire series, takes place in an alternate version of the world where intelligent dragons are used as military air forces in both Asia and Europe.The books center on the dragon Temeraire and his handler, Will Lawrence, who fight on the side of British forces, Lawrence having become a dragonrider when an egg unexpectedly falls into his hands. Lawrence, originally part of the Naval Corps, must learn to navigate the very different world of the Aerial Corps of which he has just joined, while at the same time rearing his dragon and teaching him about the world. This development of the curious bond between dragon and rider is one of the strengths of this book, with fans reveling in their humorous and heartwarming interactions.While the book may not contain many female characters, the ones that do exist are progressive for their time, riding dragons themselves. There is no ‘good vs. evil' battle here, which many fantasy fans may find refreshing, letting themselves instead imagine what the world could have been like if dragons existed.Read if You Like: dragons, alternate history, military fiction

Books in Temeraire Series (10)

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.

Books in Age Of Fire Series (2)

The story opens with a moderately well-to-do family gathering at the deathbed of their father, and fighting over the inheritance - not his gold hoard, which has been divided equitably, but what portion each of his children and their spouses will get to eat of his dead carcass. And if all this talk of eating puts you off, don't worry, it is not at all gory, and treated as an entirely reasonable part of dragon life, and indeed, the only way that dragons can grow is by consuming dragon-flesh. This comedic story deals with one family's quest to grow, nurture and establish themselves properly in society, and of course find true love.Why it's on the listThis is a fun, charming book. Imagine Jane Austen with dragons. The culture of dragons depicted is not merely a mirror of Victorian culture with dragons substituted for people; it is a fun re-imagining of dragon lore with subtle plotlines.Although it tackles familiar themes of love and courtship, class equality, revenge, and moral obligation, Tooth and Claw explores these through a different lens, creating a remarkable and entertaining reading experience.Read if you likeElizabethan mash-ups, comedy, dragons

Books in Frank Frazetta's Death Dealer Series (4)

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.

Books in Eon Series (1)

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.
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.
The Hobbit is one of the most well-loved fantasy novels of all time. Written by J.R.R Tolkien as a bedtime story for his children, The Hobbit is a light-hearted tale, focussing on the exploits of an increasingly adventurous hobbit named Bilbo Baggins. Set in the same world as The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit ties into and lays the foundations for Tolkien's more famous work. However, The Hobbit, which functions as an excellent standalone book, definitely shouldn't be viewed as an inconsequential novella or tie-in novel. Unfortunately, Tolkien occasionally gets caught up in the minor details of world-building, spending entire chapters on meandering side plots. While this can make for slow read at times, Tolkien's masterful character development is sure to keep the reader hooked from the first page. Bilbo is one of Tolkien's most relatable characters, an unassuming hobbit who is plucked from his comfortable life and thrust into a fantastical world of magic, thievery and battle. In comparison to The Lord of The Rings trilogy, Tolkien keeps The Hobbit grounded in a single main storyline. Instead of trying to save all of Middle-earth, Bilbo and his companions are dedicated to one goal – to steal an ancient relic from a dragon's treasure trove. Since being published in 1937, The Hobbit has stood the test of time, and it remains an incredibly popular novel to this day.

Books in The Lord Of The Rings Series (6)

Dragonriders of Pern is the dragon rider series against which all dragon fantasies should be measured. McCaffrey weaves a believable, spellbinding tale of a world of men and dragons battling against an uncaring enemy and the capricious self-centeredness of all men. The epic story of how one man, believing in the tales of the past when everyone else ignored them, manages with the help of his co-leader and his brother to save the world, and make themselves legends in the process. Why it's on the list McCaffrey pulls off wonders with her writing - no other author could have concocted or done justice to Pern and its people as she does. The Pern series is possibly the most incredible series you will ever read, from the empathetic and majestic dragons to the likable and unique characters who ride them. She manages to conjure a complex society, has characters that you can't help but become interested in, and writes compelling story lines. And then, of course, there are the dragons - you fall in love with their distinctive personalities just as much as you do with the human characters. You will not be able to wait for the next book. When you sit down to read one, you will tend to forget about the things that you need to do and read the book until it is done. Read if you like Dragons. Sword and Sorcery.
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.

Books in The Dragon Jousters Series (3)