Rebekah has worked 10 years in public libraries. They have recommended books to readers of all ages and hopes you'll enjoy her suggestions!
Bronze Medal : Harper Hall Trilogy by Anne McCaffrey
In this instance, the Bronze Medal goes to Anne McCaffrey's Harper Hall Trilogy. I was hesitant to list all of the Pern books as a whole, because many are not my favorite books. It might sound tiring, but McCaffrey is possibly my all-time favorite author, for many reasons. While not the best way to rank books or authors, I first read Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern in middle school, and frankly the book nearly saved my life. I was so enthralled by Moreta that I absolutely had to devour anything else written in this fabulous world. Moreta is still, hands down, my favorite Pern book.
Knowing that I did not want, nor should I, place the entire Pern series in any single category, I then looked at what I thought was the best all-around portion of this epic world. Dragonsdawn was daunting for me at first, because as a middle schooler, even one who was a consistent and high-level reader, it was a bit dry. I read it later in high school and could appreciate it for the origin story that it was, but it still never ranked in my top five favorite Pern stories. Dolphins of Pern, All the Weyrs of Pern, Dragonseye, each of these are also amazing and wonderful stories set in this world. Dragonseye I recall with great admiration as well. Skies of Pern and Renegades of Pern were among those I read, enjoyed, but didn't hasten to reread so many times as Moreta. Masterharper of Pern was, unfortunately, disappointing to me. Lastly, the central trilogy of Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and The White Dragon is the standard go-to read for anyone first venturing into Pern. Dragonflight is the first published novel, after all, and quite frankly the trilogy is amazing. It aged fairly well, with some problems, and I have owned many copies of each of these books, including an omnibus that I read until the pages were yellowed and falling out. The fact that Dragonflight was developed out of novellas which helped gain McCaffrey the Hugo and Nebula Awards (and being the first female author to do so) made it 20% cooler.
However, out of all of these, if I were to pick the "best" for myself, it would be the Harper Hall Trilogy. More subdued in theme and writing, it is the most easily accessible for newcomers to Pern, as well as to younger readers. While I myself read some of the more adult novels from the Pern series, my work in public libraries has certainly helped me become more cautious when recommending books to young readers. Harper Hall is a complex enough story to satisfy older and adult readers, particularly if dragons are your fancy, while being young enough and simple enough to give a taste of Pern without throwing so much information out at once. I still own this trilogy, personally, and have read it more times than I could count. It is my second favorite story after Moreta and my favorite "box set" when it comes to Pern.
Dragons in Harper Hall are less visible because the main characters are not part of the caste of dragonriders. What makes Harper Hall so great is the sheer volume of fire-lizards, the tiny shoulder-dragon ancestors to the great fire-breathing beasts of renown. Pern's dragons, however, are more limited, and this is what makes Pern take only bronze. Dragons must be bonded to a human in order to live and exist. If they do not bond within moments of hatching, they die, and if their human dies, they do too. It restricts dragons to being accessories and tools. While they are not treated as such by their riders, and the dragons are shown to be as diversely intelligent as the humans, they are reduced more or less to giant horses that fly and teleport. They cannot speak except telepathically, and while they can speak to someone other than their bonded rider, they generally do not. The fire-lizards cannot even do this, but are still a wonderfully delightful addition to this dragon story.
My Top 5 Favorite Pern Books
Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern
Harper Hall Trilogy
The Skies of Pern
All the Weyrs of Pern
Silver Medal : War of Souls Trilogy by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
The Silver Medal goes to another mega series franchise: Dragonlance. Specifically, I am naming the War of Souls trilogy as the epitome of the core series by Weis and Hickman which began with Chronicles. In contrast with the Harper Hall trilogy, which was not the first Pern series I picked up, I will admit that not only was War of Souls my first venture into Krynn in high school, it has steadily remained my favorite of all the Dragonlance novels. I loved it, and just as I had with Pern, I began seeking out any Dragonlance book (I was overly specific at the time - it had to be a "dragons of..." story). And the dragons in these novels did not disappoint. The Dragonlance campaign setting offers dragons in a complex narrative - there are good metallic dragons, and the evil chromatic dragons. They combine a hierarchical, majestic creature, capable of speech and communication on their own with a privileged caste of dragonriders. They are capable of being characters in their own right, as see with several dragons, while still offering the chance for humans to fly.
After reading War of Souls, I began again in relative chronological order. Autumn Twilight, Winter Night, and Spring Dawning, followed by the connectors/transition novels Summer Flame and Second Generation. By the time I picked up Second Generation I had already read the Chronicles trilogy, Summer Flame, and War of Souls a handful of times. Legends, that is "the Twins Trilogy" for some reason I did not get around to until afterwards, seeing as, well, obviously, it didn't feature dragons! In the end I read it, enjoyed it, have it on my self next to all the others, but I don't think it's ever made it to reread status. When the Lost Chronicles, consisting of Dwarven Depths, Highlord Skies, and Hourglass Mage, was announced, I was giddy, and picked them up the minute they were released. Compared to the first two trilogies (plus Summer Flame), they didn't quite measure up, but they did merit at least one or two re-reads (for chronological purposes). In the end, Lost Chronicles ranks barely above Legends.
Because I'm not typically partial to short story collections, Tales ranks fairly low on my list when it comes to Dragonlance. The Tales and other collections were also not explicitly written by Weis & Hickman, and to my obsessive high school self, they just didn't hit right. I'm trying to revise my criteria and plan to read the stories I willfully skipped, but for now, let it be enough that I rank the ones I did read.
Outside of the core series, there is only one trilogy I read and loved which was A) not written by Weis & Hickman or B) focused on dragons in the storytelling/title is the Elven Exiles trilogy, Sanctuary, Alliances, and Destiny. I was left needing to know what happened after War of Souls so obviously I kept going, regardless of the dragon content provided. I had also began Amber and Ashes, the first book to Weis' Dark Disciple trilogy, but did not continue with it afterwards.
War of Souls shadows everything else, it simply does. The characters and complexity of the story are astounding, especially compared to the simple, straightforward campaign settings of the early books. Although I've probably read Chronicles more frequently, it is because War of Souls stands in that top tier of epic fantasy that other Dragonlance books just don't quite reach. If I'd had the chance, I certainly would have preferred starting with the earlier, less complex books. Dragons of a Fallen Sun is not the easiest or most accessible introduction to the world of Krynn, and I remember being very lost for a good portion of it. But the first few chapters have hung with me as a writer for over a decade, more so than any Anne McCaffrey book.
My Top 5 Favorite Dragonlance Books
War of Souls
Dragons of Summer Flame
Dragons of Winter Night
Gold Medal : The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede
I hemmed and hawed over which of my favorite dragon stories would get the gold medal - and finally I decided on a fairly unlikely choice. Patricia Wrede is a prolific fantasy novelist who specializes in witty stories for teens and young readers. As with all the other books I mention, I picked up her books because of the dragons on the cover and in the title, and I was not disappointed in the slightest. Each of the four books in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles is as good as any other, and I do not have a favorite (though the first and fourth might be slightly higher on that scale than the others). There are just enough books to give a thorough, wonderful landscape of the world, without dragging on and on and taking the risk of becoming formulaic. In my opinion, the Enchanted Forest Chronicles is just as smart and perfectly crafted as any long-form epic fantasy. It absolutely does not take itself seriously at any point in the series, and that is part of what makes it so great.
So how did I choose this series to take the gold, when the mega series such as the Dragonlance and Pern novels only managed bronze and silver? Let me explain a bit of my criteria for all the books in this list. A) dragons had to exist as pivotal characters or devices in the world, B) dragons should constitute an intelligent race allowing them to be characters in their own right, C) they needed to be actively present and participating in the story for more than half of the book or plot. Now, there are several other books that do this, no doubt. But in my world travels through the realms of dragons, I've noticed that dragons tend to be a great and mysterious power, mostly intelligent but often restricted in how and with whom they communicate. In most stories, there are also tales of dragonriders; we see this with both Pern and Dragonlance.
What sets Enchanted Forest Chronicles apart from the other two mentioned here, and several of the others listed below, is that the dragons in Wrede's cycle fit not only those three criteria, but they are treated as if they are just any other race. They are simply dragons, as any other fantasy might have humans and elves and dwarves. They are accepted for being their own kind, and there is no grand, privileged class of dragonriders. Dragons in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles can speak the "human" language (as everyone can) and do not have to rely on being bonded, or speak telepathically. They are not any more good or evil than any other character has the chance to be. They just are, and are allowed to be, and for me that is what makes Enchanted Forest Chronicles worthy of the gold tier in this list.
Honorable Mentions : 5 books or series you might really love
Wings of Fire by Tui T Sutherland
This series is on book 14 and counting (chronologically), including several side-stories and standalone novels that add to the central storyline. Like her other major series, Warriors (penned as Erin Hunter), Wings of Fire is written in sets of 5 books to tell pieces of a story. Beginning with The Dragonet Prophecy, readers enter a world populated almost exclusively by dragons - Pyrrhia (starting with book 11, a new continent of dragons, Pantala, is introduced). This series is another of my favorites, because it goes beyond Enchanted Forest Chronicles. It makes the dragons not only central characters, but literally the only race of characters with speaking and active roles. The diversity of races comes from the varieties of dragons, which makes this series absolutely fantastic. Sutherland's ability to create original dragon races and designs is so far unparalleled. Set firmly in the middle grades category, I'd recommend to any reader of any age if you can get past the simplistic writing and storytelling (it is still a children's series, after all).
Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini
I cannot make a dragons list without mentioning Inheritance. I was equally obsessed with this series in high school as with anything else, and devoured it wholly. I've reread it several times, as well. It does not rank, however. Unlike previous writers, the writing style of the Eragon books did not age well for me, as a reader. It is simplistic and in some places childish, attempting to be greater than it actually is. I love the story still, and have not given up my copies of these books, but it's more difficult to overlook the writing as an adult. Unlike Wings of Fire, I cannot easily forgive the writing only because it is supposed to be marketed towards older readers.
The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King
This is a standalone book, and the only truly fantasy novel written by horror novelist extraordinaire, Stephen King. Growing up, my mother was a huge fan of Stephen King and had nearly all of his books. Including, of course, The Eyes of the Dragon. This book has some problems, namely the fact that King is not a fantasy novelist. In addition to this, the dragon is not a character, rather a trope or element in the story. It is relegated to a legendary beast that is hunted down, fairly early in the book, given no speaking role, and serves as a means to an end. Despite this, the book is worth one good reading, even if the dragon does die. While it's written for his daughter and marketed as young adult, there is some fairly graphic material that King is known for, but it is very quick and much softer than other examples from his work.
The Tears of Artamon by Sarah Ash
This series is so good, and yet so underrated. I had to mention it, even though there aren't really dragons in the same sense as the other books. Rather, the main character is the son of the Drakhaoul, a ruler infused with the bloodthirsty spirit of a dragon being. It is worth mentioning as well because the original "trilogy" was published between 2003 and 2005; but a fourth book was released in 2019. I have not read it yet myself, but it is on my list, and once I have, expect a full review!
Moth and Spark by Anne Leonard
The final book in my honorable mentions is another standalone fantasy. Moth and Spark was written in 2014 and was a book I highly enjoyed. It takes the cake when it comes to quick one-shot fantasy when all you really wanted was a good romance - but anything is better with dragons! Specifically, a prince and a commoner gifted with magic are tasked with freeing the dragons from bondage to the Empire, and no one knows why they are under the Empire's control in the first place. The dragons in this story have limited speech in the form of telepathy, and often speak through their riders, returning to the style Anne McCaffrey and Christopher Paolini follow, making them little more than a side quest in the love story between Corin and Tam. Still, the aspect of dragons as being under control and trying to break free from that control is a nice angle.
What I'm Currently Reading
Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb
So far this book is offering yet another interesting aspect of dragons. I am currently about halfway through the audiobook, and enjoying it greatly. I hope to write a full review once I've finished!
- Dragon Keeper Audiobook on Hoopla Digital
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More from Rebekah
- Audiobook Review: "Rain Wild Chronicles" by Robin Hobb, part 1
Read my review of Dragon Keeper and Dragon Haven!
Do you have favorite dragon stories? Please share them in the comments below!
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2021 Rebekah M