Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Iron Dragon's Daughter” as Want to Read:
The Iron Dragon's Daughter
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Iron Dragon's Daughter

(The Iron Dragon's Daughter #1)

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  3,385 ratings  ·  281 reviews
Jane, a young human changeling, decides to escape servitude in a factory manufacturing enormous flying dragon-machines and undertakes to obtain necessary artifacts and a mastery of her abilities. By the author of Stations of the Tide. Reprint. NYT.
Paperback, 424 pages
Published April 1995 by AvoNova (first published January 1st 1993)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Iron Dragon's Daughter, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Ruslan Rodriguez No-no, no way. So much violence, sexual content, scenes of main characters taking drugs and drinking, lot of cruelty. Even for me it is too much somet…moreNo-no, no way. So much violence, sexual content, scenes of main characters taking drugs and drinking, lot of cruelty. Even for me it is too much sometimes, not sure if I'll end this book or leave it halfway...(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,385 ratings  ·  281 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Iron Dragon's Daughter
This is a very impressive and work of imagination, and while I've read better Swanwick, it's *still* Swanwick, and that means it's head-and-shoulders better than almost anything out there.

This novel gives the illusion that it might be a YA, with a lot of impressive and delightful adventure elements, but it eventually turns into an adult romp full of sex, drugs, and stardom, only to eventually return to its adventure roots. So what makes this piece stand out? Jane is a great character with lots o
Kat  Hooper
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

Some people don't like to admit that they didn't "get" a book, but I'm secure enough with myself to say that I didn't get this one.

The Iron Dragon's Daughter started off well. Jane is a human changeling who works in a Faerie factory that makes flying iron dragons for weapons. Jane and the other child slave laborers (who are a mix of strange creatures) are entertaining and bring to mind Lord of the Flies and that scene in Sid's room from Pixar's Toy Story.
Feb 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Faerie cyberpunk. Jane is a changeling, working as slave labour in the dragon factory. Her life is planned out for her, and it's not particularly pleasant path. Then she meets an iron dragon, and decides to rebel.

This is a FANTASTIC book. The world is incredibly detailed and very well thought out.
The only trouble is, it's about two books in one. We start off with Jane in childhood, and go through to her adulthood. Jane is wonderful. Smart, stubborn, not always especially moral and very, very ang
Meg Jayanth
One of the books on Mieville's list of 50 Scifi and Fantasy Books for Socialists, he tells you that it "completely destroys the sentimental aspects of genre fiction". And holy hell, please do take that warning seriously. Jane is a child-worker in a factory which is building treacherously aware warmachines made of cold iron. These "dragons" are enslaved to their pilots, wills broken by technology and magic, as Jane is essentially a slave to the factory. Until one of the dragons starts whispering ...more
Apr 22, 2015 rated it did not like it
This book made me stabby.
Feels of rage when I was done.
Bad ending was bad.
Margaret Taylor
Apr 28, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I’d read some of the other reviews of The Iron Dragon’s Daughter on Goodreads, so I was forewarned that the author pulls a nasty trick on us around page 80. That still didn’t prepare me for how angry this book was going to make me.

I picked up this book because it’s noteworthy for deconstructing a lot of stock fantasy tropes. It was published in 1993, when fantasy was deep in the ghetto of Tolkien knockoffs. A few years later, A Game of Thrones would start pulling the genre out of Tolkien’s shado
So, you know the feeling you get when you encounter a difficult piece of artwork in a contemporary art museum? Maybe it's a small box left alone on a table. Maybe it's a cake made of plaster. Maybe it's a series of lights shone on a wall. You can pick up on a few clues as to what concept is being explored and what aesthetic is being showcased, but you get the sense that you might just not be intelligent or cultured enough to grasp the big, profound entirety of it all. And then it strikes you: ma ...more
Jul 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I read this book years ago, and it's one of those that really stick with you and rattle around in your head.

If you've ever read classic, well respected literature, you know that the author is telling a raw and original story, and cares nothing about the reader's comfort along the way. That, to me, is the sign of a truly well-written book. You experience the human condition through the writing, and a good part of the human condition is NOT comfortable, pretty, or easy to face.

The genius here (and
May 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is one of those rarities that make my brain a little bit numb from emotion storm. There is nothing coherent, just a storm of love, hatred, questions, guesses, objections, suggestions, alterations, admiration, amusement, dissatisfaction... I want more, but I know that there is no more and there must be no more - for all good things must end by their own will or be twisted into the MacDonald's-like things by others. Such books and the worlds they create is more like a glimpse in the dark ...more
Matthew Kehrt
Jun 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
You'd be surprised how amazingly awesome a book that consists largely of depressing elf sex can be.
Peter Tillman
Jun 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hard fantasy fans
Shelves: favorites, fantasy
This is very likely Swanwick's masterwork. I've read it at least three times, and got something new each time. Not to be missed.

Here's Dave Truesdale's comments on Iron Dragon’sDaughter and the 2008 sort-of sequel, The Dragons of Babel:
"In 1994, Michael Swanwick's The Iron Dragon's Daughter broke new ground and blew everyone away with its heady mix of dystopian dark Faerie and Dickensian machine-age steampunk. It was a truly one-of-a-kind work and I now think it fair to say a fantasy classic."
Mark Newton
Jan 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Cracking little read, this one, bonkers and brave and brash. Totally slaps anyone who suspects ‘gritty’ fantasy is a new thing. This book doesn’t shy away from adult language and themes (war, racism, sexism), and has a pleasing mish-mash of aesthetics, from the gentle veneer of the fae, to the harsh industrial landscape – all mixed with a spot of college antics and sex. Quite likely a deliberate attempt to upset some section of the genre readership – which you’ve got to love, right?
Oct 20, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sf-fantasy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Althea Ann
Not so long ago, I was reading a forum discussion talking about how fantasy worlds never seem to progress past a medieval level of technology; and whether or not it's possible to write a technological fantasy world that is clearly not science fiction.
This book does it, with its plethora of faerie creatures - and our protagonist, a changeling - working in factories and dealing with magical/robotic creations.
The book is complex, with strikingly original ideas, and a carefully plotted structure th
Jan 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was one of the first books that I stumbled upon without anyone ever recommending it to me, and expected the normal fantasy-fare.

Imagine my surprise when this story turned out to be an entirely original tale about a girl trying to find her way in a strange, cruel, bold, ferocious world. I was used to reading about elves and dwarves; this world has giant metal dragons and invisible boys and anthropomorphic characters. And, as it were, elves as well.

I re-read this book every year, just for the
I don't know how to rate this book. It's staid with me years after I read yet - yet I never felt the urge to read ti again, or tell anyone else they should read it.

The faerie realm never felt so real - or so modern. There are factories, cops, malls, high schools, colleges, duplexes - all the trappings of urban and suburban life, but populated entirely by the fair folk, who act very similar, except when the occasional Beltane sacrifice or Samhien orgy comes along. And there's magic and spells de
Aug 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: advanced fantasy readers
An excellent and unusual dark fantasy book. The main character is an anti-hero so be prepared, remember it's a grim, gritty, nihilist fantasy book.

This book is for advanced readers who are familiar with the usual fantasy tropes. People who still prefer the old-style fairytales with heroic heroes may not like it. People who have already read a lot of fantasy and are bored with sparkly vampires and white knights may like this grim tale.
Jul 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read it based on Anatoly Vorobey's review:

"This is fantasy for adults: complex flawed characters, a world rich in detail, multitude of characters who live and do things for their own sake rather than to advance a plot point or help the hero. Utter disregard for conventions and cliches of the genre. A hero who is an anti-Mary Sue. Endless inventiveness of the author. To my taste, this novel is what books like The Kingkiller Chronicles promise, but then utterly fail to deliver. But if you're a f
Apr 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There aren't many moments in my life I can look back at and call them fateful, but the cold afternoon in late November when I came to our humble library, which was a great place that tended to all my passions at once (anime and video games included), and, as usual, checked a stand with books for sale to notice something about dragons...that was one of those moments. I had no idea then, buying this book for a price too cheap to believe now, what a journey was ahead of me.

It should be noted here
Jun 18, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, unfinished
This book was recommended to me somewhere along the way and also appears as part of one of the 'Fantasy Masterworks' series, so I expected it would be good.

The basic premise of The Iron Dragon's Daughter is of a world alongside ours where human children have been stolen to work in the great foundries where dragons are made. Our protagonist, determined to know a different life from the one she is currently leading, makes plans to steal one of the dragons and flee - her plan works well in some way
Jul 19, 2017 marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
I enjoyed the beginning of this, although it confused me. I enjoyed the premise, and the dragon, and although the darkness and grimness of the setting had me on edge, I could appreciate the fact that it did so. If that makes sense. It wasn't my preferred type of setting – I like there to be just a little light somewhere, and I admit I do prefer to like a character or two in what I'm reading – but it was well done and fascinating.

I was confused because it's never explicitly stated where and/or w
Mar 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think I should start off with a warning: This is a dark tale. It's a story about cruelty, betrayal, callousness, depravity, theft, drug use, and ultimately, about remorse.

But the remorse has no impact if we do not pass through the darkness that precedes it.

This is not a novel about the nobility of elves, rather it is about the other kinds of tales that surround them. The darker ones. Another reviewer described this as Faerie Cyberpunk, and I'd say that's not inaccurate. Tolkien impresses us
Megan Doreen
Mar 31, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was the first adult scifi book I ever read. I snuck it home from the Eugene, OR public library when I was 12...since I wouldn't have been allowed to read it. I remember finding it strange, and confusing, and crude...although I didn't understand the crudity fully, I knew it was bad.

I think I always attributed that opinion to the fact that I was too young to read the book at the time. I had since looked it up online and noticed that it won all sorts of awards.

So, almost 20 years later, I got
One of the most intriguing books of science fantasy I've ever read, Iron Dragon's Daughter is set in a strange world that is best described as 'faerie cyberpunk.' Our heroine, Jane, is a changeling, a human child brought into a dark world of faeries, half-breeds and monsters both natural and technological. Jane starts the book working in a factory that produces dragons, huge flying mechs armed with state-of-the-art weaponry, using her unusual ancestry to practice her skills as a thief. One day, ...more
Sep 25, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
Inventive and twisted, this is a dark solipsistic (or perhaps nihilistic) vision of a drug-fueled sex-laced industrial fantasy world. This book is a mixture of sh** and honey, and as such, the inventive good parts can't overcome the feeling that one has consumed something unpleasant and unhealthy. It rates two stars because I find value in both the good inventive parts and the chance for an insight into a mind of someone who is most unlike me. I'm sure this book will stick with me -- but I can't ...more
Mark Saxton
Jul 10, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What begins brilliantly and appears to have the makings of a steam punk classic, wanders off into an unholy mess of disagreeable characters and fantasy cliches existing in a world that is wholly incomprehensible. Had I not read it on holiday I would have binned it a third of the way through and as it was just flicked through the final chapters, by which time I didn't have a care for anyone or anything within its pages.
Feb 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The more I read this, the more I fall in love. This is a life-changer. I will be enslaved to this book for the rest of my life. I would sell my soul to be Jane's pet fly and just live in the glory that is Swanwick's world. (not really, though).

I cannot imagine loving any book more than I love this one. I'm not even sure that level of love exists.
Mar 18, 2008 rated it did not like it
I rarely disliked a fantasy novel. But this one really got to my nerves. I could not enjoy reading the book. I just finished it for the sake of "have nothing else to read" at that moment.

May 10, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fantasy should be a genre that is endlessly creative and surprising, but all too often works of fantasy are mishmashes of swords and magic, chosen ones, kings and court intrigue, the forces of light fighting the forces of darkness, the same tropes you’ve seen before recycled for the thousandth time. The Iron Dragon’s Daughter by Swanwick is the rare fantasy book that, despite featuring the familiar cast of dragons, dwarves, and elves, suffers from having too much that breaks the fantasy mold, no ...more
Matt Deblass
Apr 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a pleasant surprise. It had looked interesting when it first came out, but never seemed to appear on the shelf of the local bookstore. Finally I grabbed the Kindle edition and dove in.
I'd been expecting some sort of Steampunk/Urban Fantasy thing with a young girl and a mechanical dragon, and that much was there, but it was a lot darker and far, far weirder than I'd expected.
The world building is great, a blend of fantasy tropes and subrban mundanities and Swanwick resists the urg
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Other Dragon SciFi? 3 15 Feb 04, 2015 12:03AM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: The Iron Dragon's Daughter--Challenge book 2 10 Oct 14, 2012 12:04PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Tales of the Dying Earth
  • Empress of Forever
  • Gideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb, #1)
  • Of Men and Monsters
  • The Einstein Intersection
  • Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City
  • The Forgotten Beasts of Eld
  • The Dervish House
  • Titus Alone (Gormenghast, #3)
  • The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories
  • The Vanished Birds
  • All That I Have (Lucian Wing Book 1)
  • The Path of the Martyrs: Charles Martel, The Battle of Tours and the Birth of Europe
  • A Little Hatred (The Age of Madness, #1)
  • Pride of Carthage
  • Ship of Fools
  • Jade War (The Green Bone Saga, #2)
See similar books…

Other books in the series

The Iron Dragon's Daughter (3 books)
  • The Dragons of Babel
  • The Iron Dragon's Mother (The Iron Dragon's Daughter #3)

News & Interviews

Space operas, magic, destiny, dystopia, aliens: There's a bit of something for everyone in 2020's latest offerings in science fiction and fantasy...
17 likes · 0 comments
“Silent, unseen, small cousin of death,
Born this instant, closer than breath,
Killer of thought, assassin of dreams,
Memory's surgeon, the end of your schemes.”
“You start by reading books, and you end by loving them” 0 likes
More quotes…