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House of Dragons

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Five royal houses will hear the call to compete in the Trial for the dragon throne. A liar, a soldier, a servant, a thief, and a murderer will answer it. Who will win?

When the Emperor dies, the five royal houses of Etrusia attend the Call, where one of their own will be selected to compete for the throne. It is always the oldest child, the one who has been preparing for years to compete in the Trial. But this year is different. This year, these five outcasts will answer the call....

THE LIAR: Emilia must hide her dark magic or be put to death.

THE SOLDIER: Lucian is a warrior who has sworn to never lift a sword again.

THE SERVANT: Vespir is a dragon trainer whose skills alone will keep her in the game.

THE THIEF: Ajax knows that nothing is free--he must take what he wants.

THE MURDERER: Hyperia was born to rule and will stop at nothing to take her throne.

448 pages, Hardcover

First published May 12, 2020

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Jessica Cluess

8 books1,378 followers

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Displaying 1 - 29 of 880 reviews
Profile Image for Bibi.
1,282 reviews3,268 followers
May 25, 2020

Plot narrative was too linear
I counted, at minimum, 3 instances where Cluess used the dreaded "deus ex machina"
The stakes weren't high enough
The conflict (and it's introduction) was poorly executed.

Overall: 2.5 stars
Profile Image for Brittni Kristine.
179 reviews113 followers
December 28, 2020
This is hands down my favorite read of 2020. Not only that, I think it’s actually now one of my top 5 books of all time. I didn’t read it, I devoured it. I opened the cover and didn’t emerge from it until I’d finished the very last page.

House of Dragons starts with their emperor dying. In this world, there is no line of succession. When an emperor dies, the eldest child of each of the five houses is “summoned” via a calling ceremony. Whoever’s dragon lands on the calling platform is obligated to immediately leave and join a competition to become emperor or empress.

The twist this time, however, is that the eldest children who have trained their entire lives to compete are not the ones chosen. In one instance, it’s not even a member of the royal household but one of their servants who is called.

You’re going to follow five different perspectives, which may be a turn off for some. Personally, I enjoyed all of the perspectives save one, but while hers wasn’t necessarily enjoyable it was interesting. Each character is so different from the others and very well developed, I personally had no complaints about a single one. They were all very well done, even the one who was a pretty classic villain.

But my favorite characters were the dragons. We get to learn so much about the different breeds, see each dragons' different personalities, and enjoy the bonds these dragons have formed with their human partners. This book does dragons right. Not to give spoilers, but there’s one scene with the “dumb” dragon named dog that genuinely had me scream laughing.

The competition and political elements of this book are very present, but this is a very, very character-driven story. If it sounds at all intriguing, I cannot recommend it enough. I purchased it on Kindle for $2 and after the first 20 pages went back and purchased the hardcover for my partner.
Profile Image for Cindy ✩☽♔.
999 reviews781 followers
Want to read
May 13, 2020
Waiting for my copy to come in the mail!

Wait...what? I'm both excited and confused lol

On another note, I love the detailed cover!
Profile Image for Krystal.
1,447 reviews363 followers
January 21, 2021
I was excited for it, and it did not disappoint.

Despite the fact that it wasn't at all what I thought it would be.

THE PLOT sees five outcasts (and their dragons) called to compete against one another in a set of trials, the outcome of which will decide the new emperor.

So since I love a good motley crew, let's start with who they are and how I feel about them!

Emilia was an easy fave, because she's a book nerd who values knowledge above all else. She's been collecting information on the trials for years, and she's always the one to ask, 'why?' But she also has a deadly secret that will likely get her killed if it comes out. Which made me a bit sad, because it's a pretty epic secret. I really enjoyed her development, and the way she's insatiably curious about everything. But she's also willing to do what it takes to win, because she knows all the good she can do if she's chosen to rule.

Ah, Lucian. He's the warrior who doesn't want to be a warrior any more because killing innocent people did some major psychological damage. He's sworn to never pick up a sword again which can be damn inconvenient when all you need is a hero with a sword. Because he is 100% hero material. He's likable, cares about others, and just wants to do right by the world. Bless him. He's also got a soft spot for our girl Emilia and I am THERE for that beautiful friendship. He's constantly trying to be the sidekick when we all know he's the natural leader of this group of misfits.

Vespir has spent her life bowing to nobles, and now she's up against a bunch to become the most powerful person in the Empire. Thankfully she has a handy knowledge of all things dragon and a knack for getting all the gossip so she's still a contender. She's a bit cowed from years of being treated as worthless but she's not a doormat - she's got that little spark of fire that's just waiting to ignite. I like that she knows her chances are next to nothing, but she's still going to give it her everything anyway.

Now this is a kid who was dealt a rough hand. He's a runt from a rather large litter and is not much to look at, so naturally the boy has some major self esteem issues. He's looking at this competition as the chance he's waited for to finally make people notice him, and he's not above all kinds of devious deeds to get what he wants. He's a total weasel of a human being but he's also desperately lonely. His dragon is probably the best though so it all balances out. I enjoyed his sneakiness, and that he spends the entire book talking about how much he wants to be emperor. He's not ashamed of craving power, and I kinda liked that there was no blatant reformation for him - we just learn to love him for all of his weasel flaws. Not that I really loved him. Dude is a superficial jerk.

Okay this girl is an ice cold queen. She's all about honour and tradition but she also has a really messed up idea of what constitutes honour. She's happy to murder her way to the throne because she's convinced she's the one destined to rule it. She was probably my favourite character in terms of how she was written, because there's so much to her. She's determined and focused and convinced that she's better than everyone else, but she's not proud. She doesn't let pride stop her from admitting her faults, and she's keen for a fair challenge. She's also a total feminist so even though she seems kinda evil it's hard not to root for her when she's standing up to scumbags who believe women are just toys for men to play and barter with. She's scary as hell and completely psycho, but she's got her own (albeit messed up) code that she's determined to stick to.

Emilia's dragon, Chara, doesn't rate much; nor does Lucian's dragon, Tyche. They're there, but they're not really making themselves known. Whereas Karina, Vespir's dragon, is a tiny thing who is a brilliant flyer, thanks to the bond she shares with Vespir, and Hyperia's dragon, Aufidius is a complete psychopath just like his rider. But the true hero of the dragons is Dog.

Dog is a dragon who behaves like a dog, so he stole my heart pretty early on. Because Ajax was a runt in his family, they were getting pretty scarce on premium dragons so Dog is far from. But his heart is solid gold and he has so much love for Ajax that you just wanna hug him. He's playful and cheeky and everyone calls him dumb and stupid but its said with affection because how could you ever hate something so innocent? Dog is a hero among dragons, idiot or not.

I was definitely expecting bloody battles and epic chases and intriguing puzzles but this wasn't like that at all! But I wasn't disappointed, because the trials serve as the means for our characters to get to know one another better. Yes, they're all in it for themselves, but they're also good people at their cores and they're mostly doing it for the right reasons (except maybe Ajax). So there's not really a bloodthirsty element with them trying to destroy one another - they're all just trying to get the job done.

I think the hardest part of the trials was the ambiguity of the 'Great Dragon' who is allegedly in charge of the whole thing. He's represented by two disciples - a priest and priestess who seem cold, unfriendly, and a little like they're making things up as they go.

I just really loved how this story unfolded. Yes, they're all misfits, but this story doesn't dwell on that, preferring to focus on their strengths and ambitions. You can tell there's a darkness lurking underneath the trials and that things are not quite right, so even while we happily enjoy the trials playing out, you know there's something epic in store. There's a puzzle here to work out, only we don't have any of the pieces yet.

It's quite brutal in places, but then it softens, so it's hard to get a proper read on the tone. It does feel quite dark overall but the characters are very real and so the mood feels real, too. There are light moments when they're smiling and laughing, but when violence comes it's rather nasty. I think I enjoyed the unpredictability of it - you never knew what was going to happen next.

Most of all, I loved the characterisation. These are not cardboard cut outs at all - they have their own hopes and fears and are quite clearly driven by them. They behave as their character dictates, but they are multi-faceted as well. I found them all very believable.

This book promises dragons and it delivers dragons, but it also serves up five kids who have been thrust into an unexpected situation and are just trying to make the most of it. While there's a lot of fun to be had in this novel, it definitely feels like it's setting us up for some pretty epic action in books to come. But now that we've gotten to know these characters, I'm really looking forward to them coming into their own in the next book and delivering chaos, destruction and magic.

Fingers crossed!
Profile Image for ♠ TABI⁷ ♠.
Author 15 books485 followers
Shelved as 'nah-bro'
April 12, 2021
update: going on a "problematic author research" binge and, yeah, another one for the bingo card I really don't want to be filling out so quickly . . . as it's happening -_-


if a book says it has dragons in it, I will read it okay

also I want to own all the swords on this cover and hang them prominently on my wall so I can stare at them and touch them and feel epic whenever I want
Profile Image for Morgan.
135 reviews145 followers
September 21, 2020
“A bastard,” -
“A servant who ruts above her station,” -
“A mouse of a girl.” -
“And the hero of the Vartl fjord, who turns out to be nothing more than a sniveling coward.”-

“The empire would crumble beneath any of you.”

Well, Hyperia you’re not the most qualified either, let's not get hasty.

Wow. wow. Wow. This is my first Jessica Cluess book and color me impressed. I don’t think I have read a book with dragons and humans coexisting since Eragon. Eragon was the first “big” book I ever read waaay back in middle school for a reading challenge (spoiler: I didn’t win). House of Dragons made me nostalgic for the Eragon series and made my heart oh so happy to be reading another book with dragons as a major focal point of the story.

Filled with nostalgia and excitement, I was nervous to start reading House of Dragons, my expectations were soaring through the roof but a slimmer of doubt was still creeping in. I didn’t want HoD to join the list of 2020 releases that left me disappointed but couldn’t help hyping the book up in my head, it sounded perfect. Dragons + a band of misfits who don't belong and all have their own goals and desires pushing them to win? That has my name written all over it. Now, I can confirm the HoD lived up to the hype created in my head. The non-stop action, the plot twists, the itty-bitty romance, the characters, the (tentative) comradery, the DRAGONS - I loved it all! House of Dragons was beautifully done.

So who are the characters?

Hyperia + Aufidius: Raised and trained religiously to be the next empress of Etrusia, Hyperia is now a shell of a person, emotionless and determined to ascend the throne. Hyperia stood apart from her competitors for multiple reasons, being completely unhinged being one of them - no spoilers but she doesn't hesitate to kill anyone. She was determined, driven, and Cluess teased us with a character-arc that ended up going uncompleted (unsurprisingly, did I mention she was unhinged?). Though I did enjoy reading her internal conflict between her inability to connect and understand others due to her oppressive childhood and her desire to be empress and the need for “honorability”.

“Now there was no ignoring her, She was the sun, and they, nervous planets in her orbit”

Emilia + Chara: Locked away in her family’s estate for the majority of her life, being called to the Trial is the most freedom Emilia has experienced in a long time. At first, she was fearful of the other finding out that she is chaotic - the dark magic that almost destroyed the kingdoms hundreds of years ago and is still banished to this day - but Emilia soon sees being called to the Trial not a burden, but an opportunity to change her future and the fate of all of those innocents cursed with being chaotic. Emilia was a favorite of mine! I loved her passion for all the topics she has learned and read about and her awkward quirks. But I am concerned about her character-arc. I enjoyed how Cluess turned Emilia from a shy introvert to a confident leader, embracing her powers but the threats and the use of her powers, in the end, makes me concerned that Cluess might shift her character-arc in the direction of Hyperia’s - which would be the worst! Mrs. Cluess if you’re reading this please don't ruin Emilia’s characters!

Ajax + Dog: Forgotten son #21 of Lord Tibus sees an opportunity to never be forgotten again when he is called to the Trail instead of the eldest of Lord Tibus’ legitimate sons. Ajax wants to sit on the throne to show his mother that what she suffered at the hands of Tibus wasn’t for nothing and that he will change things for the better in his father’s land. Ajax is the youngest of the group which is clearly mirrored in his actions (he did train his dragon to act like a dog) and though he has a noble purpose, is the least qualified to lead Etrusia. I think Cluess missed an opportunity with his character, which I talk about below, but Ajax was still a fun character to read and properly rounded-out the group of misfits; though there was very little emphasis on his thievery besides petty pick-pocketing and saying that Ajax “is above using doors” - I would’ve liked to see him being a thief incorporated more into the story.

And of course, the story highlight of Dog actually being quite intelligent...

Lucian + Tyche: Lucian swore to never lift a sword ever again after his father ordered him to kill innocent members of a neighboring clan. Lucian believes that there is zero chance of him becoming emperor nor does he believe he is deserving of any title. Lucian is who I would describe as the “big brother” of the group, keeping peace and opting to help the others, specifically Emilia (😏), in the challenges rather than competing for himself. Lucian was overall a very likable character.

Vespir + Karina: Servant to the Pentri family Vespir is used to keeping her head down, so when Vespir is called to the Trial, she knows there is a mistake. Fearing that she is not only going to lose her life but also her lover, there is very little Vespir won’t do to escape. But she quickly realizes that the only escape is either death for herself and her dragon or winning, and there’s nothing Vespir won’t do for Karina. I loved Vespir’s passionate speech on the lower class which was completely truthful and the nose boops - which is completely something I would do with my pets. Vesper added diversity to the group and it was nice having a character who didn’t suddenly find a desire to be empress soon as their dragon was answered the Call.

I enjoyed reading all the characters but I do I think one of them needed to die, most logically Ajax, but it seemed like Cluess was avoiding killing her characters, especially with the ending. All the characters in the story are complex and enjoyable to read so killing one of them off would’ve heightened the stakes in the competition, and hit the reader in the gut with emotion - not all characters need a happy ending!

*Minor Spoilers Ahead*

But why Ajax? It’s made apparent from the beginning that he is the “weak link” of the group, the least qualified to lead, and the most ignorant. Yes, he did have a valiant and the most heartwarming purpose for wanting to win the Trial but that doesn't make an excuse for being a poor leader. Right away during the Hunt Ajax makes repetitive stupid decisions that almost killed him and though I see how saving his life with Basilisk tears tied into the later plot (very clever by the way!) Ajax’s need to be saved after trying to make a deal with the high Priest and Priestess, endangering his new friends and nearly killing himself again ruined my trust in him. His actions throughout the story combined, made it most logical for him to die in the final battle, leaving Lucian, Vespir, and Emilia to rule.

Don’t get me wrong! I enjoyed Ajax’s character, I just believe the desperation and need to win would’ve been raised with character death and I like it when authors do something unexpected. But, I am still satisfied with the exciting albeit, predictable, ending.

That being said, this book had me GRINNING multiple times while reading, smiling as I read as if I was sitting in the same room as the characters laughing at the horrible jokes they made. What sold me on the tentative comradery was the night where feelings were shared drunkenly and the inclusion of “Your dragon is so dumb” jokes. The amount of harassment and grief the characters gave each other truly mirrors a friend group in real life

Overall, I loved every page of House of Dragons, though I wish the ending was a little less predictable and we had more insight into Ajax’s thievery, the writing was flowy and eloquent, the magic system was unique, and all the characters were complex and had their own distinct voices. I have both high hopes and high concerns for the sequel - I hope Jessica Cluess doesn’t leave me disappointed!


It's about time dragons made a come-back, especially in a non-epic-fantasy book!
Profile Image for Melissasfandomworld.
580 reviews115 followers
June 30, 2020
Oh, I’m so happy for the existence of this book! The first thing that I could come up with to describe this book a bit more: Eragon meets Game of Thrones for teens in this great first book of this new ya fantasy story that has Dragons & Dragon riders in it and focuses on 5 different people, originated from all over the world whom are pitted against each other in a competition to win the Crown. Unexpected friendships form, more enemies are made and some of the views on this world will change forever more. Truly; What a thrilling ride reading this book has been.

If you like plot driven books with your fair share of focus on political elements, murder, intrigue, fantastic action scenes, great focus on characters and their development and a lesser focus on romance development, than this is a book that’s going to be to your liking very very much. And don’t forget of course: There are DRAGONS! Magnificent dragons, but also more interesting fantasy elements are waiting for you to get aquatinted with.

Each chapter left me craving more and the book gets better and better. It was getting really hard to put this book aside when I got towards the end (I was buddy-reading this one with a friend of mine so we stuck with reading and ‘X’ amount of chapters each day)This was exactly what I was hoping to get in a first book. A solid world building is present, fantasy elements that are truly interesting and I want more and more of, there’s a really interesting set of diverse characters and fantastic character development, a solid story and storyline development and overall it’s such an explosive read. One that left me craving more when I was finished.

I fell in love with Jessica’s writing when I read book 1 and 2 of her Kingdom on Fire books some years ago and I’m glad to see the writing was as addictive in this book yet again. She has me hooked on every word, sentence and chapter she writes.

Why did I then rate the book 4 stars instead of 5? Well… To me, in general, the story-line development wasn’t really surprising and basically everything I expected came true (there are some exceptions tho. Here and there the author did surprise me with tiny little twists). I would’ve loved it more if it more storyline elements would’ve been unexpected. But as I said; the characters and their development for one, were extremely well written and the overall reading experience has just been fantastic to me. It was thrilling and exciting from beginning till end and I really can’t wait to get my hands on the next installment!
Profile Image for Maddie (Inking & Thinking).
170 reviews126 followers
April 6, 2021
I will no longer be reviewing this book because the author is racist, they verbally harassed and bullied a widely respected Black educator (author's apology/statement where "racism" is framed as "misguided/unprovoked anger", they engaged in brutally cyber-bullying a young college student for their opinion on Sarah Dessen's books and wrote incest fanfic in response to people saying that they found incest to be triggering to them.

I do not support this and therefore will not be reviewing this book.

More information:


Profile Image for fatherofdragons113.
180 reviews47 followers
October 14, 2020

What was not to love about this book? Noble Houses. Dragons. Badass, underestimated women. Violence. High stakes. And vicious characters that all seem to blur between the loveable hero and frightening beast. It's like the characters themselves are dragons.

If you love dragons and games (trials) for a throne (pun intended) you will love this book. Do yourself a favor and move it to number one on your TBR.
Profile Image for Vee_Bookish.
1,339 reviews298 followers
December 18, 2020
Wordpress Blog | Twitter | Pinterest

Note: due to the author singling out and attacking a poc educator on Twitter over classic books, laughing at them, belittling them, practically screaming at them and just generally being racist, I will not be continuing this series. This review is months before I had any idea.

📗 This was such a good book. It wasn't perfect, it was definitely messy and the Narnia / Game Of Thrones mash up at the end was utterly bizarre but it worked. The story is completely character driven, with five (five!) POVs and dragons. I think I fell in love with the story the moment when everyone was waiting for the first born to be called up for potential Emperor-ing and the Great Dragon was like, 'actually, I'll have all the weirdos instead. Sounds good.'

📘 There's a lot I could compare this to. Any Game Of Thrones fan will know immediately which final scene I'm referencing. Then the Narnia moment. I'd be tempted on comparing the 5 with The Breakfast Club, but they're more like Umbrella Academy - going though deep personal trauma and mad about it. Plus I could really compare Emilia's chaos magic that she struggles to control with a major UA character. But the story felt completely unique to me.

📕 The story gave us so much to look forward to in the next book and I'm already predicting that it won't get Second Book Syndrome. There will be too much going on with a Kingdom to run, Dragons, magic and whatever the hell just happened in the final few pages. I would really love to see some character growth, particularly from Ajax, who is very childish and annoying in this book.
Profile Image for Celia.
Author 6 books487 followers
April 16, 2020
FINALLY! A book with the word dragon in the title that has DRAGONS.

Huge thank you to Penguin/Random House for supplying me with this arc after a little bit of begging ;D

What a wild ride I was just on, you guys. This book starts with a BANG. We jump into the five povs. Yes, I said it. FIVE POV's. But as daunting as that sounds, it wasn't too bad once you get to know the characters. But I digress. This wild ride starts when the emperor dies and the eldest of each of the five houses in Etrusia line up for the Call to compete for the throne. But things don't go as planned and the least assuming (bastards, youngest, etc) are chosen. The winner gets the crown. Losers get the Cut. I.E executed. These outcasts, each with their own issues, battle for the throne all while uncovering some secrets and flying DRAGONS!!

I cannot stress this enough and I will scream it from the rooftops. I LOVE DRAGONS. This book didn't disappoint in that aspect. Nor the intrigue and violence that I love in competition books like this. I connected to each of the protagonists to the point where I thought I was watching a reality show and kept switching to who I wanted to win.

This is a Romanesque fantasy world and there's some violence that had me staring open-mouthed at my Kindle. There are also some pretty strong themes throughout that are kind of brutal for younger audiences.

To close off this review I will say that this book sets itself apart and I loved every bit of it. I am so glad my begging paid off. This book is one for the shelves.

Profile Image for Athena (OneReadingNurse).
691 reviews98 followers
February 6, 2021
Wow, thank you so much to Random House  for the free advanced copy of House of Dragons in exchange for an honest review! This book was published in 2020 so it’s out there for anyone interested! I see the sequel is coming soon so maybe they still had a few arcs lying around to send out, but I’m happy to help generate buzz!

I finally found something to fill that Green Rider sized hole in my heart. This book is everything I wanted Crown of Feathers to be, except those books were terrible. Sentient dragon mounts!!

Lets start with…

The Characters: I was in love from the start with these characters. I thought it would be hard to keep track of five different points of view, but each competitor has such an extremely distinct voice and personality that it was quite easy.

From murderous, bloody Hyperia to dorky Ajax, smart and bookish but also incidentally deadly Emilia, conflicted Lucian, and brave Vespir, I just can’t get over what a random but amazing group they made.  They each excelled in certain challenges and it was interesting to watch them form tentative alliances, or not.  I felt like this was a pretty legit feeling group of teens put together.

Dragons are a huge part of the empire as well and each mount is a character in itself.  One of my favorite fantasy themes is sentient, bound mounts! The dragons are like big dogs and so friendly and funny, but also cunning when they need to be, and they hold some of the coolest moments of the book.

Imagery, setting, world building: Ever wonder what a huge golden hydra looks like, flying with the sun rising behind it and fire rumbling in it’s gullet? Let Cluess show you!  She has a knack for vivid imagery, including sights, smells, noise even.

There was a LOT of world building to cover but Cluess gives us what we need.  The reader learns why the Emperor Trial exists, the reason for it’s structure, the main characteristics of each kingdom, politics and the main alliances, and where the Priests and magic orders fit in.  The magic itself had a great backstory too, but in current practice it came out under developed.

Besides vivid images and background, we see architecture, food, a few little tribal customs and lore, history and more, enough to give the world those little personal touches that shows me the author cares.

The Plot/Story: The selection of the competitors seemed like a huge fluke, or was it? I liked the plot from the get-go, watching each character be summoned and then the book just never slowed down.  I liked the Trials too, each test had thoughtful elements and catered to the strength of one competitor or another. Each was interesting and showcased the various strengths and weaknesses of the individuals.  The characters weren’t perfect either, I loved seeing the flaws and cracks come out.

The story had a subplot of betrayal and scheming which is always a bonus.  I would love to share some quotes from the characters and images but I have no idea what made it into the final copy.

My literal only qualm:  Some of the language – mostly spoken by Ajax – brought in modern slang and expressions with threw off immersion, but only slightly. Not enough to dock a star because it was funny and made Ajax relatable where he wouldn’t be otherwise.  Speaking of Ajax, I liked that the book nodded to boy problems (sticky balls anyone?) too, to give the guys something to read.  I love when I can recommend YA books to everyone!

Gosh what a fast paced and great story though, plenty of scheming, brutality, friendships, laughs, and stabbings to keep me rapt for the entire 500+ pages.

That cover too, omg that cover.

Absolutely can NOT wait for the sequel, I requested it and have my fingers crossed!
Profile Image for Maria Eileen Wheeler.
51 reviews1 follower
December 30, 2022
“Gods dream of empires, but devils build them.”

I enjoyed House of Dragons quite a bit more than I assumed I would! Solid 4 out of 5 stars! I absolutely loved Jessica’s writing style and how she created five unique characters! This book had five POV’s and that can sometimes feel intimidating, but I thought she wrote them all so well! I was never cheering for just one person or wanted to skip through chapters to read the others! I would have loved to see a bit more world-building in this book because there are a fair bit of questions left unanswered that I'm sure will be revealed in the sequel!

This novel was pitched as a mix of Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns and the Breakfast Club with dragons. Three Dark Crown is one of my favourite series of all time so I was super excited to get my hands on this book, and it did not disappoint! I would definitely recommend this if you are looking for a fast-paced read with amazing characters!


Wow! That was quite the ride! I just love how she jumped into the plot and how I felt like we were reading the climax of the novel at all times! My favourite part about the book was when they were on that ‘treasure hunt’ to find the truth about the Emperor and when they talked to their dragons (And yes specifically Ajax and Dog)!

I thought it was cool how Emily broke the curse and I thought that was great storytelling! Though, I did think her family/parents turning on her so quickly during the Game wasn't really believable. Ajax’s character just made the book for me and I just love his cocky and arrogant personality! His jokes throughout the book just brought a smile to my face and I think he was just a joy to read (though, that's not saying I didn't get frustrated at him when he was bargaining with Petros and Camilla near the end of the book). I liked reading Lucian's chapters although he didn't start becoming more interesting until after the first few chapters! Vespir was a really good character and I loved her connection to Karina and loved all the chapters during the Race! Hyperia, while I like her character's background, she isn't my favourite after the decisions she made at the end of the book, but I'll cut her some slack since she was kind of born and bred to be that ruthless. Also, I kind of suspected that she would be the one to be the ‘villain’, but I do really hope she has some sort of redemption arc, though I doubt we’ll get one in the sequel.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I can’t wait to find out more about the world and characters in the sequel.

4 ⭐️
Profile Image for Leah Waters.
366 reviews57 followers
June 26, 2020
WOW. I expected this book to be awesome and it totally exceeded my expectations.

There are dragons. Games. A Six of Crow-type cast of characters. Betrayals. Twists. Magic. EVERYTHING I WANT IN A BOOK.

I really loved this author's Kingdom on Fire series, and it's clear she learned a lot writing them because this book is SO MUCH BETTER.

It's just amazing. Fast paced with awesome characters and a fascinating world...

And I love Dog. The twist with him at the end had me laughing so hard.

Just go read this book, please.
Profile Image for Darcey.
928 reviews200 followers
October 17, 2020
buddy read with my OTP babe, Ashley!

dragons! they're wonderful, and i dare you to name one person who's never wanted to own one or ride one or hasn't wished that they actually existed. i've read a great many dragon books, and i really loved House of Dragons and it's take on the massive reptilian beasts.

our story switches between 5 different MC's, and they're all very unique and very realistic. we have the vicious (and i mean VICIOUS) Hyperia, the smart and eternally underestimated bastard Ajax, the fearful and controlled Emilia, the broken but kind Lucian and the small and quiet Vespir. each of these characters was incredibly interesting to read about, and though i may not have loved them all, i definitely wasn't apathetic towards any of them. these 5 characters are all competing in the challenge of a lifetime - the competition to become Emperor, however most of them aren't the usual suspects. together, the 5 fight each-other and fight together, discovering hidden secrets and breaking unknown curses to rise to the top - but can they truly trust each other?

this story was captivating and distinctive, and i'm so glad i buddy read it with my girl Ashley! thank you to Sharlize for her recommendation :))
Profile Image for Zahra.
106 reviews50 followers
November 5, 2020
Let’s do a pro-con list (except not exactly in that order) because those are always fun:

✔︎ The book has dragons in it. Can that ever be a bad thing?

✘ So these kids and their dragons compete in trials and will most likely die in a very Hunger Games-esque way,,,,except they can’t kill each other. And the trials and all other obstacles were sO easily overcome. Which made it feel like there were no stakes

✘ Also the characters were alarmingly unconcerned about the very high possibility of thier deaths??

✘ There was a lot of “we’ll give you and the readers information as you need it for maximum shock value. Now *~Do As The Great Dragon Says~*” from the characters overseeing the competition

✔︎ The plot is SUPER fast-paced, and the chapters are short, meaning you can fly through it without even trying. Perfect for a short attention span like mines

✔︎ You get 5 POVs but they each have very strong and distinct voices

✘ BUT so many POVs + the very short chapters also means you’re bouncing back and forth between all of them, and not really getting a chance to grow truly attached to any of them

✔︎ In all fairness by the end you’ve gotten a handful of very rare glimpses of the chatracters’ pasts and trauma and deeper characterisation. This was pretty good and shows potential, I think

>> 2.75 stars
Profile Image for Adah Udechukwu.
621 reviews83 followers
May 13, 2020
House of Dragons was spectacular. It was awesome, awesome, awesome. Book 2 is going to be a blast.
Profile Image for Prabhjot Kaur.
1,046 reviews148 followers
January 25, 2022
The Hunt. The Game. The Race. The Truth.

The Etrusian empire's emperor is dead and the time has come to choose a successor. The long-standing tradition is to invite the oldest child from each of the five houses in the empire and for them to compete with each other in a series of challenges. Once the winner is selected, the rest of the four participants are put to death by The Cut. Things take a turn when younger children get selected from four houses and in one of the houses, a servant is selected to compete to be a successor.

We’re a bunch of rare jewels, Emilia thought to herself, smiling bitterly. Pretty, and without purpose.

House of Aurun - Emilia (The Liar)
Emilia has the power of chaos magic which is forbidden. only her family knows about her powers and they keep her in isolation. She only loves her brother, Alexander, and her dragon, Chara. Whilst Emilia was in isolation for five years, she read as much as she could so she possesses vast knowledge about a lot of things including the challenges.

From this day until his last, he swore he would never again take up a sword, never raise his hand to another living creature.

House of Sabel - Lucian (The Soldier)
Lucian has fought on the war front for the last five years and he is traumatized by the atrocities he's seen and done. He wants to join the Sacred Brothers where he wishes to atone for his sins. He is a gifted swordfighter and has a real chance at winning the trials except that he has taken an oath to never raise his hand to another living creature. His dragon's name is, Tyche.

Love had nothing to do with victory.

House of Pentri - Vespir (The Servant)
Vespir has served the Pentri house since she was twelve years old. She has a lot of knowledge about dragons, in fact, she has a rare bond with her dragon, Karina that is unheard of. She is only a servant and she is in love with the Pentri household's sole heir, Antonia. Her knowledge about dragons might give her a real fighting chance in the trials.

Far as he was concerned, the world was for the taking.

House of Tiber - Ajax (The Thief)
Ajax is a bastard. In fact, he is the twenty-first illegitimate son of Lord Tiber. He is basically a runt and so is his dragon who is named - dog. Ajax is fifteen and hasn't hit his growth spurt. He is good at cheating and thieving and loves both these things. Ajax's craftiness might just win him the trials.

And we have only one rule: when faced with weakness, cut out its heart.

House of Volscia - Hyperia (The Murderer)
Hyperia has trained all her life to win the challenges and she is a gifted fighter and has a very real chance of winning the trials. When her younger sister is called by the great dragon, she knows only one way to end Julia's suffering and that is by killing her. She believes in cutting the heart of weakness if ever faced with one. Like Hyperia, her dragon, Aufidius also has no known weaknesses. Hyperia and Aufudius together might just win these trials.

Dear child, logic is the enemy of faith.

First of all, a book about dragons with dragons in the title always has my attention. Secondly, that simple yet magnificent book cover has me entranced. I sent the photo of this book cover to all my family members because it's that beautiful and everyone needs this kind of beauty in their lives.

This intrigued me right from the start. A selection process goes terribly wrong and people who never thought would compete in a series of challenges to be the next emperor or an empress are selected. We have five misfits who only have their wits, their dragons, and their special talents to win. We have five POVs which I was a bit skeptical about but I had no need to be as they all have a distinct voice and each one brings something unique to the story. All the characters are quite different from each other and each one of them is really well written. They are not at all one-dimensional.

Once the five characters make it to the trials, they get to know each other, and little by little their backstories are also revealed. I absolutely loved the world-building as it was neither shoved down our throats nor done too little. It was done just right. We find out that Lucian and Emilia know each other from before and they used to be friends. As each bit is revealed, my curiosity started to pique even more. I just couldn't stop reading.

We also find out more about the riders' and the dragons' bond. Emilia and Chara weren't there that much. Neither were Lucian and Tyche together that much. But Vespir and Karina share a rare bond where Karina gets to see what Vespir sees. Hyperia's dragon was alpha much like Hyperia. But my favorite of the bunch was Ajax and Dog's bond mainly because Dog is my favorite among the dragons.

People always feared a girl of too much feeling.

I loved how each character started off (some sure of their places and others not so much) and ended where they ended at the end of the book. The writing was really good and so was the pacing and kept me on an edge. This story was full of action, mystery, intrigue, and a dark underlying tone. There were some things that I had predicted but others came out of nowhere. But I devoured it all the same. I also liked that there wasn't much romance in it.

I shall cherish no one person over any other, for all people are equal in my heart.

In the beginning, I didn't know who to root for as they all have their own struggles and reasons to be on the throne. Emilia possesses powers of dark, forbidden chaos magic and I really liked her in the beginning but she did play dirty. She took advantage of Lucian and also took trade routes from her brother, Alexander when Lucian and Alexander have done nothing but support her. It diminished my likeness of hers. Vespir was okay but I liked how her character was developed. Ajax was the youngest and immature and I would like to see character development for him in the next book. I quite liked Hyperia. She was twisted but she didn't deny it and I liked that about her. But I liked Lucian the best. He always thinks about others' welfare and takes care of them.

She’d inherited a magnificent tree squirming with worms. Rotten to the core.
It was obscene.

I liked the challenges that they had to face. They were well thought out and required not just fighting skills but other talents too. I want to know more about the last challenge though. I also want to know who the voice is and who called the selection. I also want to know who actually won. I did like how chaos magic was tied or rather untied at the end. I didn't expect it and what happens after was just amazing and it left me with more questions rather than answers but in a good way. That ending was unexpected and I can't wait for the next book in the series. I can say that my fantasy hunger was satiated.

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Jessi (Novel Heartbeat).
996 reviews611 followers
May 4, 2020


This book was one of my most anticipated 2020 releases! I was DYING to get my hands on it, and was ready to start begging (okay, I kind of begged in buy/sell/trade groups, trying to get someone to trade with me lol), and I finally got lucky enough that the publisher responded to my ARC request with a Netgalley widget! Yay!

Did it live up to the hype? Yes and no. Honestly, I was a little disappointed in it overall. I think maybe my expectations were just too high. However, did it deliver the dragon action? YES IT DID! Finally, a book "about dragons" WITH ACTUAL DRAGON ACTION! And not just in passing! That was by far the selling point of this book, and my absolute favorite part. I adored the dragons themselves (especially Dog, be still my heart!) and the different types of dragons bonding to different Houses. Absolutely fabulous!

In the beginning, I wasn't enjoying it very much. I wasn't a huge fan of Jessica's writing style, sadly. I was a little bored at times, and I didn't care about any of the characters. The only ones with actual personality were Hyperia, the murderous bitch, and Ajax, who reminded me a little of a very childish and petulant version of Sevro from Red Rising. Emilia, Vespir, and Lucien were all pretty bland in the first half, and I didn't care about any of them. I also didn't care who won or lost, or really what happened to them. I am happy to say that my feelings did grow as the book went on!

This book really shines in the last 25%. The action ramps up, the stakes get higher, and we get a little shock of deceit (that I thought was awesome!). Somewhere along the line, the characters grew on me. I started realizing that Emilia was kind of a badass, Vespir wasn't the mouse I thought she was, and Lucien had more to him than just righteous valor (which was frankly a bit annoying in the beginning, sorry). Hyperia even started to grow on me. I think I probably liked Ajax all along, even though he's a pain in the ass. He had the most personality! He does get a little annoying at times, because he's just so...obnoxious? Incorrigible? He's kind of a prick sometimes, but he had a good heart. I adored his relationship with his dragon, Dog! Dog is a lot like Ajax - over the top, obnoxious - but totally lovable and goofy. (Like a dog!)

I don't know how I felt about the ending. It felt a little rushed, and there were some things that didn't sit quite right with me.

Also, side note: I couldn't help but notice that this book represents all four Hogwarts Houses in its characters, so I've taken the liberty of sorting them (you're welcome lol):
-Emilia: Ravenclaw
-Hyperia: Slytherin
-Vespir: Hufflepuff
-Lucien: Gryffindor/Hufflepuff even split
-Ajax: Gryffindor with a healthy dose of Slytherin

Overall, for me this book was good but not great. I was underwhelmed compared to how much I'd hyped it up in my head, but I am pleased at the important and integral role that the dragons played in the book! So many books promise dragons and I end up overwhelmed because the dragon action is minimal. I'm thankful that this wasn't one of them! I do think that lots of people are going to love this book, and I will definitely be picking up the sequel to see what happens next!

This review was originally posted on Novel Heartbeat. To see a breakdown of my assessment, please visit the full review here.
Profile Image for Caleb CW.
Author 1 book22 followers
October 2, 2020
This was father-son read #3. And the best of the bunch. My son said this is the best book he's read all year.

So, this book was a surprise for me. Let me start off by saying I'm biased as all get out. I don't like YA, I don't want to read YA. So when my twelve year old son said, "hey dad this is our next father-son book" I could have weeped into a hornets nest so my eyes could be stung into uselessness. But, I was wrong. This book was actually pretty damn good. You follow five characters and you are sympathetic to most of them (3) during the story. You got Emilia who hides her affliction, Lucian war torn hero just wanting to hang up the sword, Vespir dragon loving servant, Ajax the bastard, and Hyperia the crazy lady we all avoid at Thanksgiving. They have been called, or their dragons have been called and they've been dragged along much to their dismay. And you follow these youngins as they try to piece together the mystery of why them. Because none of them are particularly special (in their own eyes) and typically the elder child is called but not this time. Because the great dragon told tradition to go suck some wind and chose this crew. Why did he tell tradition to stick it? Well I know but I'm not telling you because that's just how I am.

The villains in this are very villainy and I hated them. All of them, well save one, her I just felt sorry for.

Now while I loved most of this book I do have one gripe. All of these are strong characters. All of them have shown through their own actions, even Hyperia that they can overcome adversity. Hell by them even being in the competition they've been deemed worthy. There's no need to cheapen it with a line of inner monolog that feels so hollow and out of place that even if I was as tripped out as Tommy Chong and Willie Nelson on a typical Friday in a van down by the river I'd still be scratching my head like Scooby-Doo. Don't cheapen the experiences of these characters.
Plus there were dragons and I love dragons. And this one has a lot of dragons that involves a cool soul bond between rider and dragon.
As a surprise there was no forced romance that didn't belong. Usually YA is trying to establish that there needs to be an awkward romance between two largely incompatible human beings that's gonna end in a dumpster fire. This one was merciful by avoiding it. I appreciated that.

Despite my one gripe I really enjoyed this. It was the best of the father son reads, so that earned it another star. I will be reading the next book. Jessica please don't wait 10 years to release the next one.

There it is and there you have it.
Profile Image for Lizabetha.
122 reviews6 followers
July 7, 2020
*sees a book about people bonding with dragons*
*hits the want-to-read button*
If anyone wonders how I spend my free time just show them this review
Profile Image for Marc *Dark Reader of the Woods*.
780 reviews131 followers
May 10, 2023
"One day after the emperor had died and been eaten, the call went out to select his successor."

What is YA?

I bought this for my daughter's birthday along with some middle-grade books, her current standard. She's quite ready for teen material, and I chose this from a table display because of the gorgeous cover art which you have to see in person to fully appreciate the colours and glossiness, and murder in the blurb which I knew would appeal to my little imp. She enjoyed it and has been wanting me to read some of the books she's recently enjoyed, so I reserved a spot and she gave me this one first.

Is YA just middle-grade plus mature content?

I know there's a huge range covered by the YA label, and there's little comparison between this dragon-heavy, swords-and-empire epic fantasy and, say, a book that tackles serious real-world issues head-on like The Hate U Give, and that's okay. My impression of this single book was that if you removed the topic of rape (which was the genesis of one of the main characters and a significant element for that character, so not easily removed without a major change) and multiple uses of "balls" and "shit", it would be indistinguishable from a middle grade book. This is fine, I love good middle grade books. I'm just working out for myself what YA means as a label. It started as a library science term for books that center on issues of particular interest to teens, but in practice now it's often so far removed from the "adult" part of young adult that I, as some curmudgeonly old rando dad who is not remotely the audience for YA marketing, have to wonder about the term. Part of me want to separate the notion of "YA" from the words it abbreviates and make it a separate thing and call it whyaye.

Some of the content aside, the plot and characters skewed this book young. Don't get me wrong, I liked it! The story was surprisingly epic in scope, wonderfully grounded in the main characters' direct experiences, and thrilling. At the same time, the main characters were two-dimensional, supporting characters were strictly one-dimensional, no side characters exist beyond the moments when they are required to support the plot, and the world construction is a bit silly but superb for middle-grade fare. Those two-dimensional characters were used to great effect, and the rotating five-POV approach to storytelling worked out wonderfully.

Is YA bad writing?

Yes, sometimes. I won't call the writing in this book bad, because it's not. It's good. At least for YA. It's not a literary novel, but there was great characterization throughout, descriptions were lovely and efficient, it avoided much of the dreaded over-description of everyone's clothing, hair and eyes, oh that endless reliance on multi-layered gymnastic eyes that drives me batty in certain other books. Not a problem here. There was a fair amount of straight exposition, especially in the introductory chapters, but delivered well enough to move on with the story and every bit of it played a role.

My one lingering irk with the wordcraft is the use of "very" for melodramatic emphasis, maybe five times in the book. Consider: "Her soul was sundered," versus "Her very soul was sundered." (not a direct quote but there was a "very soul" something in the book.) No difference! "Very" adds nothing except drawing attention to itself. The first use I noticed was "the very fissures in her brain" IIRC which is a completely unnecessary use of "very". A minor irk but it's one of those utterly meaningless words when used like this that could and should be cut, but it's something that appears associated with YA-style writing.

Is YA tropes?

One of the first things that struck me while reading was how similar the setup sounded to the things I've heard about Lightlark. Obviously this book isn't copying the later book, but it got me thinking:

Naturally, any trope defender will say that it's what you do with the tropes that matters, and I think this book used them to good effect. Although there were several predictable outcomes, and although I still consider the characters two-dimensional, the character backgrounds and motivations and personalities blended with the trope-base leading to effective, believable outcomes. "Good storytelling" is the essence of what I'm trying to say here.

Is YA fun?

Yeah, fun, why not? It can be (but doesn't have to be, of course; see those aforementioned YA books that are meant to have a deeper impact.) This book was a lot of fun, including the delightfully shocking early murder. And sure, the characters carry some heavy emotional baggage, but it all informed a suitably riveting plot, and readers are taken for a good ride. But, you know, for kids. Kids who can handle the mature content.

What is YA? I still don't really know. But I enjoyed this book (and yes, three stars means "I liked it.") Its sequel is in limbo (the author appears to have been cancelled) but thankfully it's not necessary; there's a fully satisfying standalone story here.
Profile Image for mads.
357 reviews347 followers
January 23, 2021
“The empire would crumble beneath any of you.”

You know it's bad when I rate a dragon book 2 stars.

My thoughts summed up: this book tried to be and do far too many things and somehow managed to fail at every single one of them. The author wouldn't know subtlety if it hit her in the face with a large stick, which - ironically - is what she attempted to do to her readers with her messages in this book. Every character is so very clearly an archetype, each created to send a different message and incapable of being anything else.
That's not even getting into the waters of the author's past behavioral issues and the fact that the content in this book seemed like someone trying to make an adult book YA.

I just. Guys. I'd rate a book about dragons sleeping 5 stars. I honestly think the only reason I didn't rate this 1 star when I read it was because it was my first read of the year and I refused but like... eughhhh.
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