10 best fantasy books about dragons

Here there be dragons!

The only correct answer to the age-old question, “Who doesn’t love dragons?” is nobody. Almost every culture has at least one story about a dragon or dragon-adjacent creature, and those myths have inspired countless fantasy writers to tell their own stories about the most iconic creature in all of folklore.

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Fantasy writers have penned hundreds of dragon-themed fantasy novels over the years, and I’ve read a good chunk of them. As a self-taught dragon expert, I am qualified to talk about the pieces of draconic literature that soar above their competition. Here are my picks for the top 10 fantasy books about dragons.

10. Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Image via 20th Century Fox

Anyone who went to elementary, middle, or high school during the mid-2000s saw Eragon on a library shelf. The first of Paolini’s four-part Inheritance Cycle series, Eragon tells the tale of the titular farm boy, who forms a bond with a newly-hatched dragon and embarks on a journey to save the world from a tyrannical king, who happens to be a former member of an order of dragon-riding warriors.

Eragon and its sequels have gotten a lot of well-deserved flack for blatantly copying world-building and plot elements from other fantasy novels. With that said, the book introduced millions of young fantasy readers to the concept of dragon-riding, and for that, it deserves a spot on this list.

9. The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

Image via Disney-Hyperion Books

The first book in the second installment of Rick Riordan’s legendary Camp-Half-Blood Chronicles series, The Lost Hero follows a trio of teenage demi-gods as they embark on a quest to discover what happened to the titular hero of Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Their primary mode of transportation is a robotic dragon the size of a monster truck.

If a mechanical dragon flying over the skies of Chicago doesn’t sound like something you’d be interested in, don’t worry; it’s not the only incredible fantasy creature in the book. Honestly, the only reason The Lost Hero is ranked so low is that the mech-dragon (whose name translates to Happy) isn’t in it as much as the cover would have you believe.

8. Fablehaven: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary by Brandon Mull

Image via Shadow Mountain Publishing

Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven series is one of the most underrated YA fantasy sagas out there, and its fourth installment is perfect for dragon fans. Continuing the adventures of siblings Seth and Kendra Sorenson, Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary sees the duo delve into Wyrmroost, an animal sanctuary for magical creatures built to house dragons of all shapes and sizes.

Secrets has a dragon for everybody; it’s got a small fairy dragon, it’s got a poisonous serpentine dragon, and it’s even got a black-winged demon dragon who serves as the main villain. Unfortunately, Secret is the penultimate chapter of a very interconnected five-book series, so you can only enjoy it by reading the previous Fablehaven books first. But like I said, Fablehaven is a great read, so that is fine.

7. How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

Image via Dreamworks

Dreamworks turned How to Train Your Dragon into a household name with their epic trilogy of films, but the story of Hiccup and Toothless began as a book by Cressida Cowell. There are many differences between the original How novel and its film adaption, the most noticeable being that Vikings and dragons get along from the start.

One thing that got noticed in translation was the story’s focus on the bond between a boy and his dragon. Alone in a world that doesn’t find much value in either of them, Hiccup and Toothless find hope and affirmation in each other, and seeing their relationship grow from a convenient alliance into a true friendship is bound to melt readers’ hearts.

6. Ascendant by Micheal J. Miller

Image via Michael R. Miller

A much darker take on the traditional “boy-meets-dragon” tale, the first installment of Micheal J. Millers’ Song of Chaos series pulls no punches. Weakness is a curse in the world Holt Cook was born in, so when he goes against the grain and saves a blind dragon hatchling from an early and “well-deserved” death, the consequences are as immediate as they are earth-shattering.

Ascendant has enough high-flying dragon-riding adventure to keep the average fantasy fan reading. Still, it’s not afraid to tackle challenging subjects like ableism, disability rights, and the importance of self-advocacy. Be prepared for some heavy feels.

5. Nimona by ND Stevenson

Image via HarperCollins

I’ll admit that I might be cheating a little by putting Nimona on this list. ND Stevenson’s seminal webcomic-turned-graphic novel is technically about a shapeshifter, but the titular changeling’s favorite form is that of a dragon, so it counts.

Nimona is a fairly standard story about a rebellious mimic’s quest to destroy a corrupt order of seemingly heroic knights at first glance. If you dig a little deeper, however, you’ll find that Nimona is a thoughtful exploration of the LGBTQ+ experience and the importance of standing up against exclusionary institutions and systems.

4. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Image via Amazon

Let’s be honest; how could I not include The Hobbit on a list like this? J.R.R. Tolkien grew up hearing tales of heroes slaying dragons, and the book that introduced the realm of Middle-Earth to the world is a testament to his love for the scaly beasts.

Within the first few chapters of The Hobbit, it’s crystal clear that Bilbo’s journey to the Misty Mountains will end with him confronting the dragon Smaug. While I could go into more detail about how Smaug shaped the public’s perception of dragons, the fact that the aptly named “Dragon Dread” is the template most fantasy writers use to model their dragons after says all that needs to be said.

3. Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey

Image via pernesedragons.tumblr.com

Anne McCaffrey did not invent the idea of dragon-riding, but she did inject it into the public imagination with her Dragonriders of Pern saga. I could have filled this list with entries from this series, but none of these entries would exist if it weren’t for Dragonflight.

Dragonflight does a fantastic job introducing the world of Pern, where humans and dragons fight side-by-side to keep a parasitic fungus known as Thread from consuming everything on the planet. This world-building is woven organically into Dragonflight‘s already exciting plot, which revolves around a banished princess’ quest to reclaim her kingdom from a wicked usurper. If you like what you read, keep reading; there’s plenty of Pern left for you to experience.

2. Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Image via Jane Yolen Books & Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Most traditional stories about dragons portray them as mindless beasts who fly around scorching villages and kidnapping young maidens. However, recent contemporary titles have challenged the idea that dragons are inherently malicious, and that turn began with Patricia C. Wrede’s Dealing with Dragons.

Set in a world where classical fairy tale tropes are law, the rebellious princess Cimorene decides to buck tradition by running away from home and voluntarily becoming the “prisoner” of the feared dragon Kazul. Cimorene is a refreshingly nonconformist protagonist, and her non-violent approach to conflict makes Dealing with Dragons an excellent pick for kids who may have trouble holding their tempers.

1. The Dragonet Prophecy by Tui T. Sutherland

Image via Scholastic

Tui T. Sutherland’s Wings of Fire series does what dragon enthusiasts have been asking for for years: it makes dragons the main characters of a fantasy epic. On the continents of Pyrrhia and Pantala, dragons reign supreme, and humans are little more than animals to be eaten or studied from afar.

The Dragonet Prophecy, the first book in Sutherland’s series, weaves an epic coming-of-age tale about young dragons who find themselves caught amid a bloody civil war of succession. This book, and those that follow it, have a little something for every degree of dragon fan, and that’s why it’s the best fantasy book about dragons.

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Drew Kopp
Drew has been an insatiable reader of Destructoid for over a decade. He got his start with Comic Book Resources and Attack of the Fanboy, and now he's rocking it as a member of Destructoid's staff!