Tipping the Scale: 20 Must-Read Dragon Books

Liberty Hardy

Senior Contributing Editor

Liberty Hardy is an unrepentant velocireader, writer, bitey mad lady, and tattoo canvas. Turn-ons include books, books and books. Her favorite exclamation is “Holy cats!” Liberty reads more than should be legal, sleeps very little, frequently writes on her belly with Sharpie markers, and when she dies, she’s leaving her body to library science. Until then, she lives with her three cats, Millay, Farrokh, and Zevon, in Maine. She is also right behind you. Just kidding! She’s too busy reading. Twitter: @MissLiberty

DAW Books and Astra Publishing house

Long-banished dragons, revered as gods, return to the mortal realm in the first in this magical new epic fantasy trilogy from bestselling author L.R. Lam.

“Sumptuous epic fantasy... sophisticated.” —Publishers Weekly
"Dragonfall will delight fans of well-designed worlds, heroes’ journeys and slow-burning romance. Here there be (sexy) dragons." —BookPage
“Dragons have never been so sexy.”—Kate Dylan, author of Mindwalker
“Tight, tense, smoldering, and wonderfully queer.” —Mike Brooks, author of The God-King Chronicles

To the tune of “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”: You know Syrax and Caraxes and Mushu and Shenron, Falkor and Rhaegal and Toothless and Bahamut…You get the idea. Whether its cute dragons like Puff the Magic Dragon, H.R. Pufnstuf, Pete’s Dragon, How To Train Your Dragon, or The Tea Dragon Society. Or scary dragons, like Smaug or the evil, blue-eyed Game of Thrones dragon* (Mr. Viserion, if you’re nasty). We love dragons. (And dragons love tacos.) They’re like dinosaurs, but they often lead to adventure and treasure (and sometimes a fiery end, because fire breath.) Dragons have permeated our literature for centuries because they’re so fun to read about. That’s why we have this list of 20 must-read dragon books!

In this list you’ll find books with good dragons and evil dragons, and even mechanical dragons. And sometimes, the dragons will only play a small part in a book, but there will always be dragons. (Unlike Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, which is false advertising.) And you won’t have to read hundreds of pages before they actually appear. (Looking at you, George R. R. Martin.) Or discover that ‘dragon’ was just a nickname. (Like in Uprooted.) There is a dragon book here for every reader! So get ready for adventure with these towering toothsome titans of the skies. Because maybe the real treasure was the gold we read about in dragon books along the way.

*Which isn’t totally fair, because it wasn’t his fault. But we aren’t as interested in what Darth Vader did before he joined the dark side either.

Children’s Must-Read Dragon Books

cover of The Paper Bag Princess; illustration of a blonde girl wearing a dress and a green dragon with its head coming in through the wooden door

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko

No list of books about dragons is complete without this classic picture book. A princess is kidnapped by a dragon, and her beloved prince is on the way to save her. But as she’ll learn, sometimes it is best just to rescue yourself.

cover of Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott; illustration of a young Black boy with a dragon in a bag

Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott

Who wants a dragon in bag? *raise hand* Jaxon agrees to help deliver baby dragons to safety in their own world. But it turns out they’re like Mogwais — there are a rules you must follow when dealing with baby dragons or you’ll end up with a gremlin. And when Jaxon breaks the rules, he’ll have his hands full trying to control them.

cover of Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke; illustration of a young boy riding a blue dragon in the sky

Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke

From the author of the Inkheart series comes a grand adventure about a young dragon named Firedrake. With the help of his young friend, Ben, he sets out to find the mythical place of safety for dragons, and hopefully help his kind flourish.

cover of The Dragon Warrior by Katie Zhao; young person with a spear standing in front of a red dragon

The Dragon Warrior by Katie Zhao

In this middle grade debut, a young warrior must train in secret to fulfill her destiny. When Faryn’s father brought shame to his family, she and her brother were shunned by society. But a chance encounter with a demon shows Faryn to possibly be the legendary Heaven Breaker, who is said to command a dragon army. Now she must show everyone what she is capable of by finding the hidden island of immortals before the next Lunar New Year.

cover of Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor by Xiran Jay Zhao; young person standing in front of a blue dragon

Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor by Xiran Jay Zhao

When Zachary Ying becomes the host for the spirit of First Emperor of China, he wishes he had learned more about his Chinese heritage. The emperor needs him to go to the Chinese underworld to close a portal before all the ghosts get out. But calamity strikes when his mom’s soul is kidnapped and the emperor’s ghost accidentally winds up in a gaming headset. Zack is going to have his hands full trying to save his mom and the world, which is much harder than a video game.

YA Must-Read Dragon Books

cover of Serafina by Rachel Hartman; illustration of gold profile of a girl with shadow of a dragon passing over it

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina is a young woman who has grown up half-dragon, half-human. But because of anti-dragon sentiment, including from her father, she hides her dragon side from the world. That is, until the murder at the royal palace brings her into close proximity to the prince, who has his suspicions about her.

cover of Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells; illustration of young woman with long black hair standing in front of mountains

Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells

When Maren’s girlfriend Kaia is kidnapped by the evil emperor, she knows her only chance of rescuing her is by storming the castle on the back of a dragon. To do that, she must be trained by the emperor’s dragon trainer. But will she be safe walking right into the lion, er, dragon’s den?

Adult Must-Read Dragon Books

cover of When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill; illustration of green foliage with purple flowers and the hint of a dragon

When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill 

It’s 1955 and a percentage of the population of women have turned into dragons in the Mass Dragoning — are you jealous? Alex Green is conflicted when the aunt she loves turns and takes to the skies, and confused when her mother does not. And in the aftermath of the Mass Dragoning, which no one is allowed to speak about, she will have to work out her complicated feelings about the events and what she wants for her own life.

cover of The Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan; illustration of a medical cross-section of a dragon

The Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

This is the start to a really cool series about dragons that is set up like a dragon naturalist is keeping scientific journals in the Victorian Age. It is Lady Trent’s fascination with the creatures that brings about a modern understanding of them and changes science forever.

cover of Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho; gold font over red background of dragons

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

In a land where magic is disappearing, the Sorcerer Royal to The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers must travel to discover why. On his journey to alternate England’s dwindling magic supplies, Zacharias Wythe will encounter a powerful woman, a grand adventure, and yes, dragons.

cover of The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde; illustration of a Volkswagen Beetle driving on a dragon's tail

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

And this is also about a world where the magic is disappearing from the world. But with it will go the last dragon, as told in a prophecy. Can Jennifer sit by and let the world’s last great beast succumb to its fate at the hands of the dragonslayer, or can she stop it?

cover of Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee; illustration of a mechanical red dragon

Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee

This award-nominated fantasy novel is about Jebi, who has the ability to paint magical sigils that bring things to life. When the government threatens Jebi’s sister, they must work on the mechanical soldiers. But is the destruction caused with Jebi’s help worth the price of one life?

cover of The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons; red with a metal silver dragon head

The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons

Kihrin has grown up in poverty outside the walls of the kingdom. But when he is claimed by the royal family as the long-lost heir of a traitorous prince, he is suddenly exposed to a whole other life. One that includes destiny and dragons, and possibly ends with him destroying everything.

cover of Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey; close-up of gold dragon with a green gem eyeball

Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey

This book kicks off the seminal dragon series Dragonriders of Pern. It’s about a young woman named Lessa in the land of Pern, who has been waiting to avenge her family. That chance comes when an old enemy returns, and Lessa rides a dragon to claim her victory. And then, a lot more happens, since there are 24 more books in the series.

cover of The Story of Silence by Alex Myers; illustration of a knight on a horse standing in front of a castle

The Story of Silence by Alex Myers

In a medieval world where women are told they should be seen and not heard, and certainly now allowed any rights, a girl named Silence is raised a boy so that they can inherit their family’s land. And with grand dreams of being a knight and battling dragons, Silence sets out to write their own story.

cover of Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett; green with a brown dragon blowing smoke

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

And this is a delightfully silly and fantastical story. What do you do when a scary dragon, long-thought extinct, shows up in your town and causes mayhem and destruction? Why make it king, of course! But will a title keep it from continuing its fiery reign? (This is part of Pratchett’s Discworld series, but the books are all their own stories, just set in the same world.)

cover of The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon; illustration of a white castle tower with a blue dragon wrapped around it

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

This is a multi-faceted, queer fantasy story of a queen without an heir, a deadly assassin plot, forbidden magic, ancient enemies, and maybe most exciting of all, students studying to be dragonriders! And you don’t have to wait for the sequel — A Day of Fallen Night is out now!

cover of The Sky Is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith; title and two dragons done in brightly colored neon

The Sky Is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith

Dragons in the future! In the dying city of Empire Island, the inhabitants live under constant danger from the skies, where two dragons circle. When three of the citizens from very different backgrounds must leave the city, they will uncover a vast conspiracy amidst the chaos of their forced adventure, including a cabal of dragon worshippers.

cover of The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter, illustration of a black shield and swords with a white dragon emblem

The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter

An endless war has been raging for the Omehi people for hundreds of years, one that involves dragon summoners and great beasts. Tau has no magic abilities, but when those close to him are murdered, he trains in order to turn himself into a ruthless killer, ready for vengeance, no matter the cost.

cover of After the Dragons by Cynthia Zhang; illustration of person standing in front of a large yellow and blue emblem of a dragon

After the Dragons by Cynthia Zhang

In this new adult fantasy in an alternate Beijing, dragons meant both death and salvation. The destructive dragons have scorched the lands and brought ‘burnt lung’ syndrome, but the other dragons bring necessary rainfall. Unfortunately, they’re dying out. Kai, a college student, and Eli, a medical researcher must work together to find both the remaining dragons and a cure for burnt lung, before both humans and dragons become extinct.

For more fun with scaly friends, be sure to check out Bookish Dragon Goods for Your Hoard and 8 of the Most Famous Dragons in Mythology and Books!