Series: House of Dragons #1
Published by Random House (5.12.2020)
Genres: High Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: eARC, 448 pages
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.
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! View Spoiler »I especially loved how the chains of bondage were broken and the dragons were actually able to speak to their riders! YASSS! « Hide Spoiler
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!) View Spoiler »It BROKE MY HEART when they gouged his eyes out in punishment for Ajax’s idiocy!!! Oh my lord! Poor baby! « Hide Spoiler
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. View Spoiler »Namely, another competition for “one winner” got changed conveniently so that everyone wins and no one dies. I would have rather seen Lucien win the throne and maybe appoint the other three as a council or something, but still do away with the Cut (because that was ridiculous to begin with – win or die, Game of Thrones much? If dragons are so revered, and it’s considered sacrilegious to harm them, why would they willingly kill them off?). It didn’t make sense to put them ALL on the throne – especially Vespir, who was not noble born, but a servant; and Ajax, who was frankly childish and unfit to rule (sorry Ajax, I like you, but damn you can be immature, and you don’t need to hand that kind of power to a petulant child). I just thought that the ending was a bit too convenient.
I also don’t know how I feel about the turn that Hyperia’s character took. Part of me isn’t surprised – I mean, the chick did kill her own sister without batting an eyelash – but another part of me was kind of hoping for some catharsis in her character. Some realization of wrongdoing, since she obviously regretted killing her sister and felt bad about it. I felt like she was making such headway and character growth, then she just went all Dany on everyone and burned the city?? Wtf? Sigh. I mean, I guess it made sense for her ruthless character, but still. Despite her murderous tendencies, I did find her an interesting character. Womp womp.
One more complaint: I hate how fantasies eliminate stakes with magical healing of mortal wounds. That drives me BONKERS. Lucien takes a sword thrust to the gut, and would have died, but the emperor and empress stepped in and wham bam he’s good as new. NO stakes whatsoever. They had even said at the beginning that sometimes competitors died, and there was 30-40% I think? of death. YET NO ONE DIED. I think that would have really helped raise the stakes and my emotional connection to this book.
Sure, Hyperia’s dragon died in the end, but honestly who is going to care? Hyperia and her dragon both went pure evil at the end, which made you want them to die. Which I don’t really like, because it felt like a plot device to me. Although, I am curious about how Hyperia’s final act – awakening the Chaos House – will run its course in the sequel. (Even though Hyperia HATED chaos and was against it vehemently and it makes absolutely zero sense that she would resurrect it, but okay…) « Hide Spoiler
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!
Writing style: 3/5
Overall rating: 3.5/5