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!
- Title: House of Dragons
- Series: House of Dragons, #1
- Author: Jessica Cluess
- Publisher & Release: Random House Books for Young Readers, May 2020
- Length: 438 pg (arc was longer, not sure where the changes occurred)
- Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yes for all YA, fantasy fans
Here is the synopsis from Amazon:
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? Three Dark Crowns meets The Breakfast Club with DRAGONS.
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.
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!