Dragons are great.  Whether heroes or villains, canny or mindless, alien or personable, a dragon always makes a story more interesting.  Here at KU, we love a good dragon and we think you will too, so here are our picks for the top ten books with awesome dragons!


10.  The Silmarillion - J.R.R. Tolkien:  Though The Silmarillion doesn't deal chiefly with dragons, several are mentioned, most prominently Glaurung, The Golden, the Deceiver, father of Dragons.  In addition to having totally badass epithets, Glaurung is the main antagonist in the struggles of Turin Turambar, one of the heroes of Tolkien's Men of the First Age.  Tolkien's dragons are drawn mostly from the Nordic traditions and are therefore always evil and concerned greatly with hoards of wealth.  In a universe that lacks for nothing, and least of all serious villains, Glaurung is a fantastic addition to Tolkien's host of antagonists.




9.  The Dragonriders of Pern Series - Anne McCaffrey:  At almost the exact opposite end of the spectrum in nearly every way are Anne McCaffrey's Pern books, which include good, telepathic dragons that have been genetically engineered by the humans of their world for use in fighting Thread (basically a space virus of epic proportions.)  McCaffrey's dragons are drawn less strongly from any mythic or literary tradition and have awesome abilities like teleportation and time travel.  Definite winners.




8.  Harry Potter (Sorcerer's Stone, Goblet of Fire, and Deathly Hallows) - J.K. Rowling:  You'd be hard-pressed to find a list of great books made by KU that didn't include Harry Potter, and this list of great dragon books is no exception.  Though dragons do not play a central role in Rowling's stories and despite the fact that she writes them as little more than very powerful dumb animals, Rowling's dragons do make for some excellent scenes in the books in which they occur.  Harry and Hermione dragging Norbert through the school, Harry flying around the Hungarian Horntail, and the trio flying out of Gringott's on the back of the Ukrainian Ironbelly are all just perfect.




7.  The Color of Magic - Terry Pratchett:  Pratchett's "attempt to do for classical fantasy what Blazing Saddles did for Westerns" is a fabulous amalgam of many fantastic elements, dragons among them.  Again, the dragons aren't central to the plot, but they do wonders for it anyway.  Basically anything that attempts to emulate Blazing Saddles is great in our book.  Dragons are just gravy, at that point.





6.  The Neverending Story  Michael Ende:  Ah, Falkor.  The Luckdragon.  In the movie, like, the weirdest-looking thing ever.  But a great character.  And, more importantly, from a great story.  The whole dynamic in The Neverending Story between the 'real' world and the parallel realm of Fantastica is what makes it a great book.  But Falkor is a pretty integral part.  Plus, any character that accomplishes everything with luck is awesome in my book.





5.  The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - C.S. Lewis:  Another author using the mindless evil trope for dragons, Lewis gets props for Dawn Treader as a whole and for the character of Eustace Scrubb, who is redeemed from being a complete and total prat in part through his experiences as a dragon.  Plus the name Eustace is just really funny.  Especially for a dragon.





4.  The Inheritance Cycle - Christopher Paolini:  Though Paolini draws extensively (and sometimes pretty shamelessly) from his predecessors in the fantasy genre, we give him a lot of credit for his dragons, who are very well characterized and extremely complex.  In particular, Saphira, one of the main protagonists of the story, is a fantastic heroine.  Not without flaws and plagued by the fear of her species' extinction, Saphira nevertheless triumphs, with the other protagonists, over a nearly almighty evil.  Yeah, she's kind of metal, actually.







3.  A Song of Ice and Fire - George R.R. Martin:  A lot of people are familiar with the TV adaptation of Martin's epic series.  And it is good, I grant you that.  But it is nothing - nothing! - to the books.  For fantasy fans, those books are like chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies:  familiar, but full of awesome new aspects that you never thought were possible until they came along.  After you start this series, you don't really want anything else.  Plus he keeps us on the hook with million-year long waits between books.  Anyway, dragons.  At least in the beginning, they're a relatively small aspect of the series.  Kind of just a nightmare story from the past.  Then three of them appear and as the story progresses it seems more and more likely that they're going to end up being the game-changer at the end of the series.  Which just goes to show you that a little nugget of wisdom that comes from the next book on this list will always hold true in a fantastic setting.  "It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him."





2.  The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien:  Sure, it may seem a little unfair that Tolkien gets two places on this list, but I'm making it and I don't care.  Smaug the Magnificent is one of the best dragons ever to exist and he deserves a very high place on any list.  The Hobbit was Tolkien's big break, as far as his writing career is concerned, and Smaug was a huge part of the book's appeal.  Despite the fact that the dragon only appears in person in a small proportion of the book, he represents a great force of evil in Middle-Earth.






1.  The Hero and the Crown - Robin McKinley:  First of all, Robin McKinley is probably the most underrated young adult author of all time.  Her books are moving and filled to the brim with strong heroines who don't need no man and they're totally awesome.  The dragon in The Hero and the Crown is called Maur and his most interesting feature is that his very presence even after his death is oppressive enough to prevent his enemy's wounds from healing and to turn a lush valley into a huge desert.  Also, he's huge and breathes fire (duh) hot enough that the hero's "fireproof" ointment is totally overcome.  Which kind of makes you wonder why she bothered in the first place.  (Not really, though, since she used it to great effect on smaller, less scary dragons.)  The Hero and the Crown and the book to which it is the prequel, The Blue Sword are, in my opinion, McKinley's best works and you should read them asap.

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