Title: House of Dragons (House of Dragons #1)
Author: Jessica Cluess
Thank you to Random House Books for Young Readers for providing me with an ARC through NetGalley!
What is this book about? After the Emperor dies, five young men and women are selected from each of the royal houses to compete to be the next Emperor or Empress. However, the five that are chosen are unexpected choices and unprepared for the battle for the throne.
What did I like? Any book that boasts five separate POVs is going to be either hit or miss. In House of Dragons it works; each character has its own distinct voice and it was easy to tell them apart without feeling lost or confused. And speaking of the characters, I really loved the diverse cast of characters created and their various backgrounds and personal struggles.
Emilia – second child of the Aurun family. She’s quiet, reserved, booksmart, and is holding a deadly secret: she’s able to wield the outlawed chaotic powers. She was probably my favorite character!
Lucian – younger twin of the Sabel family. He’s been trained his whole life to be a soldier and has led successful campaigns, however, he’s wrought with guilt over the war atrocities he’s seen and committed, and vows to never pick up a sword again. He’s got the brooding soldier thing going for him so obviously I loved him as well.
Vespir – servant of the Pentri family. She’s a very skilled dragon trainer and is in love with the Pentri family’s daughter, Antonia. I enjoyed her character arc as she become more assertive and sure of herself.
Hyperia – firstborn daughter of the Volscia family. She’s been training her entire life to one day compete for the throne. She’s confident, aggressive, and bloodthirsty. She will stop at nothing to get what she wants.
Ajax – one of many, many bastard sons of the Tiber family. He’s the youngest of the bunch and his immaturity shows. Of all of the characters, he was my least favorite. But his dragon was my favorite of all the dragons!
Another thing I really liked about House of Dragons was that it didn’t shy away from the violence. There’s gripping action, bloody scenes, and moments of pure brutality. It was much more vicious than I had been expecting for a YA fantasy book. I also enjoyed the dynamics that formed between the different characters, and how they eventually created a sort of found family.
What didn’t I like? Sometimes the book had trouble holding my attention and I found myself skimming sections. The pacing wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked it to be so I think that’s where the issue came in. There were also a few parts that came across as very juvenile–which is totally fine for YA!–but compared to the maturity of the content of the rest of the book it just felt out of place.
Overall thoughts: House of Dragons was a gripping, entertaining fantasy story perfect for fans of A Game of Thrones who are looking for a YA book with similar aspects. I think a lot of people are going to end up sleeping on this, but I’m here to encourage you to give it a try, especially if you enjoy dragons, messy families, and a quest to win the throne!