House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess is a novel about a strange fantasy land divided and ruled by five families, and once the current Emperor or Empress of the land dies or retires, the next heirs to the throne are chosen from the different noble families to compete for the crown. The main characters are Emilia, a secret Chaos witch who must hide her magic lest she be executed; Lucian, a warrior who has sworn an oath never to pick up a sword again; Vespir, a dragon tamer to one of the noble families; Ajax, illegitimate heir to the family fortune and a thief; Hyperia, the eldest born, who will stop at nothing to claim the throne.
The story is divided into five different points of view, and focuses mostly on the trials that they all face as they compete for the throne. At times it could be a little confusing, and I had a hard time jumping into it at first, but once you are immersed it starts to come to life and you feel right in the midst of this great battle between dragon riders for the Dragon Throne. All the characters are a little wary of each other at first, but as time goes on it feels more like they’ve bonded as a found family outside of blood. All except for Hyperia, who acts as though emotions are for the weak or lesser peasants.
I loved all the characters, even Ajax when he was being a jerk and annoying, but Hyperia was my least favorite character. She acted very imperious and arrogant, very strict and stubborn, only doing what was good for her or what followed her moral compass. However….I guess I was waiting for her comeuppance. She never becomes humbled, she never learns a lesson about humility, she just continues to act as though she was above everything and everyone. And don’t get me started on her introduction chapter. She says she loves her sister and then she just…kills her? Runs her through with a sword because her sister was called to compete for the throne? And she doesn’t even hesitate despite going on and on about how she loved her sister, her little sister was her whole world….she just kills her as if she was an errant fly. Despite some parts where the author tries to garner pity from the reader for Hyperia and her childhood, it just….didn’t work. I felt nothing other than an eager desire to see her cut down to size, to learn some humility. To be proven wrong. But she wasn’t. Which I guess helps later in the book….but that derails into spoiler territory.
I loved the dragons. They each had their own personality and it was fun and engaging to watch each character interact with their own personal dragon.
There was a lot I loved about the book, from the world of dragons to the characters to the plot, but there were some points I was a bit nit picky about. For instance, Hyperia and her supposed insight to her ‘tragic’ backstory which didn’t garner sympathy at all. There is also the plot point of Emilia hearing this voice in her head and later learning it was the Great Dragon? Like, how? Why? Why was Emilia the only one able to communicate with the bigger dragon? That was never explained other than “she has chaos magic so she gets to talk to the mythical dragon!!” That leads up to where Emilia breaks the curse on all dragons but she doesn’t….she doesn’t have to go through any struggle. She just does it. Usually a character has to struggle and fight to make sense of the task set before them. They have to learn first, but in this case…it felt a little rushed. Also, the set-up for a sequel? Sounds ominous but I’m unsure where exactly the author was going.
Overall, I really loved the book, and especially the intriguing plot, involving politics, murder, dragon riding, and much more. Not to forget the characters, either. It reminded me a lot of Game of Thrones, but with more dragons.