The five eldest children of the royal estates of Etrusia will answer The Call, their kingdom seeking a worthy competitor to succeed the Emperor, chosen by the Great Dragon and overseen by Their Graces, high priests of the temple of Delphos. Except the second born, the servant, the bastard child and the pacifist are chosen in their stead, those untrained and ill prepared. In the kingdom, the eldest member of each royal linage is conditioned and trained to take part in a series of tests known as The Calling, where the mythical Great Dragon chooses a child and their dragon mount to compete. The narrative is told from five points of view, each character easily distinguishable and a glimpse into their lives before and after The Calling, as they struggle with the expectations placed upon them.
Emilia has lived in isolation, her parents believing she is dangerous and concealing her illegal ability. Being chosen for The Call is an opportunity for Emilia to escape her confines, she hadn't expected to find former childhood friend Lucian also competing in the trial. Lucian has conquered lands and its people alongside his father and warmonger sibling, leaving the young man traumatised and vowing to atone for his brutality and using a pacifist approach to conflict. Emilia and Lucian are both wonderful characters, gentle, compassionate and both wanting to avoid the brutality of the trials. It was lovely to see them reconnect as tentative friends and watch their subtle attraction develop.
One of my favourite characters is Vespir, the servant and dragon keeper. Vespir is a servant within one of the royal houses, treated with contempt and seen as less than human. Her true companions are the dragons within her keep until she falls in love with the boss' daughter. Vespir shouldn't be underestimated, she's a survivor, she's resourceful and deliciously crafty. Although in a gentle, totally non backstabby kind of way unlike Ajax. Ahh Ajax, the bastard son, among a sea of bastard children, created from a sexual assault and tormented by his noble father and his legitimate children. Ajax has always struggled to fit in, surviving through any means necessary. He's well aware his lack of attractiveness means he can slip under the radar, a little like a cheeky cat burglar, although not as slick as he pretends to be.
A fair warning about our last competitor, she's ruthless and bloodthirsty beyond compare. Hyperia isn't a young woman to be played the fool, she's cold, calculated and will allow no one, absolutely no one to stand in her way of becoming victor. Oh my goodness, this girl makes Mia Corvere look like a Catholic school girl. She lives for her kingdom, the admiration of her father and the fear she instils in others.
The world building is breathtaking. Spiralling cities steeped in history and grandeur, rustic villages and desolate woodlands, beautifully atmospheric and wonderfully imagined. And the dragons! When a dragon hatchling is born, they choose their human companion, connecting to their spirit as dragon and rider become one. When their human companion passes, their dragon eats them which wouldn't be an altogether bad way to go. I loved Dog especially, Ajax' companion. He's playful, loyal and befitting of his name.
House of Dragons was glorious and left me wanting more! The brutality, the loyalty, companionship and moments of friendship among the fierce competitiveness is entwined so beautifully, shades of a young adult Game of Thrones that even reluctant fantasy readers will enjoy. Best be off, need to see a man about a dragon.
- Started reading
- 17 August, 2020: Finished reading
- 17 August, 2020: Reviewed