Breathing Fire

Staff writer Cassidy Maneval reviews “House of Dragons,” a story of fierce dragon rivalry.


artwork by Lauren Ritz

“House of Dragons” is packed with adventure, dragons, and, of course, fire.

“Gods dream of empires, but devils build them.” This is the striking opening statement to  “House of Dragons.” The quote helps build anticipation for the fantastic story in the pages to come. 

“House of Dragons” by Jessica Cluess is a fantasy book centered in the Empire of Etrusian, where riding dragons is a way of life. After the tragic death of the emperor, a vacant throne creates a power struggle between five prominent groups in Etrusian. The Great Dragon sends out a call to a dragon from each of these five houses (Aurun, Sable, Timber, Pentri, and Volscia) to participate in the Dragon Trials, usually the first born of each house. However, the competitors selected left their houses in utter shock. 

Emilia, second-born child of House Aurun who contains the power of chaotic magic, Lucien, a war-hardened soldier who has vowed to fight no more from House Sable, Ajax, twenty-first son of House Timber who loves to create mischief, Vespir, a dragon watcher who has fallen in love with the daughter of House Pentri, and Hyperia, the cut-throat firstborn daughter of House Volscian are selected. Then, the chosen five must go through four dangerous trials in order to be chosen as the next ruler by the Great Dragon. Those who fail face the Cut, an ending ceremony resulting in the death of both contestants and their dragons; leading the competitors to do whatever is necessary for them to sit on the throne. 

I was hesitant in starting the book because of the five different perspectives written, but each chapter flowed nicely and made the novel a fast read. I adored the Empire of Etrusian and was fascinated with its many different species of dragons as well as diving into all of the details of each house. The Empire was easy to get immersed into with a majestic setting, and with the power struggle between the houses fighting for the throne as well.

The trials kept me captivated and generated significant character growth for each of the five participants. Emilia was my favorite character from beginning to end; I loved how her observant nature made her a tough competitor. To the contrary, the character I connected with the least would have been Ajax due to his mischievous nature, but the author did a great job of showing a soft side of Ajax through his connection with Dog, his dragon. 

Overall, I couldn’t recommend the book “House of Dragons” enough; it is a perfect fantasy read with amazing fight scenes, emotional depth, and a shocking end. Hopefully the second book “War of Dragons” will be released soon because I can’t wait to go back to the Empire of Etrusian, where dragons are man’s best friend.