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House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess – Book Review!

Goodreads Synopsis.

When the Emperor dies, the five royal houses of Etrusia attend the Call, where one of their own will be selected to compete for the throne. It is always the oldest child, the one who has been preparing for years to compete in the Trial. But this year is different. This year, these five outcasts will answer the call….

THE LIAR: Emilia must hide her dark magic or be put to death.

THE SOLDIER: Lucian is a warrior who has sworn to never lift a sword again.

THE SERVANT: Vespir is a dragon trainer whose skills alone will keep her in the game.

THE THIEF: Ajax knows that nothing is free–he must take what he wants.

THE MURDERER: Hyperia was born to rule and will stop at nothing to take her throne.

Review!

The Emperor is dead. As is tradition the Great Dragon sends out a call for the firstborns of the 5 great houses to compete for the throne, only this time something goes wrong. Instead of the first born, the Great Dragon calls secondborns, bastards and servants to take part in the trial. No one seems happy with the decision, none of these children have been trained in the way of the Emperor, but they might be the exact thing the Empire needs… that is if they can make it through the trials alive.

House of Dragons was SO GOOD. I loved everything from the flowing writing style, the descriptions of the world and battle scenes and the characters… boy does this book have some brilliant, deep and intriguing characters:

Emilia is the second born of House Aurun. She tends more towards books than battle, and has spent her life in relative solitude because she has a secret. Emilia has dangerous powers, and if the Empire found out she would be put to death. She longs for contact with other people and yet shies away when it is offered for fear of hurting anyone. She has a brilliant mind, people tend to overlook her thinking there isn’t much to be learnt in books, but they will learn before the end that the shy and meek exterior she exudes hides a mind at work. A mind that may just unravel a secret centuries in the making.

Lucian of House Sabel is incredibly happy that his twin sister was born minutes before him making her the heir. That is until it’s his Dragon that is drawn to the calling circle. After his time in the war he has vowed never to hold another weapon, nor cause another person harm, something that the other contenders find hard to understand. He has to live with the atrocities he caused in the war, but even though he may not want to admit it, war is what he excels at and he will need to accept that before the end if he is to survive.

Vespir is a Dragon trainer with no wishes for a higher station, so no one is more surprised than her when her Dragon lands on the calling circle. The Lord and Lady of House Pentri are enraged that a servant would be called over their perfect daughter but Antonia, their daughter, simply wants her friend/lover to be safe. Vespir is terrified and feels incredibly out of her league in the trial against other nobles and thinks she has nothing to offer. But she has an ability that makes her stand out, she is able to communicate with her dragon through something she calls the red, and this ability means that she may just be the best Dragon rider the Empire has seen for generations… something that could save her life in the trials to come.

Ajax is one of the many bastards of House Tiber. When his Dragon Dog (The bestest Dragon) lands on the calling circle he assumes it’s just Dog being Dog, until he realises what it means. He has spent his life being told he is lesser, not a true member of the family and this makes him hungry to prove them wrong. He is determined to win the trials, and would love nothing more than to show his family his worth… not that he cares what they think. His penchant for thievery and getting into places he shouldn’t will become more useful than he realises, and he may have to realise that there is power in being a bastard, in being unseen and overlooked, power that he can use to his advantage.

Hyperia, is the first born of House Volscia. She has no doubt that she will be the next Emperor, she has been trained from birth in all types of warfare, her parents keeping her at a distance, never really showing her any love. The only weakness she has is her younger sister Julia, a lively and bright girl who everyone seems to love almost as much as they fear Hyperia. So when Julia’s Dragon lands on the calling circle Hyperia does the unthinkable, she will win the trails, she will take the throne, and she will take down anyone in her way… even family.

But there is a reason the Great Dragon chose these specific people for the trials. They all bring something different to the game, something that could change the Empire, they just need to decide whether they can work together to find out why.

This book gave me massive How to Train your Dragons vibes, every character has their own Dragon with their own personality and in case you hadn’t guessed Dog was my favourite. There are a wide breadth of types of Dragons from Wyverns to Hydra and even without the ability to speak you can understand their personalities and bond with them as much as their riders. The addition of Dragon’s also make for some truly breath-taking flight and battle scenes. You get completely enveloped in the story, and there is one specific scene at the end that is so well written you almost see it like a film in your head. In one word it is truly epic!

While the main story of this book is about the characters battle for the throne, we also have the mystery of why these specific people were picked. Never in the history have second born children been picked, let alone bastards and servants. Cluess weaves little clues throughout the story that give you inklings of why and where the story is going to go, but nothing can prepare you for the shocking ending.

There is an inkling of romance to come in book two, but the main relationships shown throughout are between the competitors themselves, their families and their bonds with their Dragons. Cluess show’s the reality of family, especially when it comes to aligning themselves with their future ruler. The inner politics of the families overrule their love for their children and it was heart breaking seeing some of them being pushed aside for someone they thought was more likely to win. But if there is one bond that never falters it is the bond between Dragon and rider. Formed at birth, these Dragon’s are linked to their riders soul deep, if one dies, the other will struggle to survive without them and I really enjoyed seeing the characters interact with their Dragons and seeing the trust and love that binds them.

I blitzed this book in one sitting. Cluess’ writing style makes the story flow with an ease that has you reading 50% without even realising it. There are no lulls, no part of the story that you have to ‘power through’ to get to the good bit. Every character, plot point and scene play their part, and after the shocking ending we are left with I can’t wait to get my hands on book two!

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