Published: November 5, 2019
Publisher: Ace Books
Series: Dragoneer Academy #1
Pages: 512 (Paperback)
My Rating: 4.5/5.0
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
In the first book in an exciting and charming new coming-of-age fantasy series from the author of the Age of Fire series, an impoverished girl enters into a military order of dragonriders, but her path won’t be as easy or as straightforward as she expected.
Fourteen-year-old Ileth grew up in an orphanage, and thanks to her stutter was never thought to be destined for much beyond kitchen work and cleaning. But she’s dreamed of serving with the dragons ever since a childhood meeting with a glittering silver dragon and its female dragoneer. For years she waits, and as soon as she is old enough to join, Ileth runs away to become a novice dragoneer at the ancient human-dragon fortress of the Serpentine.
While most of her fellow apprentices are from rich and influential families, Ileth must fight for her place in the world, even if it includes a duel with her boss at the fish-gutting table. She’s then sent off to the dragon-dancers after a foolish kiss with a famously named boy and given charge of a sickly old dragon with a mysterious past. But she finds those trials were nothing when she has to take the place of a dead dragoneer and care for his imprisoned dragon in enemy lands. . . .
I am so pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book! Though I hadn’t heard much about it, what little I had heard was mostly positive and from other trusty bloggers. Novice Dragoneer was a lovely coming of age story with that so well loved trope of a special school. Rather than it being a school for magic, this is instead a school for dragon riders! I’m honestly not sure which one I like better – I feel like the school for dragon riders is less over-done that a magic school.
Our main character, Ileth, is an orphan girl who dreams of escaping her dour past and into the skies as a dragoneer. At the tender young age of fourteen she leaves the only home she’s known to get into the academy where she’ll be worked like a dog and then, if she’s lucky, she may be chosen by a dragon. It’s not easy – if it was we wouldn’t even have a story – and Ileth suffers hardships and finds favor in turn. She becomes a dragon dancer and though they aren’t typically selected as dragoneers, they spend more time with the dragons than almost any other in the academy. It turns out she loves it and is quite competent, plus it leads her to care for and get to know one of the oldest dragons, who has confined himself to a cavern.
The plot was gripping and the locations featured were well described, particularly the academy area which was both fascinating and full of history.
One portion of the story did drag out longer than I really wanted it to and I’ll describe it, though be warned this will entail SPOILERS!
Ileth and a young wingmate of a famed dragoneer are selected to be hostages of the country they are at war with in exchange for one of the most talented riders. This situation could last indefinitely and they’re in charge of the well-being of one of the surliest dragons we meet in the books. He’s quite the grump! While this part does play an important role in the plot, it began to feel tedious after awhile, though fortunately some action finally happened!
I found Novice Dragoneer to be a delightful read, though not one who’s strength lies in uniqueness. Much of the plot will remind you of one dragon-centric book or another, though it didn’t hinder my enjoyment whatsoever. In fact, it was a good, cozy read because it was somewhat familiar territory. If you like the Temeraire books or any book featuring a school setting, I’d recommend checking this out for sure!