House of Dragons by Jessica Cluess
Random House, 2020. ISBN: 9780593305447.
(Young Adult). Recommended. Any reader who likes dragons, misfits, intrigue and Game of Thrones will enjoy Jessica Cluess' new novel, House of Dragons. Pivoting away from her previous Victorian-era London fantasy books, Cluess introduces us to the kingdom of Etrusia, a world where humans and dragons coexist. Etrusia's emperor has died and a representative of each of the five royal houses will compete for the throne. However, instead of sending the house heirs who have spent their lives training for this competition, five mistfits and outcasts are called to battle. Emilia, a scholar hiding her dangerous magic, Lucian, a reluctant soldier, Vespir, a servant and dragon trainer, Ajax the thief, and Hyperia, a noblewoman who will stop at nothing - even murder - to claim the throne.
The teenagers and their dragons compete in a series of challenges set to test their skills and knowledge, knowing that one of them will be crowned and the other four will be killed. Despite their initial animosity however, the five eventually begin to work together to try and expose a dangerous plot that threatens Etrusia and all of its people.
While Cluess has clearly been influenced by George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones for the premise of the novel, the story is appropriate for an older teen audience - with a content warning for violence and assault. Each of the five protagonists is given a character arc so chapters are short and the novel's point of view switches constantly. This may be an issue for some readers but extensive world-building and a fast-paced, interesting story will more than make up for it. Themes: Dragons, Magic, Conflict, Royalty, Danger, Friendship.