I picked up an ARC from the publisher’s booth at the North Texas Teen Book Festival in March 2020.
Title: House of Dragons (House of Dragons #1)
Author: Jessica Cluess
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Expected release date: May 12, 2020
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
Synopsis: (via Goodreads) “Five royal houses will hear the call to compete in the Trial for the dragon throne. A liar, a soldier, a servant, a thief, and a murderer will answer it. Who will win?
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.“
I’ll admit that I was excited about this book. I didn’t care for Cluess’s previous series, beginning with A Shadow Bright and Burning. In fact I rated the book quite low and pushed it out of my mind. But when I saw this book’s cover I was immediately drawn in. And it’s YA fantasy which I love! But did I love this book? No. Do I like it? Eh. All in all I thought it was just…okay.
Dragons seem to be re-emerging in YA fantasy (or maybe I’m the only one who thinks that?), so I was eager to read it. I’ve read Fireborne and loved it so much so I was hoping for something a bit like that. Well, that didn’t happen. This book is set in an Ancient Rome like world, and these characters from various walks of life are competing to be the next emperor or empress. I struggled to really connect with these characters. Don’t get me wrong, I liked 3 (Emilia, Lucian, and Vespir) out of the 5 POVs (Hyperia and Ajax). But… I found myself not excited to return to this book or eager to find out what happens. I found some aspects of each character’s chapter a bit repetitive and I suppose that can’t be helped due to the nature of the competition. I think I simply wanted more.
The writing was fine. Nothing extraordinary, nothing to make me yearn for more. The world building was decent, but sometimes I still felt lost. The map at the beginning helped. I hope the finished copy as a section about each house as well since they all play prominent roles in this story.
Overall, I’m not wholly mad I read this book but if I didn’t have an ARC, I probably would have waited for more reviews to get a better sense of the book and made my decision from there.