Book Review : Novice Dragoneer

Book Review : Novice DragoneerNovice Dragoneer (Dragoneer Academy, #1) by E.E. Knight
Published by Ace Books on November 5th 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
Pages: 495
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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. . . .

Fresh off of reading another dragon riding book called Fireborne, I was curious how Novice Dragoneer would compare.  I was pleasantly surprised! Novice Dragoneer made me cry on multiple occasions, as it presented with me a realistic and complex cast of characters, wonderful dragons with glittering personalities, layered world-building, but most of all, a truly lovable heroine named Ileth. Novice Dragoneer is the first novel I’ve ever read where the main character suffered from a stutter and I thought the author, E.E. Knight, did an excellent job portraying it in a realistic way.


“You’re observant, aren’t you girl? You notice and remember. That stutter of yours may be a blessing; you use your eyes and ears more than your mouth. I suspect several people saw what you did, but while seeing they weren’t able to forget the rest and just notice the vital detail.”

As a very young girl, Ileth meets a female dragoneer and her dragon. Entranced, Ileth, an orphan, vows to one day become a dragoneer herself. Once she is of age, she runs away from the orphan’s lodge and strikes out to the Serpentine, home of the dragoneers, to enlist and begin her training. Not a single part of her journey goes smoothly, but what I love about Ileth, is she never, ever stops trying. If she’s given lemons, by god, that girl makes lemonade and gives it to the thirsty, even when they don’t treat her well. She’s observant, determined, resourceful, quick on her feet, empathetic, resilient and everything a reader could want in a heroine.


“A bad start is still a start.”


Things really get interesting when Ileth is tasked with becoming a dragon dancer. I thought this was a very unique concept that. In much of dragon lore, the mythological creatures are known to snatch princesses, right? Well, in Novice Dragoneer, to keep the dragons content, the Serpentine provides them with female dancers. The dragons enjoy their sweaty smell and the dancers get to enjoy being around dragon–what a novel concept!


“Being a dancer takes training and work….You’re not a trophy here, you’re a skilled dragontender. We’re here for the dragons not the men.”

Novice Dragoneer really shines whenever the dragons are around. They speak, sass their caretakers, complain about their food, and are more like giant cats than anything else. Once among the dancers, Ileth is tasked with keeping a very old, sickly dragon company. Known as the Lodger, this mystery dragon becomes the family Ileth never had. I loved absolutely everything about their relationship and it even brought me to tears.


“She liked the dragon. He was the first, well, conversationalist who didn’t ask about her stutter.”


And it isn’t just the dragons and Ileth who are multidimensional, the rest of the cast of characters are similarly complex and realistic. In fact, sometimes they were a little too realistic and their cruelty to Ileth for her stutter and background made me wince. Despite their realisticness, I often had trouble keeping the cast of characters straight. Many of them have multiple names as a sign of noble birth, so there’s countless characters walking around with names like “Annis Heem Strath,” “Yael Duskirk,” “Dun Huss,” etc.. Though Novice Dragoneer provides something of an appendix in the back of the novel, it does not include the entirety of the cast of characters and does not give enough information to determine who is whom. For instance, dragons are only listed by name and with their colors, not by their jobs, deeds, or dragoneer. The novel really could have benefited from providing more information in this section.


My only other complaint about Novice Dragoneer is in regards to the pacing. The novel has a very slow start and the reader and Ileth do not even encounter dragons for about ¼ of the way through. There’s also tons of description and world-building within the narrow scope of the Serpentine and long periods where really nothing substantial happens. This did not bother me at all, because I was so attached to Ileth and her life, but it was jarring when suddenly action did occur! In fact, I was in shock when the book was almost over and unexpectedly, out of seemingly nowhere, a ton of very serious and shocking events took place that sent Ileth and the rest of the Serpentine spiraling into action. I had to reread parts because what was taking place didn’t feel like it was really happening.


Despite its issues with pacing and the confusing character names, I really enjoyed Novice Dragoneer and I will definitely read any future installments in the series. I am quite excited to see what adventures Ileth will go on next, as the novel hints at her future as a successful Dragoneer.

Book Review : Novice Dragoneer - Blogging with Dragons

Posted January 12, 2020 in Book Reviews, Fantasy

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2 responses to “Book Review : Novice Dragoneer

  1. Kelli

    Hi, I’m always on the look out for books that I cam read with my kids (11 years old & 13 years old). They’ve been a dragon kick lately. I saw this book & thought it might be a good fit, but I can’t find the reading age level. Would you say this book would be ok?

    • Hi there! I love that they are on a dragon kick right now. I did a quick Google search and couldn’t find the reading age level either. It seems to be marked as pure fantasy/sci-fi and not young adult or teen. However, It is about a 14 year old girl, in a more conservative/historical time period. There is a scene where she gets kicked out of her home because a boy kisses her. And there are also some adultish themes dealing with dragon dancing. Some comparisons between dragon dancing and strippers by men are made, despite it being a respectable profession. So you may have to have some open conversations. Other than that, I would say they could read it. I can definitely recommend the books “Fireborne,” which is recommended for teens, “The Enchanted Forest Chronicles,” and “Dragon Rider” by Cornelia Funke. All of these novels are about Dragons and specifically for younger ages. Hope that helps!

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