“To Shape a Dragon’s Breath” Review

The cover is dark red with the face of a dragon in the middle with spikes of hair on top and along its nose. There are red flowers on either side of the dragon's head. The title is written out down the cover one word on each line with the author's name at the bottom.Written by Moniquill Blackgoose
Published by Del Rey, May 2023
528 pages
Completed August 1, 2023

The remote island of Masquapaug has not seen a dragon in many generations—until fifteen-year-old Anequs finds a dragon’s egg and bonds with its hatchling. Her people are delighted, for all remember the tales of the days when dragons lived among them and danced away the storms of autumn, enabling the people to thrive. To them, Anequs is revered as Nampeshiweisit—a person in a unique relationship with a dragon.

Unfortunately for Anequs, the Anglish conquerors of her land have different opinions. They have a very specific idea on how a dragon should be raised—and who should be doing the raising—and Anequs does not meet any of their requirements. Only with great reluctance do they allow Anequs to enroll in a proper Anglish dragon school on the mainland. If she cannot succeed there, then her dragon will be killed.

For a girl with no formal schooling, a non-Anglish upbringing, and a very different understanding of the history of her land challenges abound—both socially and academically. But Anequs is smart and determined, and resolved to learn what she needs to help her dragon, even if it means teaching herself. The one thing she refuses to do, however, is become the meek Anglish miss that everyone expects.

Anequs and her dragon may be coming of age, but they’re also coming to power, and that brings an important realization: the world needs changing—and they might just be the ones to do it.

This was a great book and I’m looking forward to the next one as this is meant to be the first book in a series. The ending of the book works so that it could be a stand alone, but there’s definitely more of the story to be told. The setting is an alternate history version of Earth but still with colonizers and indigenous populations that are dealing with the aftermath of being colonized, and dragons! The characters were great to read about – the central conflict between Anegus and the teachers was well done. I also enjoyed seeing the difference between Anequs who knows exactly who she is and where she belongs and another indigenous character who grew up among the colonizers never knowing the truth about his people. There is a third character in the book who is meant to be autistic, though never outright stated given the time and place, who is awesome. He ends up being friends with Anequs and makes for a very interesting character with his own conflicts to deal with. There are some parts that got a little slow to get and perhaps some other things could have been explained better but I enjoyed it regardless.

I would highly recommend reading this interview with Moniquill Blackgoose for more context to the setting for the story and the characters. There are no spoilers for the book in this interview besides setting and information about Anequs and the dragons:

An Indies Introduce Q&A with Moniquill Blackgoose