Publication Date: 03/05/2022 ISBN: 9781471412196 Category:

When Women Were Dragons

Kelly Barnhill

Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication Date: 03/05/2022 ISBN: 9781471412196 Category:




‘A soaring coming-of-age novel.’

‘Completely fierce, unmistakably feminist, and subversively funny. When Women Were Dragons brings the heat to misogyny with glorious imagination and talon-sharp prose.’

In a world where girls and women are taught to be quiet, the dragons inside them are about to be set free …

In this timely and timeless speculative novel, set in 1950s America, Kelly Barnhill exposes a world that wants to keep girls and women small – and examines what happens when they rise up.

Alex Green is four years old when she first sees a dragon. In her next-door neighbour’s garden, in the spot where the old lady usually sits, is a huge dragon, an astonished expression on its face before it opens its wings and soars away across the rooftops.

And Alex doesn’t see the little old lady after that. No one mentions her. It’s as if she’s never existed.

Then Alex’s mother disappears, and reappears a week later, one quiet Tuesday, with no explanation whatsoever as to where she has been. But she is a ghostly shadow of her former self, and with scars across her body – wide, deep burns, as though she had been attacked by a monster who breathed fire.

Alex, growing from young girl to fiercely independent teenager, is desperate for answers, but doesn’t get any.

Whether anyone likes it or not, the Mass Dragoning is coming. And nothing will be the same after that. Everything is about to change, forever.

And when it does, this, too, will be unmentionable…

Perfect for fans of THE HANDMAID’S TALE, VOX, and THE POWER.

Publisher Review

In this soaring coming-of-age novel, Alex brings up her younger cousin Beatrice, awakening to independence, feminism and identity as she navigates Bea's urge to "dragon". Fans of modern feminist classics such as The Power will find much to admire here; for teenage readers and beyond. -- Fiona Noble * The Observer * Ferociously imagined, incandescent with feeling, this book is urgent and necessary and as exhilarating as a ride on dragonback. -- Lev Grossman, author of THE MAGICIANS trilogy Completely fierce, unmistakably feminist, and subversively funny, WHEN WOMEN WERE DRAGONS brings the heat to misogyny with glorious imagination and talon-sharp prose. Check the skies tonight - you might just see your mother. -- Bonnie Garmus, LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY In lesser hands the dragon metaphor would feel simplistic and general, but Barnhill uses it to imagine different ways of living, loving, and caring for each other. The result is a complex, heartfelt story about following your heart and opening your mind to new possibilities. This novel's magic goes far beyond the dragons. * Kirkus, Starred Review * Such a divine book. Had me hooked from the author's introduction, incredible to have such a moving inspiration following the story the whole way through! Barnhill has such a way with words, Alex was such a clear and easy character to read and Beatrice was incredibly vibrant, too! Literally couldn't give higher praise. -- Rowan Maddock, Bookseller * NetGalley * I loved the inspiration behind this book almost as much as the book itself. Reminiscent in some ways of The Power, this is a world where women can and do become dragons - and how the same world deals with this (don't look; don't think; don't remember) -- Melissa Minty * NetGalley * When Women Were Dragons is a fabulously fierce, utterly original and unapologetically feminist novel that explores centuries of female rage, due to subjugation, violence and misogyny-leading women to spontaneously transform into DRAGONS. A relevant and timeless coming of age story that's heartfelt, complex and thoroughly addictive...I also loved the inclusion of LGBTQ+ rep with both Marla and Alex being lesbian and a mention (during a study) of trans women transforming into dragons...Overall, this was a powerfully moving, feminist and wonderfully queer coming of age story that I absolutely LOVED! -- Natasha Leighton * NetGalley * It's a truth universally acknowledged that many books could be seriously improved by the addition of dragons and here that proposal works out, giving power to those previously left powerless by the society in which they were living. I look forward to seeing what else this author comes up with, after this, as hers will be a name I'll definitely check out. -- Graculus * NetGalley * I absolutely loved it, honestly I found it so empowering and delightful to read...I love how this book makes me feel, how clever it is, this book is a celebration of and a love letter to women. The pains and struggles of women are not glided over in this book but women are not made victims either...My criticisms are very minor and easily resolved in that this book doesn't cover dragons in much detail. But here's the thing, this isn't a book about dragons, it's a book about women, the wildness, the liberation, the truth of women in a world that wants to tame and restrain us. -- Amy Burt * NetGalley * There is very little I don't love about this book. The prose is luscious, the setting - 1950/60s USA - is atmospheric in it's stiflingly wilful silence, and the arc of Alex, the main character, is heartwarming and heartbreaking in equal measure. I particularly enjoyed the combination of dragons (ordinarily a feature of dramatic, action-packed second-world fantasy) and the upsettingly normal life of a girl who just wants to study mathematics in world that thinks she should become a secretary until she 'lands a good husband.' More than anything, this book is angry, in a deeply relatable, quietly suppressed way. -- Bea Austin * NetGalley *

Find this book on the following lists

Book experts at your service

What are you looking for?

A recommendation
Something specific
  • Mr B's Recommendation Station
  • Fill in the three questions below, along with your name and email address, and our book experts will be in touch soon with their personal recommendations

  • I'm after something specific
  • Tell us about the book, author or subject you're looking for, along with your name and email address and our book experts will be in touch as soon as possible