To Shape a Dragon's Breath

The First Book of Nampeshiweisit , #1

Paperback, 528 pages

Published May 9, 2023 by Del Rey.

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4 stars (9 reviews)

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 of 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, her dragon will be killed.

For a girl with no formal schooling, a non-Anglish upbringing, and a very …

3 editions

reviewed To Shape a Dragon's Breath by Moniquill Blackgoose (Nampeshiweisit, #1)

First fantasy I've read that has periodic table elements as part of the magic system

5 stars

Highly memorable and original fantasy story. I liked the sort of quotidian slice-of-life style it had because I enjoyed the worldbuilding, and felt the book was at its weakest when it was trying to have a traditional climax. The conlang was a bit overused but I think it was intentional - to have the reader feel confused and unfamiliar with all the new vocabulary as the protagonist works through culture shock. Looking forward to more in the series coming out!

Heartfelt characters, poignant analogy to colonial steamrolling of the first peoples

4 stars

Well done, an enjoyable read. Set in Victorian-era, but one with dragons who are bonded to humans. Classic bureaucracy, dragons and their dragoneers are regulated like driving cars. This clearly collides with an indigenous girl and her new dragon and the colonial occupiers who view her and her people as less-than-human savages.

I wasn't the right audience for this one

2 stars

It's a lot more YA than I had guessed, and the story moved very slowly, the characters seemed really flat to me. The weird obfuscation of a couple dozen english words for fantasy-world equivalents that meant exactly the same thing, but only those dozen, so you'd need to guess them from context and remember, was odd. Don't plan on reading the second book when it's released.

Fun if a little intent on messaging

4 stars

I quite enjoyed this book but did find it slightly heavy on messaging about various political issues from LGBTQ to gender to patriarchy/matriarchy to environment to native rights. All of which I support but which did drag me out of the story slightly from time to time just with the frequency of their introduction and/or discussion.

Still well worth a read though. Sort of in the vein of a Harry Potter fantasy mixed with a story of resistance to cultural assimilation. And with interesting dragons and quite well done characters.

A Wonderful Read :)

3 stars

This is a good book! Going into it blind meant I wasn't expecting the discussions of racism towards indigenous peoples, but the narrative was eye-opening and thoroughly showed many aspects of the impacts of colonialism.

I liked the writing, the characters, and all of the fantasy elements introduced to the world. The LGBTQ+ and polyamory representation was also unexpected but brought me a lot of comfort and joy. Anequs is strong and confident and I love her and Kasaqua to pieces. :)

reviewed To Shape a Dragon's Breath by Moniquill Blackgoose (Nampeshiweisit, #1)

To Shape a Dragon's Breath

4 stars

To Shape a Dragon's Breath is an indigenous-centered story about a young woman Anequs who finds a rare dragon egg and is chosen by the resulting dragon; to avoid harm to her Masquisit community and her dragon, she agrees to register her dragon and go to an Anglish dragon school, whereupon she's confronted with all the racism, colonialism, death threats, shitty teachers, classism, homophobia and unexplained Anglish social conventions that you might expect. The world here is adjacent to our own except with strong Nordic and Germanic influences in history and mythology, on top of dragon-based industrialization (with a chemical/magical dragon breath system). This all works for me to keep the world simultaneously familiar but also fresh.

The story is really driven by Anequs' personality. She has a clear sense of her own values (protect her dragon, community, and friends) and doesn't hesitate to call people on their shit, to …


5 stars

I had requested this book from the library but I didn’t remember what it was about. Every time it showed up on my ipad I sent it back and asked for it to be delivered later. Then I saw it start to show up on Best Of lists. The next time it appeared in my library app, I decided to give it a try.

This book definitely lives up to the hype.

It reminded me a lot of Babel. A girl is taken into a school that is run by a colonial power. She is trying to hold on to her identity and culture while learning what the other people have to teach her.

“And the Anglish have the nerve to call my people savage and wild and all that nonsense, when they can’t think of any better way to solve a fight than to kill one another over it?” …

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