To Shape a Dragon's Breath: The First Book of Nampeshiweisit (Paperback)
May 2023 Indie Next List
“To Shape a Dragon’s Breath is all the things a good fantasy series opener should be — immersive, thoughtful, and captivating. This alternate history of New England and its colonization will be a hit for fans of Babel and House of the Dragon!”
— Julia DeVarti, Books Are Magic, Brooklyn, NY
“A very entertaining and fun read, full of loveable characters and intricate, original worldbuilding.”—NPR
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 different understanding of the history of her land, challenges abound—both socially and academically. But Anequs is smart, 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.
“Blackgoose’s worldbuilding is rich and fascinating . . . but what makes [To Shape a] Dragon’s Breath such an absorbing read is Anequs herself: clever, resourceful, generous and uncompromising in the face of colonial condescension. This novel has garden parties and classroom scenes that are more suspenseful than most books’ epic battles.”—The Washington Post
“Magical schools have always been a staple of the fantasy genre, but these days, I find that it’s hard to read a boarding school setting without considering the inherent colonial undertones of such institutions, even when they’re imaginary. To Shape a Dragon's Breath cuts right to the chase and is about that, offering a scathing rejection of the idea that there is one right way for a person to be educated. . . .”—NPR
“Blackgoose uses the social microcosm of the school world to focus on the issue of assimilation and resistance, and the relations of power—cultural, social, and economic— between coloniser and those that they have colonised. . . . Blackgoose is deft with her characters, good at showing the interiority of individuals other than her viewpoint protagonist. . . . It’s tensely explosive and deftly done. To Shape a Dragon’s Breath is an entertaining story and a striking debut.”—Locus
“A thorough delight . . . To Shape a Dragon’s Breath reveals a world that is complex and political through deft, thoughtfully drawn characters who, like their world, are complicated and believable. I love Anequs!”—K. Eason, author of How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse
“This is a classic fantasy at its finest . . . The indigenous quest to maintain culture and identity within a paralyzingly restrictive imperialism determined to stamp out natives and their beliefs, and Anequs’ stubborn will to remain herself, create a fresh take on this setup and make this a must-read high-fantasy series.”—Booklist (starred review)