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When Women Were Dragons

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Learn about the Mass Dragoning of 1955 in which 300,000 women spontaneously transform into dragons...and change the world. Alex Green is a young girl in a world much like ours. But this version of 1950's America is characterized by a significant event: The Mass Dragoning of 1955, when hundreds of thousands of ordinary wives and mothers sprouted wings, scales and talons, lef Learn about the Mass Dragoning of 1955 in which 300,000 women spontaneously transform into dragons...and change the world. Alex Green is a young girl in a world much like ours. But this version of 1950's America is characterized by a significant event: The Mass Dragoning of 1955, when hundreds of thousands of ordinary wives and mothers sprouted wings, scales and talons, left a trail of fiery destruction in their path, and took to the skies. Seemingly for good. Was it their choice? What will become of those left behind? Why did Alex's beloved Aunt Marla transform but her mother did not? Alex doesn't know. It's taboo to speak of, even more so than her crush on Sonja, her schoolmate. Forced into silence, Alex nevertheless must face the consequences of dragons: a mother more protective than ever; a father growing increasingly distant; the upsetting insistence that her aunt never even existed; and a new "sister" obsessed with dragons far beyond propriety. Through loss, rage, and self-discovery, this story follows Alex's journey as she deals with the events leading up to and beyond the Mass Dragoning, and her connection with the phenomenon itself.


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Learn about the Mass Dragoning of 1955 in which 300,000 women spontaneously transform into dragons...and change the world. Alex Green is a young girl in a world much like ours. But this version of 1950's America is characterized by a significant event: The Mass Dragoning of 1955, when hundreds of thousands of ordinary wives and mothers sprouted wings, scales and talons, lef Learn about the Mass Dragoning of 1955 in which 300,000 women spontaneously transform into dragons...and change the world. Alex Green is a young girl in a world much like ours. But this version of 1950's America is characterized by a significant event: The Mass Dragoning of 1955, when hundreds of thousands of ordinary wives and mothers sprouted wings, scales and talons, left a trail of fiery destruction in their path, and took to the skies. Seemingly for good. Was it their choice? What will become of those left behind? Why did Alex's beloved Aunt Marla transform but her mother did not? Alex doesn't know. It's taboo to speak of, even more so than her crush on Sonja, her schoolmate. Forced into silence, Alex nevertheless must face the consequences of dragons: a mother more protective than ever; a father growing increasingly distant; the upsetting insistence that her aunt never even existed; and a new "sister" obsessed with dragons far beyond propriety. Through loss, rage, and self-discovery, this story follows Alex's journey as she deals with the events leading up to and beyond the Mass Dragoning, and her connection with the phenomenon itself.

30 review for When Women Were Dragons

  1. 5 out of 5

    roboticmaenad

    not completely unreadable, but the magical realism and lyrical tone are undermined by the second-wave-feminist unexamined, uncomplex, unintersectional tone. this is a book about how hard it was to be a post-war white housewife and it fails to tread any ground left vacant by the stepford wives (doing, frankly, even less than that seminal novel), making it essentially redundant reading in 2022, when feminism, even and maybe especially righteous feminist fury, is concerned with more complex matters not completely unreadable, but the magical realism and lyrical tone are undermined by the second-wave-feminist unexamined, uncomplex, unintersectional tone. this is a book about how hard it was to be a post-war white housewife and it fails to tread any ground left vacant by the stepford wives (doing, frankly, even less than that seminal novel), making it essentially redundant reading in 2022, when feminism, even and maybe especially righteous feminist fury, is concerned with more complex matters. the lack of interest in what happens post-dragoning to the liberated dragon-women free to rage and burn and live as they please, is glaring, as is a vague air of terfdom that associates womenhood intrinsically with the reproductive system and ability to have children-- while we're given this perspective by hysteria-adjacent male scientists, the trans, post-menopausal, sterile, intersex, post-hysterectomy, etc point of view is entirely invisible, much less the point of view of poor women, women of color, or immigrant women. the focus on white middle class lesbians in lieu of this feels pointed, particularly given the extremely loud subset of mostly-white lesbian terfs. it all cycles back to this incredibly reactionary feminism that focuses on a time period far in the past in order to feel comfortable ignoring what that feminism built for us and how we look at feminist issues in the modern day. barnhill could have had her mass dragoning at any time-- she chooses the 50s on purpose, because she has no answer for how her feminist parable would play out in a world concerned with people whose lives do not resemble hers. edit: will you kindly get your terf bullshit out of my replies, thanks.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

    4.5 Stars I really enjoyed this one and it’s another I hope to add to my physical shelves. Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾 MY BLOG: https://melissa413readsalot.blogspot.... 4.5 Stars I really enjoyed this one and it’s another I hope to add to my physical shelves. Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾 MY BLOG: https://melissa413readsalot.blogspot....

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ash Houghton

    This was a fantastic read that really surprised me! I won a copy of When Women Were Dragons on NetGalley, and I’m so excited for this to release! This was a lovely story about the changes we go through to become ourselves, talking about uncomfortable things, and accepting ourselves and those around us as they are. This really book really surprised me. I didn’t know what to expect when I started and I am so glad I got to experience this story.

  4. 4 out of 5

    AJ

    eARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Considering this was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, I am sorely disappointed. The book is written in the style of a historical memoir; our MC Alex recalls her life from childhood, interspersed with newspaper articles, court case records, scientific journals, etc. Unfortunately, there was no differentiation in writing style to separate the personal memoir and the historical pieces. I was not expecting a concept so brillian eARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Considering this was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, I am sorely disappointed. The book is written in the style of a historical memoir; our MC Alex recalls her life from childhood, interspersed with newspaper articles, court case records, scientific journals, etc. Unfortunately, there was no differentiation in writing style to separate the personal memoir and the historical pieces. I was not expecting a concept so brilliant as “oppressed often gay housewives in the 1950s get so angry they transform into dragons and eat their oppressive husbands before flying off” to be boring. I wanted to DNF at 20%, and 30%, and 40%; and at 65% was still not enjoying the book but just determined to see it through to the end in the hopes of a spectacular ending to redeem it. As the narrator is young and confused, for at least 3/4 of the book, we unfortunately don't get to experience dragoning in a way that is satisfying. Every potentially powerful moment is shown to us so passively that this book loses any hope of igniting the spark this concept promised. At every moment we are told exactly what to feel, "show not tell" is not considered in this novel. There is a lot of repetition early on in particular that becomes tedious to read, especially when Alex is trying to convince herself of her mother and father's lies. While I believe it was attempting to convey the level of indoctrination of society's refusal to admit dragons exist, the assertions felt out of place. Similarly, the links to real life (e.g. segregation, silencing of climate scientists, homophobic and transphobic laws) are so blunt that Barnhill is really hitting us over the head to make sure we don't miss them. A little more nuance and subtlety with the ideas would have improved the reading experience greatly. I wanted the feminism; I wanted the female rage. Instead, I got oppressed 1950's women and a confused child, with not enough angry dragons to redeem it. Where did the dragons go? I want to see the ones that visited the stars, that were protecting the great whales, or living in the mountains; not just the ones who longed to be mothers again. If we're going with the feminism is the freedom to choose message, then please also show us the women who chose something else for themselves, too. Additionally, the lack of intersectionality was a major no for me. Are we not including Black women, WOC, or trans women in a feminist novel in 2022? Overall, a brilliant concept that failed to perform. I cannot express how much I desperately wanted to like this book. TWs: homophobia, death, parent death, misogyny, child abuse

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mia

    Brilliant book! It has the most wonderful written characters and comes with an important message. It made me cry, get so angry that I had to put it down for a bit, but it also made me happy. If there is one book you should read this year it should be this one.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lou Jacobs

    WHEN WOMEN WERE DRAGONS by Kelly Barnhill Publication: May 3, 2022 by Doubleday Books Kelly Barnhill’s first adult novel is an absolute delight even though it delves into a heady mix of topics that have concerned society for ages. With tongue-in-cheek humor she explores the self actualization of a girl developing into womanhood along with the strength of sisterhood, love and family. Effortlessly brought into consideration is the patriarchal nature of our society, misogyny, cultural inequalities, WHEN WOMEN WERE DRAGONS by Kelly Barnhill Publication: May 3, 2022 by Doubleday Books Kelly Barnhill’s first adult novel is an absolute delight even though it delves into a heady mix of topics that have concerned society for ages. With tongue-in-cheek humor she explores the self actualization of a girl developing into womanhood along with the strength of sisterhood, love and family. Effortlessly brought into consideration is the patriarchal nature of our society, misogyny, cultural inequalities, and the fluidity of sexuality. Alexandra ( call me: Alex) Green provides the major point of view … looking from adulthood back to her childhood during the 50’s and 60’s. She saw her first dragon when she was just four years old. A kind old lady who she frequently visited, suddenly, in front of her, metamorphosed into a dragon. But no one would talk to her about dragons. In spite of numerous occurrences and corroborating evidence talk of dragons was squelched. “It created a hole in the universe where truth should be.” Then later, in 1955 there was a “Mass Dragoning”, where hundreds of thousands of wives, mothers, and other women, sprouted wings, scales, talons, and took to the skies, sometimes leaving in a path of fiery destruction. Sometimes leaving a path of male destruction. Alex’s aunt Marla was one of the women who dragoned. She was not your typical women of the time. Aunt Marla flew planes in the War and since returning worked as a mechanic in an auto repair shop. She was instrumental in encouraging and helping her mother finish college with a mathematics major. And, joyfully was raising her daughter, Beatrice. Suddenly, it was announced that Beatrice was “her sister” and there was offered no explanation about the absence of Aunt Marla. Her mother became more smothering, while her father grew more distant … virtually absent. Her father, for an unfathomable reason completely cut-off the burgeoning relationship between Alex and her best friend, Sonja. Kelly Barnhill crafts a joyful tale utilizing the metaphor of “dragoning” to explore rage and Inequality in a women’s world , in an effective tongue-in cheek manner, rather than a dogmatic, lecture style. This magical fantasy nicely explores self actualization, importance of sisterhood, love, and relationships. Silence is not acceptable with ongoing injustice and inequality. Thanks to NetGalley and Doubleday Books for providing an Uncorrected Proof in exchange for an honest review. I would anticipate that this book becomes a favorite for Book Clubs.

  7. 5 out of 5

    laurel [the suspected bibliophile]

    Absolutely splendid. I did have a couple of objections, as I always do with alternate histories that drastically maguffin the world, but fuuuuuuuuck. This book felt, to me, a capturing of midwestern white women and their rage at being constantly stifled and dismissed, all that seethingly brilliantly potential boxed into tiny coffins and sunk into thankless marriage. This is a story of women and the universe, and all the ways we lie to each other to try to cope with reality and unreality, and the h Absolutely splendid. I did have a couple of objections, as I always do with alternate histories that drastically maguffin the world, but fuuuuuuuuck. This book felt, to me, a capturing of midwestern white women and their rage at being constantly stifled and dismissed, all that seethingly brilliantly potential boxed into tiny coffins and sunk into thankless marriage. This is a story of women and the universe, and all the ways we lie to each other to try to cope with reality and unreality, and the hypocritical normalcy of the 1950s and early 1960s. Of puns and euphemisms and saying without saying. Of mothers and daughters and aunts and cousins and first loves and growing up and figuring shit out. Of first loves and first losses. Of not just breaking outside of societal conventions, but smashing them completely and making something new. Of grief and joy and everything that comes in between. Of turning perceived weakness into impenetrable strength. It is a love letter to libraries and the librarians who run them. Also, the commentary on dragoning and its meaning and the inherent transness of it was breathtaking. Because this book is about transformation. Not into something else, necessarily, but into a true self. And, of course, this is a book about dragons.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    This book is coming from a good place, and I tried really hard to like it, but it just wasn't for me. The main thrust is that a large cohort of women in the 1950s become so enraged by the patriarchy and the way that they are treated by men that they all spontaneously turn into powerful, fire breathing dragons. This so called 'dragoning' is basically an extended metaphor for women expanding their horizons and taking on roles in society that previously wouldn't have been available to them, rather This book is coming from a good place, and I tried really hard to like it, but it just wasn't for me. The main thrust is that a large cohort of women in the 1950s become so enraged by the patriarchy and the way that they are treated by men that they all spontaneously turn into powerful, fire breathing dragons. This so called 'dragoning' is basically an extended metaphor for women expanding their horizons and taking on roles in society that previously wouldn't have been available to them, rather than living small lives to suit menfolk. It's a nice idea, but it really isn't subtle, and the metaphor is rammed home again, and again, and again, with endless lengthy descriptions of women throughout history turning dragon and imposing a fiery revenge on whatever unfortunate man happens to be standing in their way. As a result, the main - quite touching - storyline, about a young girl working out who she is as she explores why the other important women in her life have or have not decided to dragon, gets completely bogged down in boring detail. And one thing a book about dragons really shouldn't be is boring. Ultimately, I'm all for books that allow women to be powerful and angry, and which explore themes of living the life you want vs what society expects of you, and the degree to which a mother should sublimate their own needs for the sake of their child. But I feel like this one is a bit of a one-concept wonder which would probably have made for an excellent short story, but has ended up been eked out into a slightly too long and too dull novel. Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and author for an ARC in return for an honest review.

  9. 4 out of 5

    The Captain

    Ahoy there me mateys!  I received an eArc of this fantasy novel through NetGalley in exchange for me honest musings . . . I have read Barnhill's young adult work before so I was intrigued to see how she would deal with dragons.  This book follows Alex Green.  In 1955 America experiences the Mass Dragoning where over 300,000 women spontaneously turn into dragons.  This book explores the event through the lens of Alex's childhood into adulthood and beyond. I thought the first third was absolutely en Ahoy there me mateys!  I received an eArc of this fantasy novel through NetGalley in exchange for me honest musings . . . I have read Barnhill's young adult work before so I was intrigued to see how she would deal with dragons.  This book follows Alex Green.  In 1955 America experiences the Mass Dragoning where over 300,000 women spontaneously turn into dragons.  This book explores the event through the lens of Alex's childhood into adulthood and beyond. I thought the first third was absolutely engaging.  I loved reading about Alex's family and how the Dragoning manifested and was originally dealt with.  I particularly loved Alex's aunt.  I found the subsequent parts less compelling.  The second third deals with what happens when Alex's family splinters and how she finishes high school.  I did enjoy this section though the pacing was much slower.  Sadly the last third of the book where the dragons reenter society and how Alex deals with the implications was much less fun. I think the major problem about the last section of the book was how the internal logic seemed to make little sense to me and have no real point.  And I really didn't like the ending at all.  That said, I truly loved the beginning and did love Alex and the aunt as characters.  I found the author's work to be well written with interesting societal commentary even if the parts didn't fully come together for me in the end.  Arrrr!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Amy Imogene Reads

    I am NOT usually a reader of anything 1950s... or anything mid-1900s. The sexism, it gets to me. But a novel that reimagines that time period specifically with the agency of women found via a "Dragoning?" (Yes, it's what you're thinking. Women turned into DRAGONS!) Yes. Just yes. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review. I am NOT usually a reader of anything 1950s... or anything mid-1900s. The sexism, it gets to me. But a novel that reimagines that time period specifically with the agency of women found via a "Dragoning?" (Yes, it's what you're thinking. Women turned into DRAGONS!) Yes. Just yes. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    You ever read a book and think, damn this would have been so much better as a short story? The messages, the metaphor behind the "dragoning", the layering of meaning and trauma would have been more impactful in a skillfully crafted short story. This has Margaret Atwood short story vibes and I wish I could have read that instead. Feminism, horror, dytopia, womanhood, motherhood... In longer form, the messages and meaning become repetitive, pounding you in the head, over and over, and I found myse You ever read a book and think, damn this would have been so much better as a short story? The messages, the metaphor behind the "dragoning", the layering of meaning and trauma would have been more impactful in a skillfully crafted short story. This has Margaret Atwood short story vibes and I wish I could have read that instead. Feminism, horror, dytopia, womanhood, motherhood... In longer form, the messages and meaning become repetitive, pounding you in the head, over and over, and I found myself saying I GET IT, OK? It's a magical realism version of Kate Chopin's The Awakening, with a particular focus on what trauma her children are left with after their mother chooses to abandon them. A "document" (testimony, report, government hearing, etc.) divides each chapter and I ended up skipping reading them because they were so repetitive and provided nothing new. The story itself had To Kill A Mockingbird and A Tree Grows In Brooklyn vibes - coming of age in the 50s of a young woman left on her own to survive and raise a sibling - and there was some comfort in that familiarity. Honestly, the least interesting part of this book is the dragoning, which is unfortunate because it is so insistently present. You're reminded again and again, women are imprisoned by society and have no rights, their only liberation can be in abandoning their human form and leaving society, at least until they can change society and return in their new forms to integrate. The representation of women in the 50s is very flat. I had a difficult time believing the portrayal that women are all kept housewives, completely restricted by their husbands from having any ownership of self. That their lives were utterly depressing and hopeless, that all men are evil, that all members of society happily imprison women to their homes and do not want them to be educated. This is a stereotype, a Hollywood myth, that serves the old-school flavor of feminism that the author favors in this book. There are times that this stank of TERF feminism - there's no outright TERFness but it certainly smelled similar to it. I had a very hard time believing society would cover up thousands of women turning into dragons - that it was censored from the news. Perhaps a strongly religious, cultish town would, but not national news. I'm uncomfortable that race was not addressed AT ALL. [Note: if it was, it was in the "documents" interspersed in that I gave up on reading because they were repetitive.] The characters are all white (I'd actually read the main character and her aunt as Black until a description several chapters in confirmed they're white.) There are "marches" and protests - the book borrows from the civil rights movement in the 60s and claims it for its own. Instead of Black rights, they're marches for dragons - women. While feminism is the promotion of equality for all, this re-writing of history takes away the power of the work Black people have done. I wish it had further explored the fact that it is also only dragons - women - who are able to change society. So women don't really get the freedom they sought by changing because they have to return to perform the labor to fix society and gain equal rights. (Also, lol, disabilities are not addressed at at. Reforming society to physically accept dragons is PRIME material for addressing changing society to make buildings & every day life more functional and accessible for people with disabilities.) Women are always doing this labor (well, one hopes, but there is a decided overabundance of them voting for people who are taking away everyone's rights.) Again, regarding race, I would have liked to see it addressed how I am CERTAIN Black women were performing a hell of a lot more work and emotional labor than all these white women. If this had been a short story, I could have seen it becoming English major canon. It scratched that itch from college, it is ripe for dissection...if it had been a short story. So...I'm left with feeling this is a decent story but I'm also disappointed and longing for something else. This started out as a 3 star review but ended with a 2 after verbalizing my discomfort of its treatment of race.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Natasha Leighton

    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. Set in an alternate 1950s America, where in a single day thousands of women and girls spontaneously transform into Dragons—so shocking an event that it’s literally for 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. Set in an alternate 1950s America, where in a single day thousands of women and girls spontaneously transform into Dragons—so shocking an event that it’s literally forbidden to talk about. Alex was a child when the day known only as The Mass Dragoning took place and her aunt sprouted wings and took to the skies, but her mother is determined to forget. Forced into silence Alex now must live with the consequences; a mother more protective than ever, a father growing increasingly distant, a dragon obsessed cousin she must now call sister and an aunt she must forget ever existed… This was absolutely phenomenal! I was completely captivated by the lush and atmospheric prose and exquisitely detailed world building. I loved the originality in using dragons as a metaphor for women expressing themselves, freeing themselves from having to conform to limiting or stereotypical gender roles. The choice to also use them as a euphemism for anything “feminine” that makes people (mostly men) uncomfortable, was also really well crafted and perfectly captures the stigma that still surrounds certain “womens issues” in society today. The pacing was a little slow but I felt it worked well with the atmospheric and detailed storytelling—particularly the historical accounts, newspaper clippings, diary entries and other “classified” dragon related items that are scattered throughout the narrative which added a depth and richness to the world building. I really liked Alex, our protagonist/main POV character and loved that the plot acts as a sort of memoir to Alex who tells us her story—from her childhood, her experience of the mass dragoning and how such an event affected the lives of those left behind. Her story, as a bright and academically inclined woman, with no plans to marry or have kids-in a time where society expected all women to exactly that-is far from easy. But, her resilience pays off despite the rampant sexism she faces, though I have to admit several scenes had me literally wanting to go full dragon whilst reading, as the injustice all the female characters faced made me really angry. There were several other characters that I absolutely loved as well ; Marla (Alex’s aunt), Dr. Gantz (a scientist trying to research and help the women who’ve ‘dragoned’), Mrs. Gyzinska (the local librarian and a fierce supporter of Alex) and of course Beatrice, my absolute favourite-her personality and fearlessness literally bursts of the page. 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, though I would’ve liked to have explored more of their stories alongside Marla and Alex’s. Overall, this was a powerfully moving, feminist and wonderfully queer coming of age story that I absolutely LOVED! Also, a huge thank you to Hot Key Books and Netgalley for the e-arc.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Magdalena

    "In a world where girls and women are taught to be quiet, the dragons inside them are about to be set free - and nothing will ever be the same again." Brilliantly written and unique feminist fantasy. Such an original idea for a story that was executed really well and I absolutely loved it. Powerful, engaging and empowering. Highly recommended. "In a world where girls and women are taught to be quiet, the dragons inside them are about to be set free - and nothing will ever be the same again." Brilliantly written and unique feminist fantasy. Such an original idea for a story that was executed really well and I absolutely loved it. Powerful, engaging and empowering. Highly recommended.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brianna

    Thank you to Doubleday for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review! DISCLAIMER: I'm still very much processing my thoughts on this book and will likely come back to this review to add/edit my thoughts. All I need to know to pick up a book is "sapphics and dragons" and that's exactly what gravitated me towards this work, which I would describe as a false historical memoir about women transforming into dragons. This book is nothing but rage against the patriarchy, and I was he Thank you to Doubleday for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review! DISCLAIMER: I'm still very much processing my thoughts on this book and will likely come back to this review to add/edit my thoughts. All I need to know to pick up a book is "sapphics and dragons" and that's exactly what gravitated me towards this work, which I would describe as a false historical memoir about women transforming into dragons. This book is nothing but rage against the patriarchy, and I was here for it. With all feminist literature, I worry about TERF rhetoric or about a lack of intersectionality, and fortunately this book passed the test. Coast is all clear of TERF behavior and trans women are even mentioned to be included among the study of women who turn into dragons. I wouldn't say its centered around intersectionality, but it wasn't lacking to a point of ignorance. The way that dragons were utilized as an allegory for women freeing themselves of the confines of a misogynistic society was incredibly clear and well done. From how dragoning was treated as "dirty" along with conversations about menstruation, to how scientific facts are silenced for the sake of an oppressive status quo, it all felt very relevant. There was even a pro-dragon protestor at one point holding a sign that said "My Body, My Choice." Though historical, the rage of these women breaks through time and space, asserting this book's importance even in modern day. I do enjoy the way it read as a coming-of-age memoir, and appreciated having a character to ground us in the reality of women's hardships, but I do wish that the book had leaned into the potential of its fantasy elements a bit more. Especially towards the end, I felt as though it wrapped up rather swiftly, leaving me feeling a little empty-handed. The book spends so much time mentioning how freeing it is for women to become dragons, and we even hear some dialogue from characters as they turn into dragons, but I wish we as an audience had been granted a sliver of a dragon POV. (view spoiler)[ To be honest, I wish we could have seen Alex transform at the very end. Even if we didn't see beyond transformation, just to get a glimpse into that process. I also just felt like the book was leading to that, and when it didn't, it felt quite anti-climactic. (hide spoiler)] Overall, if you're looking for a unique piece of speculative fiction about feminism and the importance of scientific discovery and discussion, I would recommend this. Especially if you love sapphics and dragons. CW: misogyny, homophobia, parental death (father, offscreen/mother from cancer, onscreen), parental abandonment, child abuse (emotional, physical), panic attack, alcoholism, fire (mention), death, animal cruelty/death

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)

    The title captured my attention and the lovely cover was a bonus, but the story is … *chef’s kiss*. When Women Were Dragons is the fictional account of the life of Alex Green as she grows up in 1950s America. From a young age Alex learns that many things are understood (by everyone but her, she feels) but never discussed; including her mother’s illness, her father’s views on women’s roles, and the complicated relationship between her mom and aunt. Then there’s The Mass Dragoning of 1955 in which The title captured my attention and the lovely cover was a bonus, but the story is … *chef’s kiss*. When Women Were Dragons is the fictional account of the life of Alex Green as she grows up in 1950s America. From a young age Alex learns that many things are understood (by everyone but her, she feels) but never discussed; including her mother’s illness, her father’s views on women’s roles, and the complicated relationship between her mom and aunt. Then there’s The Mass Dragoning of 1955 in which hundreds of thousands of women literally turn into dragons and disappear into the sky. Somehow, this extreme event is barely covered by the media and it becomes a source of shame and taboo to discuss. Alex’s family pretends her aunt never existed, she suddenly has a little sister, and her father is rarely around. When Women Were Dragons is a fierce piece of alternate history/magic realism that takes on uncomfortable topics that were not discussed during this historical era (especially gender inequality/misogyny) in a coming-of-age tale with self actualization and self acceptance. The tongue-in-cheek metaphors here were brilliant in my opinion and added to the atmosphere. For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tina

    I absolutely loved this very human story about women striving for a better, more independent lives in 1950´s America. Similar in some ways to Margaret Atwood. 4.5 stars.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ally

    ........holy shit.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    A masterpiece. I was prepared for this book to fill me with rage, but instead I found myself grieving alongside Alex (and oh, how I loved her! And Beatrice! And all of them!). And ultimately, this was not a book about rage. It's a book about love. There's nothing more to say. Get your copy. Read it. Treasure it. A masterpiece. I was prepared for this book to fill me with rage, but instead I found myself grieving alongside Alex (and oh, how I loved her! And Beatrice! And all of them!). And ultimately, this was not a book about rage. It's a book about love. There's nothing more to say. Get your copy. Read it. Treasure it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lauren (readwithloz)

    I’m so conflicted what I think about this book. As much as I connection with the main characters and I was intrigued by what their future held, I felt like too much was left unsaid or unexplained Give me a few days and I’ll come back with a review and maybe some coherent thoughts 😂

  20. 4 out of 5

    Annika Klein

    When I read the final words of The Night Circus (stick with me, it’s relevant) I held the book to my face and cried into it, saying goodbye. When I read The Once and Future Witches, I carried my paperback ARC with me everywhere like a teddy bear, sleeping with it some nights, until after I’d finished it. I read When Women Were Dragons on my telephone, a library ebook hold that came in at just the right moment; I’d seen the cover reveal for The Crane Husband, a book that sounds suspiciously like When I read the final words of The Night Circus (stick with me, it’s relevant) I held the book to my face and cried into it, saying goodbye. When I read The Once and Future Witches, I carried my paperback ARC with me everywhere like a teddy bear, sleeping with it some nights, until after I’d finished it. I read When Women Were Dragons on my telephone, a library ebook hold that came in at just the right moment; I’d seen the cover reveal for The Crane Husband, a book that sounds suspiciously like it was written for me specifically, and this book was available to me right that very minute. I read to the 81% mark before I succumbed to sleep. I dreamed of my best friend from eighth grade. I dreamed that I got in my car (I don’t have one outside of my dream) and drove to the Midwest to kidnap her away from her live-in man-person, knowing, somehow, in this dream, that he was a threat to her. The moment she saw me, she knew why I was there, thirty years after the last time we saw each other, and she played along without prompting. No one dragoned in my dream. No one needed to. I finished the book when I woke up, and I tenderly held my phone and wished it was something, bigger, softer, warmer, a teddy bear or even a dragon, that I could hold it close to my heart forever.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Beth, BooksNest

    (4.5 stars) This book was sent to me from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. What started as a short story has developed into a brilliant story about feminism and the power women hold. Following our main character, Alex, throughout her life as those around her start to turn into dragons, but only the women. This book questions the way things are and the rules women have always been taught. It did a fantastic job of standing against the system and empowering its female characters and (4.5 stars) This book was sent to me from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. What started as a short story has developed into a brilliant story about feminism and the power women hold. Following our main character, Alex, throughout her life as those around her start to turn into dragons, but only the women. This book questions the way things are and the rules women have always been taught. It did a fantastic job of standing against the system and empowering its female characters and readers. Initially, this book started slow, focusing a lot on Alex's early years. I found it didn't really get going until we saw Alex get further in her education and discover more about herself and her wants and desires. Once we established this though, there was a lot more to route for and the clever story started to unfold. I love it when books call out the flaws in society and this one did big time, in the way the patriarchy has a resounding hold over so much. Alex is a fiercely feminist main character and fights for what she believes in, values I strongly agree with. As a result of the mission this book goes on to spread the feminism message, you'll definitely feel passionate alongside these characters. I loved the way the dragons were used to show the fury of the women and also their power, something both beautiful and terrifying all at once - uncovering years of unhappiness and oppression. There were a lot of metaphors hidden in this book, but I'll leave those for you to discover yourself. A very enjoyable and unique book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    TheEuphoricZat

    Thanks to #Pridebooktours for making this book available to me as part of the Instagram tour. I have got to say that the minute I started this book i was absolutely in love with the way it was written and the tone of the main character. We get to follow her from when she was a child to when she was in her old age and all through the book you can see how her perspective of the world continued to change. We see the impact her parents, the world around her had on her development and view of the worl Thanks to #Pridebooktours for making this book available to me as part of the Instagram tour. I have got to say that the minute I started this book i was absolutely in love with the way it was written and the tone of the main character. We get to follow her from when she was a child to when she was in her old age and all through the book you can see how her perspective of the world continued to change. We see the impact her parents, the world around her had on her development and view of the world. "There is a limit to how much we can hold, and how much we can keep in this world. Its not a good idea good idea to cling to the things you can't bear to lose. That's how we break, you see?" We follow Alex who grows in a society where women (mother, daughters, wives etc. women who have lost their names to a societal restricted role ) began to shapeshift into dragons. As a child she once saw her neighbour shift into a dragon but was unable to understand it, until one day her aunty disappears and her cousin, Beatrice, becomes her sister. Alex, just like her mother was full of talent and brilliance but it all had to be dulled so that she doesn't 'take the space of a man'. This was the misogyny that Alex was birth and raised in. With the death of her mother, and the abandonment by her father, Alex was still unable to break out of the restriction that had plagued her. We could see this with her dealings with Beatrice (who she had to raise like a daughter) who started drawing and taking about dragons! The book was written in such a way that we see multiple perspectives of events without having multiple characters tell the story. There are press release documents from professors of medicine, scientist, newspaper clipping that get the story a much more realistic tone. The whole story is an allegory of the dehumanization of women and femininity and the potential flaming reclamation of identity. Saying we are here and we are proud, you can be on our side or we can remove you from the equation and the simple and unflinching brutality of that is just astonishing. I love it a lot Trigger warning: child abandonment, death of a parent, misogyny!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Karin

    I really wanted to like this novel, especially after a fairlystrong beginning, but it was in a word, disappointing, and the writing/story didn't stay consistent, IMO. I really wanted to like this more than I did, but there were some serious issues I had. here are a couple. 1. the rather odd extremism about what women's roles were in the 1950s. Bear in mind that Women's History was one of my main focuses in university, particularly women in North America (that's what was being taught) including vi I really wanted to like this novel, especially after a fairlystrong beginning, but it was in a word, disappointing, and the writing/story didn't stay consistent, IMO. I really wanted to like this more than I did, but there were some serious issues I had. here are a couple. 1. the rather odd extremism about what women's roles were in the 1950s. Bear in mind that Women's History was one of my main focuses in university, particularly women in North America (that's what was being taught) including visible minority women (not from the States, so that might be why.) Yes, of course there was a much stronger push to keeping women at home after WW II when they pushed women out to make room for vets, and there certainly were men with the views of the father, but the fact is that not only were there white working mothers in lower income families, most black mothers had to work as did other visible minority women. Where was that? There were women who kept their careers after marriage, albeit far fewer than now. 2. As much as I love the idea of virtuous, bullet-proof dragons getting peace on earth, the inane idea that one oppressed group is inherently more virtuous than those who are running things makes me want to bang my head on the wall. This idea--that if certain kinds of women were in charge things would be better flies in the race of real life--how could all of the dragons be so good and hard working when it is stated, a number of times, that all women have the capacity to turn into dragons? 3. Magical realism is not my cup of tea, so all of this magic from knots was not for me. However, while some wonder where the women of colour were--I certainly did--I got the idea that when dragons marched it was for all civil rights things.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Becca

    Ah I absolutely loved the concept of this book and found myself enjoying bits, being a bit bored, then enjoying bits again. It has interesting parallels to history in terms of women being allowed to certain things. My favourite parts of the book were the sisterly love between Alex and Beatrice and their desire to stick together. I also loved that Alex was a huge maths nerd throughout. The concept is absolutely wild, like there's some weird metaphorical stuff going on I feel. The pacing is a bit Ah I absolutely loved the concept of this book and found myself enjoying bits, being a bit bored, then enjoying bits again. It has interesting parallels to history in terms of women being allowed to certain things. My favourite parts of the book were the sisterly love between Alex and Beatrice and their desire to stick together. I also loved that Alex was a huge maths nerd throughout. The concept is absolutely wild, like there's some weird metaphorical stuff going on I feel. The pacing is a bit strange as a fair chunk of time passes throughout the book. Anyway, I don't think I'll ever read another book like this one!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Via

    3.5/5 Thank you to the author and Doubleday Books for a gifted copy of this title. In this novel, the author presents a universe where dragons exist and manipulates this to reflect women’s roles in the 1950’s. The format alternates pov between an academic reporting on the Mass Dragoning and a woman whose family was irrevocably affected by it. This story is an interesting example of magical realism that explores themes including family dynamics, gender inequality, disenfranchisement, and the effec 3.5/5 Thank you to the author and Doubleday Books for a gifted copy of this title. In this novel, the author presents a universe where dragons exist and manipulates this to reflect women’s roles in the 1950’s. The format alternates pov between an academic reporting on the Mass Dragoning and a woman whose family was irrevocably affected by it. This story is an interesting example of magical realism that explores themes including family dynamics, gender inequality, disenfranchisement, and the effects of lies and disinformation in the modern era. The Mass Dragoning—the event in which 600,000+ women all over the world spontaneously transformed into literal dragons—stands as a metaphor for countless events in our own history, for the way it was later denied through suppression and falsehood. Reading about these women suffering and being forced to leave their families without support was heartbreaking, especially when their reality was later challenged by dissenters to have been falsified or never occurred. While I enjoyed the shades of feminism explored throughout, the idea of women being tired of suppression by the patriarchy and turning into great fire-breathing creatures to challenge them read a little too on the nose. It’s surely a unique premise, but I wish the story went into more detail on the semantics of the Dragoning; did all females have the ability to dragon? Where did they go while they were gone? Did they inherently know how to do things like fly and breathe fire upon transformation? The writing style read more like a historical memoir and from the pov of Alex as a child, many parts were repetitive and slow. I think I spent the first half of reading this book being angry 😭 The protagonist, Alex, faced countless challenges simply because of her gender. Her character arc was so relatable; I felt her suffering as my suffering, and her victories became my victories. One of the most profound themes of this novel is her resilience due to her love for her sister. It was beautiful to read about other characters reaching out to help them and becoming powerful female role models for Alex and Beatrice. I found the first half of the book where we read about the dragoning and its effect on the world more engaging than the latter half, which goes into Alex’s school years and the breakdown of her family. Though the pacing moved quite slowly at times, I enjoyed the overall message of the story and the author’s writing style. I love the cover and I’d definitely be interested in reading more of this author’s work in the future.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I don’t know if I can find the words to describe how much I loved this book! It’s set in the 1950s and 60s in a world just like our own - except that some women have been spontaneously transforming into dragons. No one talks about it and the government tries to cover it up, but our protagonist, Alex, first saw it happen when she was just 4 years old. The book is told as the older Alex reminiscing about her childhood and how it was affected by the dragooning, interspersed with bits of news articl I don’t know if I can find the words to describe how much I loved this book! It’s set in the 1950s and 60s in a world just like our own - except that some women have been spontaneously transforming into dragons. No one talks about it and the government tries to cover it up, but our protagonist, Alex, first saw it happen when she was just 4 years old. The book is told as the older Alex reminiscing about her childhood and how it was affected by the dragooning, interspersed with bits of news articles and scholarly writing about it. I know some people will hear dragons and think “nope, I’m not a fantasy reader, this book is not for me,” but I implore you to give it a chance! We’re not talking about a book where fae and elves are romping in magical woods (not that there’s anything wrong with that; I like those books too.) Rather, it is very much grounded in reality and with powerful emotions and messages - think of the dragons as metaphors. It’s a book about rage and joy, about love and fear, about sexism and feminism, about truth and lies, about trauma and healing, about being different and belonging, and above all, about family. And it is truly a masterpiece and one which will sit with me for a long, long time.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Queralt✨

    3.5* I feel When Women Were Dragons is the perfect read at the moment. It follows something known as 'The Dragoning' where women voluntarily turned into dragons (not massive, Smaug-sized dragons; but big nonetheless. And they can fly and throw fireballs and all). However, as much as this is obviously fantasy, this book is not about dragons. This book starts MANY conversations about what being a woman means and, more specifically, what being a woman in the United States is like. In a way, it's a pi 3.5* I feel When Women Were Dragons is the perfect read at the moment. It follows something known as 'The Dragoning' where women voluntarily turned into dragons (not massive, Smaug-sized dragons; but big nonetheless. And they can fly and throw fireballs and all). However, as much as this is obviously fantasy, this book is not about dragons. This book starts MANY conversations about what being a woman means and, more specifically, what being a woman in the United States is like. In a way, it's a picture in time where you get to see all kinds of treatment women have collectively received and how some have chosen to accept it, some like it, and some struggle under a patriarchal system that strives to invisibilize and minimize them. Reading this made me very angry. The book is such a smooth, easy read, but it made me angry and frustrated for all the right reasons. I didn't love-love the book, but I feel it was the perfect read for what's happening in the US.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Branwen Sedai *of the Brown Ajah*

    This is the exact book I needed right now.

  29. 4 out of 5

    BookMadLibrarian

    “In a world where girls and women are taught to be quiet, the dragons inside them are about to be set free – and nothing will ever be the same again.” Set in Wisconsin in the 1950s, thousands of women transform into dragons leaving family behind. Eight year old Alex is one of those left behind. She’s told to forget about what has happened but Alex refuses. She’s desperate for answers and as she grows into a strong-minded, independent teenager, she faces the consequences of a society that wants to “In a world where girls and women are taught to be quiet, the dragons inside them are about to be set free – and nothing will ever be the same again.” Set in Wisconsin in the 1950s, thousands of women transform into dragons leaving family behind. Eight year old Alex is one of those left behind. She’s told to forget about what has happened but Alex refuses. She’s desperate for answers and as she grows into a strong-minded, independent teenager, she faces the consequences of a society that wants to forget that the Mass Dragoning ever occurred. This book was beautifully written, the story was absolutely captivating and made me feel sad and happy in equal measure. In a world where women are to this day being told to be silent, act a specific way and to tolerate certain behaviours, the author has captured the experience of women perfectly. Although set in the 1950s, it still resonates so powerfully in today’s political, cultural and social climate. I wrote down so many wonderful quotes from this book and I know that I will go back to reread it for the pure joy that the book gave me- it’s not often that I am enthralled by a story and that it resonates on a personal level with me. The characters are sublime- I adored Alex, Beatrice and Aunt Marla. I love that these three women are so strong-willed and fiercely independent. The standout character for me is the librarian Mrs Gyzinska- she’s feisty, doesn’t take any nonsense and empowers those around her. The author wrote in the beginning of the book that she was inspired to write this story after watching a story about a particular U.S senator and accusations against him. Her blood burned her skin in anger upon hearing the story- echoing the experience of the girls and women in the book when they are faced with unfair and unjust scenarios inflicted upon them by men. My blood literally boiled on a number of occasions and the husband was told about every single one of them, whether he wanted to hear them or not! It’s a book that raises so many important issues; it’s thought-provoking and makes you want to talk immediately to someone about what you are experiencing/feeling after reading particular passages. This book is a standout feminist story for me; it’s about empowerment, sticking it to the patriarchy, female friendship and kinship and finding your place in a hostile world. Absolute perfection! I wanted to go back to the start and read it again immediately upon finishing just to see what else I could glean from this wonderful story. 5 ⭐️ all the way (I wish I could give it more!) When Women Were Dragons is out now. Thanks to NetGalley and publishers for the arc.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Emily Sarah

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A surprisingly therapeutic sapphic read filled with dragons, feminism and a need to literally burn down the patriarchy. I went into this knowing very little, but as soon as I read the opening author letter I knew this book would hold a place in my heart that words can’t quite do justice. This book is unabashedly bold, it grips you with its 1950’s setting; a world where womens rights are under suppression that rings eerily true to todays world. It deals with heavy topics (TW’s at the bottom of thi A surprisingly therapeutic sapphic read filled with dragons, feminism and a need to literally burn down the patriarchy. I went into this knowing very little, but as soon as I read the opening author letter I knew this book would hold a place in my heart that words can’t quite do justice. This book is unabashedly bold, it grips you with its 1950’s setting; a world where womens rights are under suppression that rings eerily true to todays world. It deals with heavy topics (TW’s at the bottom of this review) but in a way that’s entirely cathartic to read. As a SA survivor this book meant so damn much to me, it had me crying, laughing and in rage all at once. The author has done such a bloody brilliant job with giving hope and happiness in the women that we choose to surround ourselves with, it takes a bleak reality and gives us pause to breathe and I absolutely adore the author for this. This book contains sapphic sc’s and mc’s and I believe there was even a nod to polyamory at one point (though this was just how I personally inferred it.) If your looking for a historical telling steeped in fantasy rewrites and dragons that tear apart what we ourselves, wish we could; then this is probably for you. A bloody brilliant, emotional but uplifting read. Thank you to hotkey books for providing me with an advance copy of this for review. TW’s listed below (please skip if you want no spoilers as may contain some) Tw// mentions of SA (nondescript), use of improper name (mc prefers an alteration to her name), mentions of cancer, homophobia, mentions of alcoholism, mentions of fires, mild physical abuse, death, disowning, depictions of injury/mild violence, patriarchy/suppression of womens rights.

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