I told you a bit ago about how I came to read the wildly popular Fourth Wing which had been on my radar for months. Not on my radar and coming in as a total surprise for me is a book I think is a great "next read" suggestion for fans of Fourth Wing, To Shape a Dragon's Breath. I was sorting through forthcoming/newly published books when I came across this young adult novel. Like FW it has a young woman entering an academy to learn how to be a dragon rider. But where it departs from TFW is in the characters and world-building - here the world is a much more analogous to our own world history and the protagonist is an indigenous girl who enters a school run by the colonizer Anglish.
Anequs has grown up with her family on an island called Masquapuag. One day she spots a dragon and then discovers the egg she left behind. Anequs brings the egg to her village and when it hatches, she bonds with the female dragon. Her new status as Nampeshiweisit - a person with a unique relationship with a dragon - is honored by her people. But the Anglish have far different ideas about the bond between people and dragons and if she is to keep her dragon, Anequs will have to travel to the mainland to join a dragon academy to be "properly" trained. Once there she finds her status as female and non-Anglish, make her an outsider and subject to racism and prejudice at best, and possible violence at worse. Anequs must navigate a new world, new relationships and a year of schooling in order to keep her dragon safe.
The tone and pacing here is more of a slow-build than was found in FW (and the romantic plot much more subtle), but there is real suspense in the day to day life Anequs experiences and the world-building is top-notch. And what's so lovely is how Anequs is never cowed by those who see themselves as better than her (they're most decidedly not). She has a strong sense of self that never wavers and her perseverance drew me in page by page. If the book bogged down a bit in the middle, it picks up nicely in the latter third and leaves the reader eager for the next in the series.