After the Dragons by Cynthia Zhang


Finalist for the Utopia Award and the inaugural Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction, After the Dragons is a soft, sweet novel about navigating culture and care in the time of climate change in Beijing.

“Zhang’s portrayal of Beijing is rich with intimate details and subtle commentary on climate change, while the delightfully distinct dragons are seamlessly integrated. Despite being a slim novel, Zhang’s introspective fantasy has enormous heart and astonishing depth.”
— Krista Hutley for Booklist

“This is a slim, beautiful jewel-box of a novel. It is vividly atmospheric and feels real as if tiny flocks of dragons might sit on telephone lines in modern-day Beijing. It explores falling in love in the wake of grief and the ways in which we try to exert control over our lives. Its quiet intimacy will break your heart and give you hope — and also dragons. Perfect, beautifully drawn dragons. It’s a lovely debut and I look forward to seeing what Cynthia Zhang does next.” — Mary Robinette Kowal, Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author of The Calculating Stars

Customers outside of CA/US: due to supply chain issues, worldwide shipping of print books is currently slow and expensive. We recommend shopping with your local indie bookstore. If you do order a print book from us, it will be shipped from the closest print facility to you and will therefore be printed on standard paper and will not include the goodies we send with CA/US orders.


About the Book

Dragons were fire and terror to the Western world, but in the East they brought life-giving rain… Now, no longer hailed as gods and struggling in the overheated pollution of Beijing, only the Eastern dragons survive. As drought plagues the aquatic creatures, a mysterious disease—shaolong, or “burnt lung”—afflicts the city’s human inhabitants.

Jaded college student Xiang Kaifei scours Beijing streets for abandoned dragons, distracting himself from his diagnosis. Elijah Ahmed, a biracial American medical researcher, is drawn to Beijing by the memory of his grandmother and her death by shaolong. Interest in Beijing’s dragons leads Kai and Eli into an unlikely partnership. With the resources of Kai’s dragon rescue and Eli’s immunology research, can the pair find a cure for shaolong and safety for the dragons? Eli and Kai must confront old ghosts and hard truths if there is any hope for themselves or the dragons they love.

After the Dragons is a tender story, for readers interested in the effects of climate change on environments and people, but who don’t want a grim, hopeless read. Beautiful and challenging, focused on hope and care, this novel navigates the nuances of changing culture in a changing world.

The cover art for After the Dragons is by Wang Xulin, with typography and design by Yu-Lobbenberg Rachel.

About the Author

Cynthia Zhang is a Ph.D. student in Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture at the University of Southern California. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in KaleidotropeOn SpecPhantom Drift, and other venues. She is a 2021 DVdebut mentee and is on the web at

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Additional information

Book Format


Page count

142 pp.


9781777091743 (trade), 9781777091750 (ebook)

Publication Date

August 19, 2021


fantasy, science fiction, climate fiction, novella


climate change, Beijing, dragons, chronic illness, LGBTQ

Cover Art and Design

Wang Xulin (art), Rachel Yu Lobbenberg (design)


Ursula K. Le Guin Prize for Fiction (Finalist), Utopia Award (Finalist)


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