One of my first introductions to an epic fantasy (or sci-fi, depending on how you look at it!) series was Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern.
I read them in middle school. I started with the Harper Hall trilogy, and then read the original trilogy which had a lot of sex, but I didn’t realize that at the time. I was a big fan of Lessa–I imagine a lot of young girls were big fans of Lessa. I also read the Moreta stories, and the story about the original colonists of Pern–which is what tips the series from fantasy into science fiction, since Pern was colonized by a bunch of humans from Earth, so there you go. These humans genetically engineered the Pern’s indigenous fire lizards (tiny little flying and fire breathing lizards) into big, rideable “dragons” that formed a telepathic bond with their chosen human.
These dragons are pretty great: when they hatch, they “impress” upon another human, and said dragon and human are bonded for life. Dragons come in gold (female egg layers), bronze (alpha males who mate with the golds), brown (slightly smaller than the bronzes), blues and greens (the smallest and most common of the dragons). The dragons were bred to combat Thread, which is this gross, acidic, fibrous substance that falls on the planet periodically and which destroys anything it touches. Icky, right?
There is a Pern fan track at Dragon*Con–I’ve never attended, mostly because I haven’t read a Pern book in years. I enjoyed them while I was reading them, but after awhile I decided to move on from the dragon world of Pern, to discover new worlds, and new fantasies. Anne McCaffrey passed away last November after a long life and a prolific and wonderful career: she gave her readers a fantastic world, and it was quite a gift.
If you are a novice to epic sci-fi and fantasy, I’d highly recommend the Pern series–they’re a great introduction to the genre, and a fun read!