Dragon Raja is a fantasy novel written by Lee Yeongdo. It was first serialized through internet forum based in South Korea in 1997; a publisher later picked it up and collected them into paperback the next year. The novel is a High Fantasy literature playing its tropes mostly straight, heavily influenced by J. R. R. Tolkien's works — early versions did contain terminologies from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, which were removed in later prints and international release due to copyright infringement.
The story of Dragon Raja begins in the lands of Heltant, a western rural area of the kingdom of Bisus where tensions are high due to recent threats from the black dragon named Amurtaht. When armies are dispatched to subjugate her, only for her to quickly overwhelm them and take their leaders as hostages — including the titular Dragon Raja, a supposed medium between dragons and the other races — Amurtaht makes an offer to the Heltant people: give her a handsome amount of money, or the hostages are all dead. Without any finance to pay such ransom, Heltant forms a small group of adventurers to contact the royal household at the kingdom's capital and discuss the matter. What follows is a Serial Escalation of epic adventures that would change the fate of the world and reveal the true nature of "Dragon Raja". The story is told in First-Person Perspective from Hutch Nedval, a 17-year-old human who joins the fellowship in hopes of avenging his mother's death at Amurtaht's hands.
Dragon Raja is credited as one of the first generation Korean web novels that jumpstarted the "internet literature" phenomenon in the country, paving a way for countless Korean fantasy novels inspired by it. It also spawned a franchise with numerous adaptations, including:
- Dragon Raja (1998): The original novel.
- Future Walker (1999): A direct sequel to Dragon Raja, featuring most of the original cast.
- Marks of Shadow (2008): A short story written to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the series. Taking place a thousand years after Dragon Raja, with the setting updated to Diesel Punk.
- Dragon Raja (2000): A manhwa adaptation. It starts relatively faithful before sliping into significant Adaptation Deviation in the later volumes. Cut Short due to creative differences between the publisher and the author.
- Dragon Raja (2001)
- Dragon Raja Online (2000): A Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game. Notably, it was the first media to be released internationally before the novel itself.
- Dragon Raja Mobile (2004)
Not to be confused with the Chinese Urban Fantasy novel of the same name, which also having a video game adaptation.
Tropes found in this series include:
- End of an Age: It's a constant theme in the novel, with the elves almost gone, the Bisus kingdom moving on from its war-torn era and Dragon Raja being a distant memory. The novel ends with Dragon Raja being no more, humans cutting ties with dragons, and Amurtaht, one of the main antagonitsts, leaves behind the main continent and flies to parts unknown, never to return.
- High Fantasy: It's a straight example, featuring typical races like elves, dwarves, and dragons.
- Modest Royalty: The adventuring elder brother of the King, the princess with the gardening shears and straw hat, and an illegitimate younger brother of a countryside noble who lives in a hut at the edge of the woods reading books and brewing apple cider.
- Naming Conventions: All dragon names are 5 syllables long in Korean.
- Orwellian Retcon: Later publications of Dragon Raja starting with 10th anniversary edition changed in-universe terminologies because they were ripped from J. R. R. Tolkien works. Examples include changing Mithril to Mithral, the Hobbits to the Halfings, etc.
- Talking Weapon: Prim Sword just loves to talk.