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I’m Afraid You’ve Got Dragons

4

Turning to Stone

4

The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi

3

Robots and Empire

4

Witch King

2
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  • The Good: Charming coming-of-age fairy tale
  • The Bad: Maybe just a little too simple and sweet; low stakes
  • The Literary: Graceful prose

Gaius Aurelius Constantine Heliogabalus Thrax (please call him Robert) lives in the backwater kingdom of Bellemontagne, thrust into his father’s dragon extermination business. The thing is, Robert likes dragons and even feels a kinship with them, even though everyone else considers them unwanted vermin. He does his best to kill them as humanely as possible, but he also secretly recues some and keeps them as pets. Instead of going on house calls around his tiny village, Robert dreams of traveling as a prince’s valet.

Two additional secondary protagonists are also about Robert’s age, but both are high-born. Princess Cerise is the stunningly beautiful and stubborn princess of Bellemontagne, who met Robert once many years ago when his father exterminated the castle. Cerise hates the endless parade of princes who come to seek her hand in marriage. She’s certainly a strong young woman who plays by her own rules, which is why it’s a little disappointing when she falls head over heels for Prince Reginald.

Crown Prince Reginald of Corvinia visits Bellemontagne on a quest to prove himself a worthy champion in his father’s eyes. Reginald is stunningly handsome, so everyone assumes him to be a hero already, especially Cerise. When Cerise sees her own crumbling castle through the eyes of this wealthy foreign price, she insists the castle be cleaned up and restored immediately, which includes bringing in the local dragon exterminator.

Each of our young heroes is on a journey of self-discovery. Although it’s a simple story, their paths are not stereotypical. It’s quite funny, even satirical, in a The Princess Bride way. The worldbuilding is minimal (our protagonists travel between only a few points across the kingdom), but it’s the budding friendship and hero’s journey that are the real charm here. Throw in an evil wizard and some huge dangerous dragons, and you’ve got a cute coming-of-age fairy tale. Beagle excels at lyrical allegorical prose, but it’s played quite minimally here, reserved for descriptions of the dragons, which makes them all the more magical.

While this is a charming tale, I note the lack of real darkness or the bittersweet sadness that is characteristic of many of Beagle’s other works. In that way, I’d recommend this for anyone looking for a sweet whimsical tale of a young princes and princess off on adventure, with dragons and wizards.

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