Here Be Dragons by David Macpherson

8/10 Here Be Dragons is an action packed, comic fantasy full of unexpected heroes, dastardly villains, chases, escapes, questionable employment practises, ill-fitting trousers and an ill-tempered donkey

I am not a huge fan of comic fantasy. I tend to find it a little over the top, have trouble connecting with the characters, and otherwise just find that it isn’t for me. Nevertheless, every so often I’ll come across a funny fantasy novel that I enjoy quite a bit. Finding Here be Dragons by David Macpherson was one of those times. Macpherson gives us a fun novel that doesn’t take itself seriously, and reminds me in some ways of all the best parts of the comedy in Stargate SG-1 but in a fantasy setting.

In Here be Dragons we follow Orus, someone trained at the premier school for heroes but who never amounted to much as a hero. This is because on his first rescue of a damsel in distress he ended up fathering a child and actually stayed to raise that child. He’s now a gardener, but when he’s summoned for an important quest he figures now might be his chance to truly be a hero, especially since his son’s now away at mage college. From this quick summary you can already see the tongue in cheek nature of the narrative. It’s a lot of fun watching Orus half bungle his way through the early portions of his journey. We meet a wonderful cast of characters, including the Grandmaster of an order of monks who I swear reminds me to no end of Fizban the Fabulous from Dragonlance. While there is a lot of comedy, some of which is over the top, Macpherson does a good job of grounding the story in character emotions that are pretty relatable. Which one of us hasn’t worried that maybe we’ve missed the boat somewhere? Haven’t we all felt like failures from time to time? While the story is funny and excellently paced, what I think made it stand out for me was the emotion of the characters. Macpherson’s skill with this is what makes the novel work.

The biggest issue for me with this book was that it felt perhaps a little overlong. The book was incredibly well paced until the final 15% or so. At that point I felt like perhaps Macpherson was stretching things out just a little bit with a few final challenges that didn’t hold much tension. While this may seem like a minor criticism, I felt like it robbed the ending a bit. Better to feel like we move smoothly into it, rather than that we get to it only after a couple extra things that just didn’t quite feel like they flowed as well. There were also a couple of moments when some of the comedy felt a little too cute or over the top, but I often have that feeling with comic fantasy and with Here be Dragons I had it far less than I normally do.

Macpherson’s novel is a fun, sometimes zany, fantasy adventure. While comical throughout, it's actually quite powerful as well. It's a book about accepting who you are, and not letting the dream of what you wished life were like overshadow the good in your life. It excels at showing that message through the characters actions, as opposed to their dialog, thus it never comes off as preachy. Take a chance on this one and gift it a read.

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