In a post-apocalyptic world, dragons, elves, vampires and demons war for control of Earth. A girl with powerful Gifts is the only hope the world has to destroy Slygon, a demon from the Pit come to rule all.
With the aid of a half-orc, his friends and a fairy, Annabelle tames dragons and rides to fight Slygon on his home territory. On a mission to rescue her sister from Slygon’s power, Annabelle will stop at nothing. When everyone around her is saying it’s time to quit, Annabelle is just getting started.
Title: Let There Be Dragons | Author: Janet Post| Publisher: Tell-Tale Publishing Group | Pub Date: 05/10/2020 | Pages: 406 | ISBN13: 978-1952020063 | Genre: Fantasy | Language: English | Source: NetGalley| Unstarred Review
Let There Be Dragons Review
The premise of Let There Be Dragons sounded fantastic, but the delivery left a lot to be desired.
In fact, the misleading book description is one of the reasons I found this story, which has tremendous potential, turned into a full-blown rage read by the end.
To the author’s credit, this story has action. It has plenty of action. There was tremendous potential with the plot, and there was enough going on to draw me into the story, despite some of the issues.
It’s important to note that this book is getting the highest number of content warnings from me of any book I’ve reviewed for the site to date. I do not issue content warnings for things that should be evident based on the nature or genre of the book, or the book’s description. The content warnings are listed at the end and concealed. They touch on subject matter that may be triggering for some readers. You have to click on the warnings to see them. The review avoids critical plot spoilers.
I read a lot of review copies, and I expect some typos and potential formatting issues. In this case, the book is already published. Typos and formatting slips aside, the book features dialogue that reads like info-dumping, and not like organic discussion. There’s a lot of tell writing, and there are frequent shifts between first- and third-person narration, even within the same paragraph. I’ve opted to include a visual quote, so that you can see that the chapter clearly identifies Belle as the POV character.
The entire book is supposed to be in first-person POV, and primarily focuses on Jackal and Belle’s perspectives. Every chapter or section with a different POV is labeled. This is an excellent way to keep the POV straight, but the issue here is that the POV shifts from first- to third-person. I, we, us, me, and my are all appropriate first-person pronouns.
However, Belle refers to her cottage as “Belle’s cottage.” I wouldn’t say I’m writing Eliza’s review. I’m writing my review. That’s appropriate for first-person POV.
This isn’t the only example of these shifts. In other places the text alternates between I, him, them, and they.
There are some points where the story shifts between past and present tense. There are also some potential inconsistencies. In one place, Belle refers to the nuns hiding her away because they were afraid she’d draw Slygon to them. In another place, Belle refers to the nuns trying to foist her on adoptive families who couldn’t handle her and brought her back to the orphanage.
Characters also present information in narration that they couldn’t possibly know.
Let There Be Dragons is set in a post-apocalyptic world where every mythological being you can think of has come out of a pit and lives among what’s left of the human race. This offers the opportunity to have some interesting creatures appear in the story. Unfortunately, in this book it ends up feeling like more things are just being thrown in randomly, without anticipation or critical purpose.
That connects to another critical issue. Great storytelling embraces foreplay and builds the readers’ anticipation of foreshadowed events. Then there’s the stories that bend you over and climax in 30 seconds. They’re never satisfying. On one hand, I want to credit stories that don’t lag and aren’t padded with filler. On the other hand, character development and payoff take time. We don’t spend nearly enough substantive time in the character’s heads to develop fears or awareness of potential dangers. While we anticipate the inevitable confrontation with Slygon, that’s all we really anticipate, and the group actually has so many encounters with him along the way that their pursuit starts to feel tiresome instead of building towards an anticipated outcome.
I generally liked the main cast of characters. I thought Belle and Jackal both had interesting backstories and the way their stories intersected was compelling. However, I had issues with both of them.
Belle is cocky from the start. She’s portrayed as extremely powerful. She’s a Magic, and the nuns are so afraid of her they keep her locked away and transport her in shackles. She’s prophesied to be “the one” who’d kill Slygon early on.
Belle never questions this. Even when her best friend, Tiny, is almost killed in a battle defending their city and she and Tiny are captured by orcs. Suddenly, the woman who can make things explode just by thinking about it is powerless to save her friend or herself without help from Jackal and his crew.
And this incident never gives her pause. She doesn’t stop to think she might not be able to kill Slygon. She’s determined to march off and do it herself without a clue about where he lives or how to get there or any understanding of the outside world, because she’s spent most of her life behind the walls that surround New Orleans.
She lacks humility, and she never really had a point where she needed to learn, grow, or improve. Her conceit was evident in the way she dealt with the elves, and although her anger was certainly justified, she demonstrated her presumptuousness and showed she lacked caution. Instead of trying to understand the situation so she could make an informed strategy to deal with their issues with the elves, she just excerts her power as though force will earn her respect.
The elves were portrayed as far too snobby to care about a show of force. They’d already seen her fly in on a dragon. Having one fly over when she called it was hardly showing them anything they hadn’t already seen.
Some of the issues with lack of anticipation and missed opportunity arose from the order information was presented. Early on, Jackal is infatuated with Belle. She quickly develops an interest in him. When they respond to the summons from Jackal’s mother (the Elf Queen, who gave Jackal away after he was born because he was part Orc and the Elves despise halfbreeds) Jackal finds out his mother has arranged for him to marry an elf. Jackal and the female elf have a difficult conversation in the hallway outside the queen’s chambers. Let’s just say if you didn’t hear what they were talking about, you could get the wrong idea. And Jackal looks up to see Belle in the hallway, clearly getting the wrong idea.
Then the chapter ends and we jump to Belle’s POV. Only we don’t pick up with her fleeing Jackal. We go back to her with the others from their group, deciding to go look for Jackal, finding him, and seeing him with the female elf. There was no anticipation of that moment because we didn’t see Belle in motion. When we last left her, she was far away, in the dirty hut she’d been assigned to stay in, outside the castle. The order of information made Belle’s perspective feel repetitive and unnecessary. After all, the intended outcome of all of her actions had already been shown to the reader.
That’s an illustration of failing to move characters and events in a sensible fashion so the readers can anticipate potential developments. In this story, much of the action is skimmed over, and it never feels very tense, in part because of how it’s narrated. With a first-person perspective, it should be a close narration, limited to what the POV character can see and describe. Instead, the action is frequently glossed over with summaries of what everyone in the group is doing, even if the POV character is engaged in a battle.
There are also times that, despite the POV labels for each chapter or section, the POV jumps to a different character entirely.
Now, I must also touch on the issue I had with Jackal. Jackal represents a general issue with this world. This may be a post-apocalyptic society, but even the dramatic events that opened the pit haven’t killed the patriarchy. Avert your eyes, ladies, lest you see some bawdy women or unseemly behavior and end up defiled. One of the central points of the story hinges on Belle’s purity.
I’m going to comment more about that with a spoiler warning following the content warnings for those who want to know more. I’ll also offer an explanation of a very tiresome LGBTQ trope in the spoiler section.
Going back to Jackal, he’s likeable, but has extremely sexist attitudes. Again, I’m going to let a visual quote make the point.
There was so much to like about Jackal, but there was this underlying misogynistic attitude in the text that grated on me. And while this started off as Belle’s quest to rescue her sister and kill Slygon, her story was quickly eclipsed by Jackal’s. Yes, his story was compelling, and the author did use the diverging threads to keep the action building, but Belle stopped focusing on her mission to kill Slygon, who was personally responsible for threatening generations of people. (See the content warnings if you want to know more.) Killing him mattered. It was a noble purpose. So was her desire to rescue her sister. But once Belle started to develop an interest in Jackal she seemed to spend more time thinking about him and rescuing her sister, and Jackal was the one focusing on killing Slygon. It became his mission.
There was an interesting cast of characters, and I actually enjoyed them well enough to keep reading through the first half of the book. But it wasn’t long after I crossed the halfway point that my irritation started to outweigh my intrigue and lingering hope that the story would coalesce effectively. By the time I was at 70% it was a rage read, slipping into sexist tropes that made the characters feel like they were contradicting themselves at points, and that undermined the good aspects of some of the male characters.
Early on, I’d noted some of the characters seemed to lack conviction. They’d say one thing, and then abruptly change their mind at the first sign of disagreement. They wouldn’t go through a thought process. They didn’t have an experience that informed a change of heart. They just snapped their fingers and embraced a different decision like it had been their idea all along. Going back to the early chapters, I think about Belle’s desire to return to her city, and how quickly she gives up on it. The opportunities for tension and character growth as she changes her mind were lost to a rapid decision. She quickly trusted in Jackal and his men. While a book that ignores some common approaches to plot and character development can still be effective, this story seemed to focus more on throwing in the next strange creature to battle than giving the characters compelling arcs. We also lost track of some characters near the end, and it should be noted that even after the 90% mark new characters are being introduced to the story. At that stage, unless they make a significant contribution to the outcome, they’re just a distraction, and that’s ultimately how it felt for me.
Lots of potential here that failed to deliver. With a good developmental edit, this could have really been a winner. 2.5 stars.
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I found this irritating for several reasons. Belle is never particularly concerned with being ladylike. She portrays herself as a warrior from the start. She’s disgusted by the idea of just being paired off with another Magic to breed. All she’s ever wanted to do was go and find her missing sister. Conforming to societal expectations was never on her priority list, but suddenly she’s concerned about her virginity and her purity?
I mean, if she’d had some self-reflection, wondering if Jackal really was the one she wanted to be with and if this relationship was right for her, I wouldn’t have an issue. But that isn’t the critical factor.
And if I really believed her purity mattered to Slygon, maybe I could have grudgingly accepted this plot point. But Slygon is an evil being who’d fuck anything that breathes, and has had multiple partners. Suddenly it becomes so important to him to have Belle because she’s pure? He obsesses about this fact. I didn’t believe for a second it would matter to him because of how thoroughly evil he was. He could have taken any human and mated to produce an heir. And then, when Slygon realizes that he’s Belle’s uncle, even that doesn’t deter him. He clearly states that didn’t matter. Not even the idea of breeding with a relative bothered him, so his obsessive blathering about purity was 100% BS.
I also want to note the use of a tiresome trope. Rain, the female elf Jackal is betrothed to, is in a relationship with another female elf. Blink and you’d miss it (especially because it happens off the page) but the female partner is promptly killed. This makes Rain loyal to Jackal and determined to help defeat Slygon, but even after pledging her loyalty and determination to follow him, we lose track of Rain. She isn’t referenced by name after that point. I honestly don’t know what happened to her. Thinking I missed it during the read, I even went back and searched her name, but I couldn’t find that information. This could be evidence of a story ending up with such a large cast of characters that their arcs weren’t completed.
That leads to another issue with the ending. Although there’s reference to the fact that Belle’s father is still alive, they don’t locate him, but instead move on to planning their wedding.
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