Fantasy Novel Review: I’m Afraid You’ve Got Dragons by Peter S. Beagle

This review is based on an eARC (Advance Reading Copy) provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I’m Afraid You’ve Got Dragons will be released on May 14, 2024.

I read The Last Unicorn years ago and didn’t necessarily have the adoring response that seems typical in the fantasy world—it probably doesn’t help that there’s an energy drink named after the villain—but I was privileged to read some of Peter S. Beagle’s short fiction last year in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and it definitely made me want to seek out more of his work. With a short novel appearing on the horizon, I thought I’m Afraid You’ve Got Dragons seemed as good a place as any to dive back in. 

I’m Afraid You’ve Got Dragons follows a tender-hearted young man who has reluctantly taken over his father’s vocation as a dragon-exterminator in a world where dragons can range from the size of rats all the way up to the classic awe-inspiring creatures of legend. He’s looking for a way out, and a pair of jobs for royal customers may give him that opportunity—if he survives them. 

This is in many ways a classic, whimsical fantasy adventure, complete with a not-quite-farmboy with hidden abilities, a prince and princess chafing against their parents’ expectation, a sorcerer with a bone to pick, and plenty of dragons. Most of the characters play pretty closely to type, and the older generation of royals are outright caricatures, but this is meant to be a lighthearted fantasy adventure, not a character study. 

And as a whimsical fantasy adventure, it’s pretty successful. Reader experience will doubtless vary depending on how much they enjoy the storytelling, but Beagle writes well, and if the book spends most of the first third on royal silliness and ordinary (fantasy) extermination, a book of only about 300 pages doesn’t really have time to bog down. 

Unsurprisingly, given my own tastes, my favorite parts were the slow revelation of mysterious dangers and hints at the lead’s mysterious abilities, because I’m generally a sucker for revelations of hidden things. The royal absurdities, the romantic subplot, and the magical showdown at the end were all perfectly well-written, but those also aren’t the elements that really drive me to pick up a book. If they’re the elements that drive you to pick up a book, you’ll probably like them even more than I did! 

Overall, I wouldn’t call this an especially ambitious book, but it’s one that does a pretty good job at what it’s trying to do. It’s not going to define a subgenre, but it’s worth a look for anyone looking for some extra whimsy in their lives or feeling some nostalgia for classic adventure fantasy. 

Recommended if you like: traditional adventure fantasy with dragons and plenty of whimsy.

Can I use it for BingoIt’s Published in 2024 and Features Dreams and a Prologue or Epilogue. It’s hard mode for Entitled Animals.

Overall rating: 14 of Tar Vol’s 20. Four stars on Goodreads.

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