There Be Dragons by Peter Hallett (Review By Korie)

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**Review By Korie from The Nerd Girl Page**

***Book Received From Author In Exchange For An Honest Review***
This is  a tale written by Peter Hallett. It tells the story of a unit of American service men running operations in Vietnam,1968 at the height of the war. It’s pretty much business as usual until they discover that things are anything BUT business as usual.

Centering on a new Lt & his squad, we follow them on their missions. Great research and planning went into the writing. It is evident in the layers of detail given to describe the world these characters live in. You can hear the mosquitoes buzzing by, you can feel the oppressive, exhaustive heat. You get a true sense of the peril they live through. This is war and when the fighting starts, you get a deeper understanding of what soldiers in general, endure. Even amidst great fiction, otherworldly creatures and incredible events, you can still connect with the base elements of being human. As most stories focus on one side of the conflict, this one is no different. Americans vs. Vietnamese/Russians told from the American pov. It reads like a classic war movie & that is where it leaves me wanting more. In my opinion, that is its only flaw.

Mr Hallett puts a lot of effort into fleshing out the military aspects. The feel of the bases, the locations of the fighting, the sweat of the effort, the trained behavior of the soldiers, the weaponry, the vehicles, all of that is spot on. I can not stress that enough. You get an accurate sense of troop maneuvers & combat, but not so much the personalities of the men. The soldiers are fleshed out but not the men. That’s my only gripe. Now, to be fair, as I said it feels like a classic war film, so the one dimensional take on the characters may have been intentional. It may have been to depict the “when you’re in the war, you’re out of the world” way of surviving notion often echoed regarding warfare. In most films of that era and depicting, that era, soldiers were pretty shallow. Follow orders, grunt, mutter something about back home, kill, repeat or get killed off. In that regard, the writer nails those personalities. There is the religious soldier, there is the psychotic soldier, there’s the black soldier fighting the enemy/racism & so on. Very by the book in terms of that.

I know this author is capable of weaving a story, getting us from point A to point B, but the characters blend together when the action starts. That is largely due to the aforementioned personality clichés. War is bloody. War is dynamic. You get that from  the words but the characters come & go. Because its hard to connect with them, their time in the story seems very fleeting. Maybe that is also intentional to draw thought to the numerous lives lost during that conflict and all wars fought but I can only speculate  on that part. At any rate the practice of “mourn dead soldier /Insert name here/ after the mission” gets used so often that you don’t really digest anyone’s passing.

Conceptually Mr Hallett brings together two very distinct and varied topics: The Vietnam War and Dragons. It is an audacious & original idea. I applaud the vision. Imagine if Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton wrote a book together. That’s the type of story you’re in for. Once the action starts, it doesn’t let up. It grabs you by the throat and drags you, flailing on the ground, through the jungle behind it. Its akin to watching a happy child play with his toys in a sandbox of his own making. The sheer enjoyment of a creator telling his story with his creations seeps out in every word compiled. Some of the acts described are in such vivid detail that you can see the scenes unfold while reading them. That is a gift. To convey that idea so clearly that your reader can see it in his/her mind. In those moments the story fires on all cylinders.

As I mentioned for the most part the characters are one dimensional. That applies to the villains as well. The enemy combatants are reminiscent of B-Movie bad guys. They are not memorable for the things they say but rather for the things they do. Since violence is in a sense its own language, the villains speak the loudest. The human villains and the non-human ones. They have the most impact. The actions that they take have the most resonance. The adversity is how we measure the heroism and the valor of the “good guys”. Its how we determine how “good” of a hero they are. The flawed and imperfect heroes in this piece, are still heroic. They have to be, because the villains are truly villainous.

The dragons: the dragons are approached in a very logical, plausible sense. In a way that suggests that these dragons could have actually existed. These dragons are NOT magical. They are predators. They are approached much like any natural creature and that is what gives them their voice. They are treated as organic elements in the story. Not merely unveiled for shock value or because they are mentioned on the cover. The author takes his time to bring them into the story, but again, it is in a very realistic way when they do appear. They are mean, aggressive deadly beasts and the descriptions paint them as such. They have personality. They have attitude. They live up to the mantle.

The novel ends rather abruptly. I can even accept the swift ending but it would have had more impact, had the characters not whizzed by so quickly. Instead I’m left to contemplate my own mortality in the face of so many others who have died just as swiftly in real life as some of the  characters in this story. If that was the authors goal, well done. I don’t need raging pathos on every page or some G.I. screaming “Why GOD Why!?” while looking at the body of a fallen comrade but I couldn’t connect with the men in these situations. As much I appreciated this piece, I know the author is capable of imbuing more humanity in his characters…thus taking their stories from great to amazing. That will be something truly worth reading.

You can find the book on Amazon HERE

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