REVIEW: The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True by Sean Gibson

A bard’s job is to tell a story. Beyond that, whether the story is true or not is relative. While most good bards will want some element of truth in the tales to give them legitimacy and garner respect, a learned tale spinner also understands that a little bit of spice will sometimes make the difference between a story and a tale to be remembered. The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True is such a tale, and we can tell immediately from the title that our narrator will be using a bit of embellishment. “(Mostly) True” gives that away and is a subtle admission that there will be some flavoring to make the story more enjoyable. With that in mind, our narrator wants her story to be believed as well as enjoyed. Or at least, mostly believed.

I’m all in favor of using the people’s vernacular, but sometimes the people should get a bigger vernacular and know what words mean.”

The Part About the Dragon was (mostly) TrueHeloise the Bard is the narrator of this fine tale, which is her firsthand account of a quest to rid the village of Skendrick of their dragon problem. She is, or wants to be, the most famous and well-loved bard in the land. She takes on this job knowing it will add to her legend. She’s hoping it will, at least.

In the constant struggle between truth and entertainment, Heloise gives us alternating chapters where she goes all out in both manners. By doing this, she is able to embellish to her heart’s content on one hand, while fulfilling her sense of honor at keeping an accurate account of what happened. She does this by giving first a chapter that’s full of the epic grandeur: “A Classic Beginning,” and following that up with a more truthful account: “…Is Not How it Actually Went Down”. She uses this technique throughout the novel, delivering what seems to be an appropriate compromise between what really happened, and how heroic the deeds that were done.

Regardless to the level of heroism needed to complete the task of dragon getting-rid-of, Heloise couldn’t do it all alone. She needed help, so went in search of a band of maybe heroes that would be willing to take on the great risk for their sense of honor. Or greed. Or maybe the promise of a little coin and some heroic reputation building, to help them get all that other stuff later on. If they survive, of course. Well, it wasn’t her money she was offering.

Rumscrabble Tooltinker (Rummy) is a rarity. He’s half-dwarf, half-halfling “(quarterling?)” and the purveyor of prestidigitation, which is a big word for sleight-of-hand.

Nadinta Ghettinwood (Nadi) is the leader of this little party, and is at least as stealthy as Rummy, though she’s more akin to the art of fighting.

Whiska Tailiesen is the wizard of the group, but she’s not your typical mage. She’s a Ratarian, which is a unique race of humanoids that resemble large rats. Not just in appearance either, as a race they “tend toward belligerence, rudeness, and coarseness.”

Borgunder Gunderbor (Borg) is a rock giant. His talents lie in brute strength, and his enormous size. To call Borg stupid is an unfair and inaccurate statement. He is slow, but this description is more an accounting of his speed rather than his wit.

“’…adventuring is hard. Really hard, and it’s kind of insane. I mean, who honestly thinks it’s a good idea to walk into a dragon’s lair for kicks?’

Not for kicks,’ said Whiska solemnly. ‘For treasure. A fecal ton of treasure.’”

Fans of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series might like The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True as it does seem that Pratchett’s series was an influence. There is a comfortable blend of humor and adventure throughout the narrative, and it has a nice pacing as a result. The humor is clever without being slapstick (mostly) and the characters feel real rather than ridiculous (though they will sometimes inspire a good eye roll). Gibson is an independent author, and if he continues to put out work of this quality and high level of entertainment, will be a success story along the lines of Michael R. Fletcher, M.L. Spencer, or Rob J. Hayes.

Read The Part About the Dragon Was (Mostly) True by Sean Gibson

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Chris Haught

Chris Haught is a lifelong fan of all things fantasy, since picking up a copy of The Hobbit age the age of 10, the same year that Star Wars premiered. These laid the foundation for a reading career in speculative fiction, which has expanded over time with exposure to the job market, military service, fatherhood, married life, and becoming a grandpa. These experiences contributed just enough appreciation for the absurd, cynicism, and irony to develop a love of grimdark fiction.