*This review will contain spoilers!*
First things first, I need to say a HUGE thank you to Lorna Hargreaves from Vertebrate Publishing. Lorna invited me to take part in the ‘Here Be Witches’ blog tour back in March and allowed me to review both novels in the Snowdonia Chronicles series in my own time, which I really appreciated.
‘The girl turns her face to the summit. Above her the air shudders. Just thirty paces. If she can only reach the safety of the rocks. Heart pounding, blood hammering, she poises herself. Run.’
‘Here Be Dragons’ opens following a girl up on mount Snowdon, attempting to outrun an unidentified beast. It’s a mystical and intriguing opening, perfectly establishing the location of Snowdon, which is a character in itself.
Ellie and her mother live on Mount Snowdon, and Ellie hates it. They relocated there after Ellie’s mother inherited her grandmother’s farm. Leaving London, they went back to Snowdon because it was her late father’s favourite place. But Ellie misses her friends, and she wishes she was back in civilisation, with actual mobile phone signal.
On Christmas Day, Ellie and her mother receive a call about a girl stuck on the mountain. As they’re both part of the rescue team, they head out into the snow – not the ideal way to spend the holiday. While looking for the girl, Ellie sees a mysterious boy further up the mountain. He’s not wearing the proper gear, and he’s completely on his own. Ellie tries to show her mother, but she won’t listen, focused on the person they’re supposed to be saving.
Later that night, Ellie can’t stop thinking about the boy. They rescued the girl, getting her airlifted to hospital, but what if the boy is out there and he’s in trouble? Her mother goes to visit her boyfriend, Jeff, and Ellie takes the opportunity to go out and search.
She doesn’t expect to find him, though. And she doesn’t expect to fall in love with him as quickly as she does. But just what was he doing up there on the mountain by himself? And why is he so damn mysterious?
SPOILER ALERT: the boy Ellie meets is a dragon.
I KNOW, RIGHT?! I saw it coming too. The foreshadowing isn’t subtle in the slightest, so the ‘dramatic reveal’ is tension free. Henry makes a throwaway comment about not sleeping, and Ellie internally jokes about the fact that everyone sleeps ‘(apart from EVIL, and Edward in TWILIGHT)’. We all know Edward was a vampire: Ellie’s boyfriend’s paranormal background is the most obvious thing in the world.
Ten years ago, I would have loved this book. Now? A girl falling in love with a boy who spends most of his time as a gigantic winged beast gives me shudders. Human Henry is the stereotypically perfect YA boyfriend, but other than his dragon history he doesn’t have much of a personality. It’s hard to understand why Ellie likes him.
Sorry, loves him. ‘Here Be Dragons’ starts on Christmas Day and ends on New Year’s Eve. That means Ellie and Henry know each other for a week. In that time she says she’s in love with him more than I can count. It’s instalove to the MAX, so cheesy it’s physically painful.
A lot of these issues are because Sarah is establishing the greater plot. You need Ellie and Henry to fall head over heels for each other, because it gives the opportunity to expand the story into a series. At the end of the book the lovebirds are torn from each other, so the real action should begin in the second installment.
That being said, I loved the big battle scene between Henry and the White Dragon. The White Dragon is his uncle, Sir Oswald, making for an interesting family dynamic! I couldn’t have given this book three stars without that fight. It’s extremely brutal for a book that seems more middle-grade than YA throughout. Middle-grade in the way that Ellie is sixteen and saying ‘How The Hello?’ instead of hell. (See what I mean about cringe?).
I also really enjoyed the descriptions of Snowdonia. Sarah’s amazing at writing a three-dimensional setting!
This book probably deserved two stars, but I’m a sucker for a dramatic ending. Ellie’s not a realistic teenager, and the language she uses makes this book feel far older than it is. No one talks like that, or uses that much chat speak in their texts. I don’t care how quickly your signal drops out, you still don’t write like you’re a 12-year-old when you’re in your late teens!
I started the sequel, ‘Here Be Witches’, as soon as I finished ‘Here Be Dragons’. Thankfully, it’s already much stronger: I’m only 50 pages in and enjoying it ten times as much. I’ve got a feeling that it’s going to keep steadily improving on the first book: here’s hoping I’m right!