Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons
Series: Miss Percy’s Guide, #1
Author: Quenby Olsen
Miss Mildred Percy inherits a dragon.
Ah, but we’ve already got ahead of ourselves …
Miss Mildred Percy is a spinster. She does not dance, she has long stopped dreaming, and she certainly does not have adventures. That is, until her great uncle has the audacity to leave her an inheritance, one that includes a dragon’s egg.
The egg – as eggs are wont to do – decides to hatch, and Miss Mildred Percy is suddenly thrust out of the role of “spinster and general wallflowers” and into the unprecedented position of “spinster and keeper of dragons.”
But England has not seen a dragon since … well, ever. And now Mildred must contend with raising a dragon (that should not exist), kindling a romance (with a humble vicar), and embarking on an adventure she never thought could be hers for the taking.
I’m not altogether sure why I picked up this book, especially since it is clearly set in what’s supposed to be this world or an alternate version of it (see the mention of England above) and I generally don’t like that. But I think it probably had mostly to do with the very cute hatching dragon on the cover and the hope that it would be about raising a dragon (since everyone who knows Raina knows that’s one of her things), and the fact that a book set in England some several hundreds of years ago does not have the issues practically any contemporary fiction would have for me, and other things about the book (such as how cozy/slice-of-life and non-epic non-political it is, and the fact it’s set in a culture not so far removed from certain ones nowadays that it may be expected the author will not get everything about it drastically wrong and miss the whole spirit of anything) suggest it won’t have a lot of the problems I hate in historical fiction.
I may already be imitating the narrator’s habit of going for long parentheticals in the middle of conversation – and well, everywhere – already in my review. But with a lot less style than Quenby displays.
Well, firstly, what I liked about the book. One of the major things I enjoyed about Miss Percy was the theme that it’s never too late to re-discover your self-identity and go on an adventure. It’s never too late to dream. Mildred has dreamed of having an adventure since she was a child, and then given up that dream in a despair too quiet and too slow in its onset to be properly called despair, as she accepts her role as a spinster and a fly on the wall of her insufferable sister’s home. And I think there’s an allegory and a message in there for everyone – never stop dreaming, and even if you have stopped dreaming, that doesn’t mean it’s too late to start again. I think that’s a hope and a call we all need, in a world where so many of us do stop dreaming, resigning ourselves sometimes to barely even thinking of the dreams that have been left behind, and feeling that it is better not to and that it is impossible to respond to that call and step back into the adventure of life after missing out for so long, whether that fear is tied to the fear of encroaching age and death, or something else.
Secondly, I liked the representation of all the characters and the way both realism and hope for human character was woven into this novel. There are plenty of insufferable characters, who are just as selfish, self-justified, and cruel as many people can be, and really feel like the sorts of individuals one sometimes encounters in real life. But at the same time, there are people who are kind and helpful, some in bigger ways, some in smaller ways. People with open hearts. However, having had some very bad experiences (and very little but) with organized religion and pastors, I found the part of the town vicar, and the fact he had to be the vicar, to be disconcerting and troublesome. I’m not sure how I overlooked that part on the back cover, or if I was in a mood where I didn’t remember what ‘vicar’ meant and it could have been the town plumber …. Though I’m aware that not all people who have ever been in positions like that are evil, but it was troublesome to me. I just don’t like the atmosphere I generally perceive around clergy and figures of so-called “authority.”
Thirdly, the narrator (I don’t mean this in the audiobook sense, but calling it ‘prose’ seems to convey the wrong impressions for what I meant here) is sometimes funny. The comments about social norms and the odd things that put ants up the pants (this is my expression, not borrowed from the book in so far as I know) of the “well-raised” are sometimes engaging and funny. The dialogue reads like dialogue, with plenty of stammering and stumbling and stuttering, and everything else that happens when speakers of certain personality types are quite nervous, or shy, or otherwise have a hard time coming up with words. Though, of course, one does get to see Mildred come into quite a bit of confidence once or twice. But the reflections on such things as making plans before one has even considered half the substance of those plans can be amusing. However, at other times the narration is rather dull, and did not seem to me to add anything to the story being told.
And the scenes with Fitz, while not plentiful and I would have preferred a great deal more, are the best. Also, he is a brave little thing with rather ingenious solutions to problems that would – apart from his intervention – escalate into something rather disastrous. Not to mention that he is quite intelligent and knows who his friends are.
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