#SPFBO 8 Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson : Review

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What is SPFBO? Check out Mark Lawrence’s post here to look at this year’s entrants, judges and allocations list.

I am teaming up again with the ladies from The Critiquing Chemist.

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Today I am posting my fifth and final review for the books that I rolled forward (see my feedback posts for batch No.12 and 3).  All told I carried forward five books, The Hidden Blade by Marie M. Mullany, The Blood of Crows by Alex C Pierce, Scarlight by Evid Marceau, Between Ink and Shadows by Melissa Wright and Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson and over the next few days I will review each book in the order I read them.

So, without further ado here’s my review for Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson:

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a fantasy reader in possession of a gargantuan stack of unread books, must surely be in want of just one more book containing an outrageously cute dragon.

Miss Percy is an absolutely delightful, regency period, fantasy of manners style story that won me over with apparent ease.  The writing is wonderful, the plot is well thought out and totally absorbing, the characters are Austen-eque but with a slightly more uptodate sensibility and for those readers out there who usually shy away from fantasy elements, but who are in good need of a period drama, I implore you to give it a try, because, whilst I cannot deny that the inclusion of a dragon definitely falls most firmly into the realm of make-believe, the way this story is told, it feels almost less sensational than forgetting to wear a bonnet.

As the story begins we make the acquaintance of Mildred Percy, a spinster in her forties who lives on the slightly begrudging charity of her younger sister in the quaint village of Upper Plimpton, Wiltshire.  Immediately you are given to understand that Mildred’s life is given little significance by the family at large.  Her sister, Diana Muncy, gave Mildred a place to live following the death of their father and never fails to boss and belittle her sister as she sees fit.  Secreted away in a dusty room beneath the attic Mildred fills the role of Governess, childminder/entertainer, trouble shooter, housekeeper, general dogs body come beating block together with ‘any other duties as and when required’.  I’m probably making it seem a lot more dreadful than it was because Mildred certainly doesn’t seem to complain until her circumstances alter slightly and she begins to look at things through a different lens.

Following the death of their Great Uncle Forthright, Mildred is set to inherit certain items.  Neither of the sisters are quite sure what this inheritance will entail although Diana is hoping for something worthwhile (i.e. money) that she can no doubt take control of.  Meanwhile, a trunk arrives at the house one evening whilst the family are out.  It contains all sorts of fascinating objects, rocks and the like, journals and books and although Mildred doesn’t imagine her sister will have any interest in the contents she becomes strangely possessive and decides to hide the trunk, an escapade that is more strenuous than she first imagined and eventually concludes with the local vicar, Mr Wiggan, assisting with the endeavour.  From here the two form a friendship with Mildred visiting the Vicarage to discuss the contents of the trunk – now imagine, one of those unassuming rocks cracks open and delivers a, not-seen-in-I-don’t-know-how-many years, dragon.  Surely these are creatures of fairytales and myth – or maybe those tales arose out of truth that has long since been forgotten.

To be honest I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot but instead go into my thoughts and feelings.

Firstly.  Mildred.  What a wonderful creation she is.  I loved her.  She likes to talk to the readers and share little snippets of what she’s feeling and I couldn’t have enjoyed these interactions more if I tried.  It’s an absolute revelation watching her develop an understanding that her life is worth something, she’s not just an add on for the Muncy family and seeing her stand up to her bully of a sister made me want to do a little air punch. Her slowly developing relationship with Mr Wiggan is cosy and heart warming and comes with the added benefit of friendship with  Mrs Babbington (the vicarage housekeeper and a dab hand with anything baked – you might want to invest in a supply of biscuits before picking this one up because the constant descriptions of tea and sweet delights are indeed mouth watering).

Secondly, I can’t deny that I love reading stories set in this sort of period and this is executed so well.  The writing is positively delicious, I found myself immersed and actually a little resentful when interruptions, such as eating or sleeping, interrupted proceedings.

Thirdly, the plot develops a winning thread when a new character appears on the scenes, believing that the inheritance should rightfully be his.  This takes the plot out of its comfort zone and what I particularly enjoyed was that this took Mildren totally out of her comfort zone, like Bilbo, she goes on an adventure leaving her cosy little hole shaped life behind – whist also realising that it will be difficult to ever return to it.  Of course, Mildred is blissfully unaware that she is being pursued and this only serves to heighten the tension.

Fourthly, Fitz.  Fitz the dragon, I mentioned above his excessive cuteness.  He’s a great judge of character and immediately develops a strong attachment to Mildred, perching on her shoulder and trying to protect her when situations arising.

What else can I say? I loved the chapter openings, I really enjoyed watching Mildred’s awakening to the fact that she could have a life of her own, there’s a lovely, slow blossoming relationship and I thoroughly enjoyed sinking into a period novel with a difference.

Overall, I had a thoroughly good time reading this and can’t wait to read what comes next when I suspect Mildred’s actions will become positively scandalous.

I received a copy courtesy of the author, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

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