Nathan‘s Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons Book Review
Book One in the Miss Percy Guide Series
This Book is For You if You Like:
- Cozy fantasies
- Strong women protagonists that aren’t the stereotypical “Strong female protagonist”
- Historical fantasies set in Victorian England
- Intricate and earned character development
- Pretty much anything from PBS Masterpiece Theatre
This Book Probably Isn’t For You If You Are Looking For:
- Books in which dragons (or dragon lore) feature prominently in the plot
- Steamy fantasy romance
Blurb From Author
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 wallflower” 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.
One of my favorite recent trends in speculative fiction is the popularization of so-called “cozy fantasy”. These are fantasy stories that have low(er) stakes, often quaint settings, and overall just make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Publishing sensation Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree is currently the poster-child for this sub-genre (and was one of my favorite reads of 2022!).
If you are interested in cozy fantasy, you absolutely cannot miss reading Miss Percy. This follows a 40-something year old spinster in Victorian England in Mildred who doesn’t have a bad life but doesn’t have a very exciting life either. She lives with her opinionated and stuck-up sister and brother-in-law and their three children. She spends her days essentially as a live-in nanny and caretaker but doesn’t have a life of her own. That is until she receives an inheritance from a great uncle who has recently passed away. Initially Mildren thinks these are just a collection of old books and trinkets, until one of the “rocks” she hatches into a baby dragon. From here, the book deals with the very real (and often funny question) – what do you do if a dragon is immediately thrust upon you?
I have heard it said that there are two types of cozy fantasy – hearth fantasy and backpack fantasy. This definitely falls under the “hearth” variety because the Mildred doesn’t travel, nor does she go on epic quests. Instead this is a smaller scale story of a single community and the internal politics of a family. (Although the end of this book does imply that book two will have a bit more “backpacking” travel and adventuring!).
Olson’s characterization of Mildred particularly shines throughout the book. In fantasy it is uncommon to have a middle aged protagonist driving the narrative. As fantasy readers, we are often given young protagonists, starry eyed and ready for adventure. Mildred is different. While she is not an unhappy woman, she is initially realistic about the world and her station in it (as a woman, as a spinster, as a sister, and as an aunt). At her age, she doesn’t get the adventure nor the epic love story. That is the for the young and fiction novels. My favorite aspect of this book was watching as Mildred shed her attitude that her life was “finished”, and instead started taking a stand for herself and pushing her individuality and independence (particularly with her heinous sister).
Mildred isn’t the only standout character in the novel. Mildred’s love interest, is the town vicar and scientific hobbyist. I cannot tell you how refreshing it was to have a love interest who isn’t described as particularly handsome, or hot, or charming. Instead, he is an everyday, caring man. This is not a romance novel per se, but I really enjoyed watching the slow burn unravel. I also smiled with delight every time the vicar’s housemaid, Mrs. Babbinton, appeared on the page. She is another older protagonist we often don’t get to see in fantasy novels very often. She was funny but not the butt of the joke as older characters (and particularly older female characters) often are. I cannot overemphasize how wonderful this cast of characters is. You will root for Mildred and seethe at the villains (particularly Mr. Hawthorne, who feels like the dragon egg is his inheritance by right and will do anything to get the egg back).
Miss Percy is also hilarious for those of you who appreciate witty, Austen-esque British humor. Olson has such a unique and powerful authorial voice throughout the novel. The narrator of the story is pretty much a character themself. There are many self-aware and self-referential asides that had me laughing out loud while reading my Kindle on the bus.
My only one complaint (and it isn’t a big one!) is that there wasn’t quite enough actual dragon in the book for me. Dragons are by far one of my favorite fantasy tropes/creatures, and I was excited for this book because I thought there would be more interactions between our main characters and the baby dragon himself. However, the baby dragon here is more of a prop-piece that spends a lot of time “out of frame” so-to-speak. While reading the book I did grow a bit frustrated by this, although over time I stopped caring because Mildred was such a fascinating protagonist. However, if you are looking for a dragon-heavy book, or a book in which the dragon is a main character, this is not the book for you.
Quenby Olson has a real winner on her hands here! I cannot wait to dive into the second novel (which has already been published). Highly recommended for all of you cozy fantasy fans out there.