Today is my stop on the blog tour organised by Storytellers on Tour for Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson. Thank you to Justine and Timy having having me along on this tour! Please check out the other talented bloggers and bookstagrammers on the tour by clicking here or on the graphic below.
Series: A Miss Percy Guide (#1)
Published: October 26, 2021
Genre: Comedic, Fantasy of Manners
CW: very mild profanity
Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson
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.
I was given a digital copy of this book by Storytellers on Tour in exchange for an honest review. Thank you very much for this opportunity to Justine, Timy and to the author, Quenby Olson.
Taking place in the fictional town of Upper Plimpton in Wiltshire, during the Regency period, Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons is a humorous and whimsical story, with an enchanting plot. The main character is a middle aged spinster named Mildred Percy, who has a humdrum existence on the sidelines of her overbearing sister’s life.
Miss Percy is suddenly plunged into adventure and a life less ordinary with the help of a bequest which brings the fantastic into her life. Fantastic both in terms of a dragon’s egg – a thing of fantasy, but also in terms of her getting to know the ‘oh so suited to her’ vicar a whole lot better as part of her adventure. This being a fantastic development for her personal lack of love in her life since her father passed away.
There are snippets at the beginning of each chapter, taken from Miss Percy’s book, which show how adept and experienced she is with British dragons by the time of her writing and were clearly written a long time after the end of this story. They also act as a foreshadowing of what is to be found in the following chapter – whether mating rituals or fighting amongst family members, which was a device I thoroughly enjoyed. Equally enjoyable, were the moments when the narrator of the story spoke directly to the reader, in an entertaining tongue in cheek manner.
The main story starts before Mildred knew such a creature as a dragon really existed and follows her first experiences with suddenly having this knowledge thrust upon her and the responsibilities that accompany becoming the owner of a dragon. Mildred has been put upon by her younger sister, Diana Muncy for the majority of her adulthood. She is living in a small uncomfortable room in Diana’s house and for seventeen years she has been looking after Diana’s children without a word of thanks in return.
The tone of this book is that of a comedy of manners, where young ladies take ’a turn about the garden’ for exercise, yet with the most welcome addition of a fantastical fire breathing baby monster setting the proverbial cat (dragon) among the pigeons and I loved every second of it!
As the story progresses and we see the dragon flex its wings and become more independent, so too does Miss Percy. She makes friends outside of her home in the form of the vicar, Mr Wiggan and his housekeeper, Mrs Babbinton and begins to spend a lot of time with them. Luckily for her the vicar is quite fond of her already and their mutual respect develops in an extremely slow and mannered, yet wholly respectable way:
“There’s still time, you know.” He said it so quickly and so simply she might have thought he had not said it at all. She glanced at him, but he was not looking at her anymore, instead knocking the side of his foot against a loose brick that edged a bed of lavender. “For your adventure.”
The burgeoning romance is so subtle yet so present and wonderfully written. Mr Wiggan is a little backward at coming forward but I was rooting for the two of them and their mutual respect throughout their scenes together:
“But this smile sparked in his eyes with the brightness of flint and tinder, and she saw something there that filled her up as well as the first breath of fresh air upon opening the window in the morning.”
The characterisation in this book is masterful. Poor put upon Miss Percy is a caring, self-sacrificing woman of character who has done everything within her power to help her sister and the Muncy children, Matthew and Nettie, without thought for her own future:
“Poor Aunt Mildred. Silly Aunt Mildred. Aunt Mildred who slept in her box of a room beneath the attic, stalking about the house like a shadow, waiting for someone else’s sun to give her definition. Miss Mildred Percy, who rarely said what she wanted to or did what she wanted to.”
There is a very likeable adventurous side to her character which has remained hidden until now, but which is about to come into its own as she gains self-confidence and independence.
Mildred’s sister Diana is the villain of the piece. She is as nasty, self-serving overbearing, mean and uncharitable as anyone could wish for from a bad guy. Her older daughter, Diana has inherited many of these traits and is as manipulative and self-centred as she is beautiful. Miss Percy is no fool and is well aware of Belinda’s character, but would never voice her real feelings out loud:
“She is…” A chameleon, a shapeshifter, a siren luring sailors to their deaths. “… incomparably talented at making people love her or loathe her as she will. Thankfully for us, she seems to thrive well enough on our collective indifference towards her.”
Belinda entrances and manipulates Reginald Hawthorne, who has come in search of the dragon egg, thinking it ought rightfully to be his. His father lost the egg in a drunken gambling session to Mildred’s great uncle, who then left it to Mildred in his will. Belinda believes the egg will be the key to their future together. Reginald Hawthorne is greedy and desperate. Down on his luck and gullible he is easily manipulated by Belinda. He finds himself helpless in the face of her beauty
In contrast to Belinda and her mother, Mrs Babbinton, the housekeeper who looks after Mr Wiggan is a delightfully kind, friendly and caring person who becomes a good and trustworthy friend and support to Mildred. Mrs Babbinton accompanies Mildred on a quest to track down Great Uncle Forthright’s assistant Mr Gorman, who inherited the house and most of her Great Uncle’s possessions. This is the first adventure either of these ladies have had for some time and despite the hardships of the journey itself, they thoroughly enjoy it.
By the end of the story, Mildred has found her freedom from the confines of her small contained life, trapped in a tiny room with little freedom, via a dragon and a vicar and I applaud her for stepping outside the comfort zone she had become accustomed to over her seventeen years of sisterly obligation:
“But then I think of a simple dragon egg, tucked away in a dark trunk, as still and quiet as any ordinary stone. Unremarkable and underestimated. But inside that stone there rested an exceptional creature, one that had only been lying dormant until the time came for it to burst forth from its shell, and— Oh,”
This was easily one of my favourite books of this year and I will be eagerly awaiting the sequel and a return visit to this ‘exceptional creature’ and her dragon.
Let’s Meet the Author
Quenby Olson lives in Central Pennsylvania where she spends most of her time writing, glaring at baskets of unfolded laundry, and telling her kids to stop climbing things. She lives with her husband and five children, who do nothing to dampen her love of classical ballet, geeky crochet, and staying up late to watch old episodes of Doctor Who.