Welcome to the SPFBO 8 Finals! Team Queen’s Book Asylum reviews Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson, picked by Lynn’s Books and The Critical Chemists team.
A quick reminder about how we are proceeding in the Finals: our judges had the freedom to opt out of reading any of the books due to personal interest, time restrictions, unforeseen life events, etc. Our aim is to have at least 3 reviews/scores for each finalist, which shouldn’t be too hard between the 5 of us. For Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons we have 3 reviews for your reading pleasures, so, let’s get down to it!
|Series: Miss Percy Guide #1||Genre: Fantasy|
|Date of Publishing: October 26, 2021||Publisher: self-published|
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 have originally read and reviewed Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons in August 2021. The below is a condensed and updated version of this review.
Imagine that Dame Judi Dench, glass of sherry conveniently placed in her reach, is reading a story to you. That story, called Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide, is a long lost collaboration between Lucy Maud Montgomery and Terry Pratchett. Dame Judi frequently interrupts to add her own thoughts – or even her thoughts about her own thoughts. Since she apparently lives in Upper Plimpton now, she throws some local gossip here and there. A detail, or fifty-seven. A baby dragon. And all of it is hilarious – in that absurd, slapstick, wrong way, taking all of the writing advice and using it in reverse. All the adverbs, synonyms (many a thesaurus has been worn out in writing of this book), way, way more words than necessary, and a story that goes left, right, up, down, and possibly in many other directions, none of which I knew existed. There is quiet romance that you have to notice in order to notice it – and it made me emotional between the laughs and the gasps. And there were plenty of both.
This is not to say the book is perfect. There were parts in the middle which I thought could have been shorter – and at the end, where the pace becomes somewhat random, faster, then slower (which was actually a very interesting device ensuring I had no idea what was about to happen, so this is not really a complaint). One very slappable character doesn’t get slapped anywhere near enough (not even once). Another, uh, not-actually-very-romantic thread seems to flounder somewhat. Still, all I needed was for Dame Ju– I mean, the author to break the fourth wall addressing us, readers, directly, and everything was great again.
Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons was one of my favourite books of 2021. It remains a delight. Some might not love Olson’s style – humour is a very subjective thing. I loved it then and still do now. It’s so wrong it couldn’t be more right; confident, sharp, warm, cosy, hilarious, engaging. One of those reads I didn’t know I needed in my life until it showed up. If you like your fantasy bloody and full of swords, avoid Miss Percy at all costs, but know you’re missing out on something truly special.
Let me preface this by saying that Miss Percy is a book that I had every suspicion that I would most likely hate and DNF pretty quickly. Just going by the description alone this is not the type of novel that I would normally be predisposed to be a fan of. I’m much more a dark fantasy lover where the more violence and evil sorcery the better. Give me carnage and intense battle scenes every time and I’m a happy camper. And yet, the more I got into the story of Miss Percy, the more I just kept inexplicably wanting to keep turning the pages. It’s a book that is very easy to get lost in and easy to become intimately connected to these wonderfully written characters. It definitely had the feel of a classic Dickens or Jane Austen novel to me but with that added magical touch (and dragons of course) that just hit every feel that I look for in a comfort read fantasy.
The main strength of this story is the characters and I believe that is why I couldn’t help but be taken with Miss Percy. Ultimately that is the reason why it has become my favorite read so far in this entire contest frankly. It’s also a testament to how effective of a writer Quenby Olson is that she could take such a jaded reader as myself when it comes to my personal reading taste and completely flip me 180 degrees. Honestly this is a book that I think every fantasy reader should give a go no matter what subgenre is your favorite. It transcends any of that and just gets to the very heart of what we love in good stories. Compelling situations, characters who overcome so much, some romance (although not at all heavy handed) and a solid touch of the magical to check off that box as well. I really loved the time I spent with this book and have become a devoted fan of Quenby Olson’s to the point where I will now go and read as many of her books as I can find. Highly recommended.
As I previously (before SPFBO 8, in fact) posted a longer review of Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons on the blog, I will only put here a shortened version.
Due to a baby dragon landing in her lap, Mildred finally has the chance to bloom into the woman she always dreamed of becoming. One with a life of wonder and adventure, new friendships, and newfound confidence in herself that propels her to take control of her own fate. Which is the most important message of this book: it’s never too late to reach for your dreams even if society says you are too old, or unworthy or whatever the fuck they say. Mildred is 37 years and is perfectly capable of whatever she sets her mind to do, thank you very much. What I’m trying to say is, she is a character that’s easy to identify yourself with. She is kind-hearted, brave, a bit nervous and shy but instantly likable. It’s impossible not to root for her.
And did I mention the baby dragon yet? Who knew all I need for my happiness is a baby dragon and cute crotch biting? And no, I’m not going to elaborate, you’ll have to read the book to get that reference. You can thank me later.
I loved the characters – one way or another. Some I loved for themselves, some I would’ve loved to slap repeatedly. I’m looking at you, Belinda. I had mixed feelings about Reginald Hawthorne. On one hand, I could sympathize with him to an extent – having lost his father and having no prospects could be hard, but on the other hand, he gradually lost all of my sympathies as he sank lower into villainhood. Apart from Miss Percy, Mr. Wiggan and Mrs. Babbinton were an absolute delight and made this book come alive with their kindness, friendliness, and general amazingness. I would have liked to learn a bit more about their background story though. But I loved how Miss Percy and Mr. Wiggan’s relationship was budding and the way it was developed throughout the book just as Miss Percy bloomed.
What didn’t work for me, however, were the long run-on sentences, and excessive use of thoughts put in parenthesis. I felt that less would have been more as I was taken out of the flow quite a few times. But this is only a minor, and very taste-dependent thing.
Overall, Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons is the perfect read for a cold winter night, if you want to escape to a small British village and go on a journey of self-discovery along with Miss Percy and her adorable baby dragon, Fitz. You’ll find friends, budding relationships, and adventures at the end of which you’ll want more. As do I.
Our score for Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons by Quenby Olson
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