Tag: olsen

Review: Miss Percy’s Travel Guide to Welsh Moors and Feral Dragons (2022)

Posted May 29, 2023 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

I absolutely loved the first book of this series, so reading this follow-on was a no-brainer. Curiously, though, although it started out in grand style, I soon found my interest waning. Twice I set it aside to read something else, or several something elses, and grew increasingly reluctant to pick it up again. I’m not quite sure why, because all the elements I loved in the first one are here again, but somehow it just didn’t work as well for me.

Here’s the premise: unlikely heroine Miss Mildred Percy escaped from dreary middle-aged poor-relation-dom in book 1 by accidentally hatching a dragon, aided by even more unlikely hero, Mr Claude Wiggan, the even more middle-aged vicar. Now, accompanied by Mr Wiggan’s housekeeper/cook, Mrs Babbinton, they have embarked on a journey into Wales to find the legendary Nest of Dragons and (they hope) someone who knows something about them and can help them raise Fitz (the dragon). They didn’t expect it to be easy – and it isn’t! Along the way, they encounter all sorts of problems, like terrified locals, deceptive allies and relations, not to mention a dragon who spouts fire at all sorts of inopportune moments, but they also find that not everyone disbelieves the legends of dragons, and they find friends in some odd places. I’m not going to spoil the plot by telling you any more about it. Suffice it to say there are some surprising twists along the way (well, they surprised me!).

The author has developed a unique writing style for these books, a rambling loosely-threaded stream of observations and asides in nested parentheses, sometimes even breaking the fourth wall to talk directly, author to reader. Not everyone likes it, but I think it’s clever and funny and actually works very well, most of the time. And therein lies the rub. This book seemed to be somewhat more action packed than the first one, and this long-winded style of prose just doesn’t work with the tension of (say) a confrontation with a pitchfork wielding mob. I found myself skipping whole paragraphs just to find out what happens, and that’s a shame, when every seemingly meandering sentence is actually so carefully constructed. This problem seemed less acute at the end, or maybe I’d got more used to it by then, I don’t know, but there were too many times when it felt intrusive rather than charmingly quirky, and that’s a crying shame.

The other problem, I think, is repetition. I got a little tired of hearing just how dishevelled the travellers were, and how Mrs Babbinton rustled up cakes in thirty seconds out of nothing at all (it seemed), and how tired and dirty and rain-drenched they were. Does it never stop raining in Wales? Apparently not.

But Miss Percy and Mr Wiggan continue to delight, and if they are off to London in the next book (as seems likely) I sincerely hope they take the time to pop into church and get married, because they deserve a little marital happiness. A good four stars, but for anyone thinking of trying it out, I recommend reading a little sample first, in case the quirky writing style grates on you.


Review: Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide by Quenby Olsen (2021)

Posted January 12, 2022 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

This book was an absolute delight. I love a book that takes me by surprise, and this book is surprising in spades. It features a downtrodden spinster, aged forty, a diffident vicar, aged more than forty, a motherly cook/housekeeper, and an impoverished but charming villain. Oh, and a dragon, but that part isn’t so much of a surprise, given the title.

Here’s the premise: Miss Mildred Percy lives in a tiny attic room in her younger sister’s house, the archetypal poor relation, treated as an unpaid servant looking after the children, excluded from social events and thoroughly badly treated. And she’s been in that position for so long she barely even thinks about it any more. But then one day a distant relation leaves her an inheritance, which turns out to be a motley collection of… well, all sorts of odd things, including journals and other notes. Since this intriguing collection conveniently arrives when her sister is out, and Mildred knows it will be commandeered or, worse, thrown away, if her sister finds out about it, she hastily hides everything in her room, and drags the empty box outside to hide it in an outhouse. Whereupon she is spotted and then assisted by the local vicar.

This scene is so delicious, I just can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it. Here’s the downtrodden and mousy spinster caught in a rebellious act, while the mild-mannered and fairly reclusive vicar, who has never dared to step beyond the formalities with her before, enters into the spirit of the thing with the utmost aplomb. In no time, he has volunteered to help her investigate the collection by storing some of it at the vicarage for safekeeping from the acquisitive sister. And amongst the items of interest is an odd sort of stone. A rather egg-shaped stone…

The hatching of the dragon is beautifully done, along with the realisation that small, winged, fire-breathing reptiles are not well-suited to life in small English villages. The race is on to find a secure home in which to raise the baby dragon, keeping him safe from would-be thieves and disbelieving neighbours, and perhaps find an expert who might be able to advise them. From there the story unfolds pretty much as you would expect. But it’s not really the story that’s the most interesting element of this book, because the style is one I’ve never encountered before – quirky, chatty, half rambling and repeatedly breaking the fourth wall to address the reader, directly or indirectly. I loved it, and found it laugh out loud funny, but I can imagine that not everyone would like it, so read the sample before buying.

Anyone expecting a romance might be in for a let-down, because, as romances go, this is the most low-key one imaginable. Also, since this is the first of a series which seemingly features the same characters, there doesn’t seem likely to be any increase in the romantic element going forward. If that’s a big thing for you, then this is probably not the book for you. But I loved, loved, loved the two principal characters, I loved the writing style, and I adored the baby dragon. If you’re looking for something a bit different and you like dragons, then you should drop everything and read this at once. Five stars.