Who could resist a title like this?
Generally speaking, Regency Fantasy is not something I put at the top of my TBR, or go out of my way to go find. There are some notable authors who I make exceptions for, this author and Olivia Atwater would be the two most prominent examples.
This is an intimate character driven story. If you’re looking for lots action scenes with magic flying this way and that, this is might not be the right read for you. But if you want a cozy story that makes you smile, then yes, pick this up. Fans of Becky Chambers would probably enjoy this kind of a story.
Mildred is about 40 years old, unmarried, and living with her younger sister and her family. She’s been the unpaid governess for her nieces and nephew since they were born and it’s a thankless, tiring job. She’s the older of the two sisters but her younger sister, Diana, has a very loud personality and has dominated her sister for almost two decades. She feels she has a right to boss Mildred around since she’s the black sheep of the family, unable and unlikely to ever get married.
They receive a letter that their great uncle has died and he left Mildred an inheritance. Diana being the insufferable person she is quickly tries to get her hands on it. Mildred is slowly growing a backbone though, sort of. An opportunity arose where the trunk arrived when no one else was around, and she made the decision to stash it away and not tell her sister about it. How bold! She hid the trunk full of strange possessions where her sister wouldn’t find it and started to go through it. It was mostly ‘junk’ but it also included what she thought was a stone, but every reader knows was a dragon egg. She gets the help from an academic named Mr. Wiggins, and together they try and unravel the mysteries of the trunk. I absolutely loved watching Mildred try to navigate how to properly raise a dragon. It’s full of a lot of trial and error, and the dragon himself is charming as well.
Enter stage right Mr. Hawthorne, who wants to get this egg back because he thinks it’s his, in his backwards way of thinking. He’s a younger guy, good looking, but clearly down on his luck with second rate clothes. He manipulates Mildred’s oldest niece into working against Mildred and there’s a whole subplot about their romance.
The prose is the highlight of this novel. There is a consistent tone and atmosphere kept throughout that was just so, for lack of a better word, delightful and charming. The prose is … not bouncy… not perky… not snarky… I really do not have the word for it. It’s Jane Austin but with dragons. The dialogue was just top notch. I generally get bored with fantasy of manners type dialogue, but the inner thoughts of Ms. Percy were just so relatable and funny. I got through this in one sitting once the audio came out — I was listening to it on TTS, but as soon as I heard it was getting an audiobook I set it down for a couple months to wait for the real deal. It was so worth it. This is definitely one of those books where the narrator chosen was perfect for the material.
As a personal note, I love the trope of having natural history notes/academic notes with tidbits about the world at the start of chapters. I find it a great way to deliver clonky information that doesn’t fit anywhere else, but are fun for me to read and get to know the world a little better. Trying to shove some of this information into the dialogue or even the narrative could have been awkward and jarring. There are several fourth wall breaks which surprised me a bit, but they worked for me.
Overall, this was just utterly charming and I’m not surprised at all to see it’s ratings and reviews skyrocketing at an impressive pace. This book deserves all the success in the world and I highly recommend it to basically anyone who wants a comfy dragon story.
- Plot: 12/15
- Characters: 14/15
- World Building: 13/15
- Writing: 15/15
- Pacing: 14/15
- Originality: 12/15
- Enjoyment: 10/10
Final Score: 90/100