Review | Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons – Quenby Olson

About the Book

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.

Published, October 2021
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Last night I was up until five in the morning with COVID booster shot symptoms. I was pretty miserable, and for a while I watched TV but then I flipped it off (it was making me dizzy) and decided to read until I finally managed to pass out. I ended up trying to read a few things, but my mind just wasn’t there for any of them. Then, I landed on Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide, and blazed through it in one sitting. 

First, I should say I was 900 different kinds of miserable, and this book got me to forget about all of that. If you understand how terrible I felt, you’d know what an accomplishment that was. 

Secondly, it should also say a lot that I read it in one sitting. I don’t have a ton of time these days, for reading outside of my own editing and writing, so devouring a book in one sitting is pretty much something that never happens anymore. 

I really admire Olson. I guess that’s a weird thing to put in a review, but I kind of want you to know where I’m coming from with her stuff because I feel like the author, in this particular case, is just as important as her work. So, I really admire Olson. I read one of her books for the first time earlier this year, and I knew instantly she was someone special. Someone I wanted to watch. She is unapologetically who she is. In a world where I feel like so many fantasy books are aspiring to the same markers and the same heights, Olson writes exactly what she wants to read, and due to that, her books are infused with a passion and love that I find a lot of others lack. Her enthusiasm for the stories she tells is infectious. 

Olson is a huge, huge inspiration for my own writing, and a large reason why my upcoming book, The Necessity of Rain, is even a thing that is happening. I look at her, and I see someone who is not only brave, but full of refreshing zeal, and I admire that so much. 

Okay, so now I’ve told you all about how sick I was, and how amazing Olson is. What about the book itself? 

Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide is both exactly what I expected, and nothing that I anticipated. I’m not a huge fan of regency books (I know, I know. Don’t kill me.) However, sometimes I find one that just works for me, and this is that. There are a few unique approaches here that kept me from feeling like this is the same old, same old. Our protagonist, one middle-aged Mildred, is the primary reason for this. I haven’t read a ton of books with middle-aged protagonists, and I have absolutely never read a regency-style one and I loved it. 

Mildred is one of the most vibrant, human, relatable characters I’ve ever come across. She is both flawed and captivating, with a unique voice that really kept me engaged as the book progressed. More, I could feel Mildred. Under Olson’s care, Mildred became three-dimensional. She was positively infused with life and blinding realism. She’s had a rough go at life, and that is evident in her sarcasm and wit, her absolute emotional exhaustion in some ways, and yet she is full of wonder as well. 

I was actually pretty surprised by how Mildred seemed to punch her way right into my soul and make a home there for herself. By about the fourth paragraph, she stopped being a character I was reading and became part of me. As the book progresses, Mildred sort of comes into her own, and I was really surprised by how empowering that was, and how much I connected with that aspect of her story. Mildred is a bit of a spinster, and in a lot of ways, her world has been grayscale for a while. Then, she inherits a dragon egg, discovers magic, and a bit of romance as well. The transformation from grayscale to her life slowly gaining vibrant dimension and hues is nothing sort of enchanting. 

This isn’t really a romance, though, and to bottle it as one would be, I think, packaging the book wrong. There is love here, and a touch of that romance, but really at its heart, this is really about the dynamics of power and powerlessness, about self-acceptance, and self-confidence. The force that upsets Mildred’s ho-hum existence is a dragon named Fitz, and he was an absolute delight. 

Olson weaves humor throughout her book, balancing out the light and dark moments with a bit of levity that worked really well for me. This kept the book from every feeling too weighty, and yet it never came across as ham-handed, nor did it obscure the glory of what was happening in the plot and with the characters. It is very rare that I read a book where I feel like the humor was so effortlessly natural, and yet didn’t overwhelm the book itself. It was, if anything, icing on the cake. The element that tied all of this together stylistically, and brought it from charming, to positively enchanting.

Olson has a gift for writing. Her prose are fluid and effortless, never purple and never too dry. She has a knack with hitting the exact tone each scene needs to make it land the way it needs to land. Her world comes to vibrant, blazing life, and so do her characters. Mix that dollop of humor in there as well, and you’ve got this brilliant blend of elements that transported me almost instantly out of my body and into Mildred’s world. I could see the landscape, and the people, and smell the food. Olson is one of those authors I read as much to admire her prose and appreciate how she uses words, as to immerse myself in her stories. 

I’ve said a few times that this book is empowering, and it really is. Mildred learns to accept and love herself. In spite of outside forces, of the hijinks and the shenanigans that ensue throughout the book, it’s the love story of a middle-aged woman learning to accept herself that really spoke volumes to me. It’s something, I think, I needed to read, and I was left after finishing the book feeling like this is a story a lot of us need right now. 

Ultimately, Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide left me feeling like I’d just experienced the warmest of hugs. Flawlessly written, enchantingly told, with an unforgettable protagonist and a relentless plot, reading this book was an experience I won’t forget anytime soon. 

Last night, I felt sicker than I’ve felt in a very, very long time, and Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide got me outside of my body, away from my misery, and pulled me through the darkness. 

That really says all that needs to be said. 

5/5 stars