Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Pemberly: Mr. Darcy's Dragon

"Jane Austen but with dragons" is a premise that has potential to be terribly awful or terribly good. I'm very excited to tell you that "Pemberly: Mr. Darcy's Dragon" by Maria Grace is very good. So good, in fact, that I barely restrained myself from blogging about it before I finished the trilogy!

Elizabeth Bennet is the eldest heir of her father's ability to hear dragons. She is not, however, heir to his estate and its resident dragon. This dragon, Longbourn, is controlling and tempermental, and has directed Elizabeth that she must marry the heir to the estate so that she can stay on as the new dragon keeper after her father's death. Elizabeth has resigned herself to this fate, as the price of being able to hear dragons. However, when stolen firedrake egg is tracked to Hertfordshire, Elizabeth is tasked with helping the owner track the egg down. That owner is, of course, none other than Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy...

Unlike similar set-ups having to do with Zombies and such, "Pemberly" does more than 'fill in the blanks' of the original "Pride and Prejudice." Although using the same initial set-up and cast of characters, Maria Grace does an excellent job of transposing them into a world of dragons and imagining how events might transpire differently. Well written, well plotted, and well executed, the book is brimming with engaging new characters and accurate expansions of the originals. Although plenty of original book dialogue is left in, this is far, far more than just "Pride and Prejudice" with dragons and there are plenty of twists that take the story far beyond Austen's plot. This is done with great respect for both the original premise, Austen's characters and words, and the etiquette and expectations of Regency England.

Beyond that, the dragon lore is quite fun and well written. It is an integral and interesting part of the book, but the worldbuilding never hijacks the story. It is really fun to imagine the estates of Longbourn and Rosings as personified by a dragon! And the smaller, companion dragons that accompany Elizabeth, Darcy, Mary, Fitzwilliam and the Gardiners are amusing and delightful additions to both plot and character development.

I especially enjoyed the expanded roles given Mary, Mr. Collins, and the Gardiners. Although I do regret the almost complete absence of Jane and Kitty from the novel, and wish more explanations had been given for why Mr. Bennet married Mrs. Bennet, I do like Mr. Bennet's expanded role as well.

Elizabeth Bennet, one of the most perfect heroines to enter English literature, is a very difficult character for another author to take up. For the most part, Grace does well with this. There are a few times when I felt that Elizabeth was 'too' perfect, too extraordinary. However whenever I felt the accolades were coming too thick, Grace usually balanced it out with Elizabeth grappling with her faults.

Well...it's not a perfect balance...but, on the whole, I'd rather have Elizabeth be a little too perfect than a little too flawed!

There are many more aspects of the trilogy that I enjoyed, but I can't share them without giving away some major spoilers! I'll just have to say that it's well worth seeing the three books through to their conclusion.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Off to be the Wizard

A nerdy computer whiz discovers a computer file that allows him to manipulate the world around him...and promptly finds himself on the run from the government...in medieval England...where he uses his newfound 'magical' powers to pretend to be a wizard...what else is going to go wrong?

"Off to be the Wizard" by Scott Meyer is exactly as lighthearted and whimsical as it ought to be. Although light on the perilous stakes at times and a bit slow moving at others, the constant humor keeps the reader engaged.

Actually, my husband said he'd never heard me laugh so much while reading a book. I'm not sure if this is true because I don't think this was the funniest book I ever read, but it did provoke a lot of laughs and I breezed through the six book series in about a week.

It's also a reasonably clean series. Although a little sex is hinted at and there are some off color jokes, most of the 'adult' humor is reasonably subtle. It is definitely a series written for adults, but would be acceptable for most older teens. Book 6 stars a pair of teenage twins as the hero and heroine.

 I did have a few issues with the characterization of the women in books #1 and #2, (not dirty, just not well developed), but Meyer seemed to grow as a writer of females and by book #3 most of the issues were solved.

Plenty of nerd humor, a cast of characters spanning from modern day U.S. treasury officials, to the 'real' Merlin, to a female populated Atlantis, and a fun spew of different world-building gags revolving around the rules the 'wizards' set for themselves, this is the perfect antidote to the lockdown blues most of the world is currently undergoing (April 2020). Furthermore, the first 5 books are available on Kindle Unlimited, which is currently free for two months to anyone who is not already a subscriber (even those of us who have subscribed in the past).