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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Longbourn: Dragon Entail by Maria Grace | review

Don't forget to check out my guest post from Maria Grace about the inspiration and history behind this series, which includes a giveaway for your book of choice from the series!

Longbourn: Dragon Entail by Maria Grace (Jane Austen's Dragons book 2)
Retelling / Historical / Fantasy / Romance, 301 pages
Published April 21st 2017 by White Soup Press
Darcy thought his problems were over when Pemberley hatched and successfully imprinted on humans. But baby dragons prove far more difficult than any dragon lore prepared him for. Only Elizabeth Bennet's notes offer him any help. When his imperious Aunt Catherine takes matters into her own hands, things take a turn for the worse and Pemberley’s life hangs in the balance. He desperately needs more of Elizabeth’s help, but she ignores all of his requests.

Elizabeth, though, has problems of her own. After the Bennet family dragon sent Pemberley away, life at Longbourn was supposed to return to normal and Elizabeth get on with the all-important business of marrying the heir to her father’s estate. Except that he is the last man in the world whom she could ever be prevailed on to marry—a bumbling, addle-pated dragon-hater who demands she gives up the dragons she lives for.

Can she, with the help of her dragon friends, find her way back to Pemberley before they both suffer their fate from the Dragon Entail?

Jane Austen meets Anne McCaffrey's Dragon Riders of Pern. A Must read for Pern fans.

Maria touched on this in her guest post, but it'd be very easy to dismiss this series, and the idea of Jane Austen and dragons, as just another in a long line of quirky "fluff" Austen retellings meant to ride on the coattails of the surprise hit that was Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. But that would not in any way do this series justice, because while, yes, it is quirky, it's not quirky just for the sake of being so. She has made dragons make sense for Austen in a way I think few could pull off.

I said in my review of book one that, though there are nods to the inherent campiness of such a story, and though it would be really easy to tip over into parody territory, Grace never treats the story as a joke. There's a weightiness to it, so that you start to believe that, yes, of course Elizabeth Bennet is a masterful dragon handler. Yes, of course the formalities and the marriage arrangements and the character choices that we find so hard to fathom today in Pride & Prejudice were dictated by persnickety dragons.

There were elements to Dragon Entail that made it slightly less successful to me than Mr Darcy's Dragon — at times, it felt somewhat more chaotic, like all of the various threads are getting a little unwieldy; some of the original Austen elements of plot and character are starting to feel a little bit strained under the weight of the changes that dragons necessitate, which is understandable, but still bears mentioning; and some of the things that bothered me a bit in the first book, like the removal of choice and free-will for the characters, are even more prominent this time around. None of these are by any means deal breakers, and they certainly didn't keep me from wishing on Goodreads for more dragon shenanigans when I finished this book. And none of these little niggling things have kept me from thinking about these books and characters and the clever, draconic, weirdly believable retelling Maria Grace has created.

One of my favorite things about Maria Grace's Austen retellings — and something I think she does better than possibly any other Austenesque author out there — is the way she is able to make a story her own, while still making it true to the original text, even when what happens is vastly different. Her Darcys and Lizzies, her Bingleys and Bennets, may not do the things you expect them to do — they may sometimes even be a very real departure from Austen's originals — but they do what the Darcys and Lizzies and Bingleys and Bennets of the worlds she has set up would do. She is so good and getting to the core of the characters and saying, 'Well, if they'd been brought up in this wholly different situation, that would change them in which ways?' She juggles the weight of Austen's stories with her own, paying deference to what came before (what made the stories so beloved in the first place), while not allowing that to overtake the new story she's creating; she never turns out a nameless, could-be-by-anybody retelling, the type that uses mostly Austen's text, with a few twists and tweaks. The stories she delivers are fully her own, but with characters you know and love, that you get to see plunked down into wholly different scenarios and see taken to unexpected and new places. She does 'if this, then that,' really well, not just in plot points, but in character creation, in character psychology.

Longbourn: Dragon Entail progresses the story to the place I think everyone is always looking for in a Pride Prejudice retelling — the point where Darcy finally starts to really realize Lizzie's worth, progressing from respect to admiration to love, and taking us along with him; readers who were waiting for the swoonier moments in book one will be more than eager for the progression of book two. I think readers will also be very happy to see other characters come into their own, as well, and will be eager to see how the love affairs* and  big crisis come to a resolution in the final book of the series, Netherfield: Rogue Dragon — and if you want to know my thoughts on that final book, you'll have to mark your calendars for this year's Austen in August!

*Said in the most Regency-appropriate sense, of course.

about the author:
author photo of Maria Grace, standing in sunlight
Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing. She has one husband and one grandson, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, is starting her sixth year blogging on Random Bits of Fascination, has built seven websites, attended eight English country dance balls, sewn nine Regency era costumes, and shared her life with ten cats.

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate getting your thoughts on this one. I've had the series on my wish list forever. Pairing dragons and Jane Austen is a delightful marriage to me. I like that there is some grounding to the stories so they don't go off into utter ridiculousness.

    Great review, Misty!


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