Title: Miss Bennet’s Dragon (Jane Austen Fantasy #1)
Author: M Verant
Publisher: Acerbic Press
Publication date: May 2, 2021
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy
One Sentence Summary: Lizzy Bennet hides a secret, one that has to do with the draca certain married couples are capable to binding with, and so does Mr. Darcy as they collide and dance in this fantasy retelling of the beloved Pride and Prejudice.
Miss Bennet’s Dragon is a fantastic fantasy retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. In many ways, it follows the original, but it also takes a great deal of liberties, giving some of the women expanded roles and taking the story onto its own course in the second half. What starts out as incredibly familiar quickly takes a life of it’s own to be something more. I really enjoyed how the added elements twisted the story into something new and different while still operating on the foundation of the original and within the constraints of history. It was sometimes a little jarring when one or the other took over, making it feel almost like two stories spliced together, but, by the end, I found myself really enjoying it and feeling quite satisfied by the story.
Lizzy has an extraordinary ability to communicate with and command draca, but she must keep it hidden from a society that’s slowly turning away from the binding of draca as a symbol of the gentry. In Netherfield Hall, Mr. Bingley and his sisters take up residence, and Jane loses her heart. But a devastating separation becomes that much worse when she falls seriously ill, and only a draca has the power to potentially heal her. So Lizzy sets off to seek a way to help her beloved sister, all while repeatedly crossing paths with the infuriating Mr. Darcy. All the while, though, danger looms in the form of one close to Lizzy, and Napoleon seems intent on infiltrating the middle of England and stealing draca for his own purposes.
The story of Pride and Prejudice is a familiar one to many. Miss Bennet’s Dragon offers a unique twist and adds in draca for an interesting fantasy retelling of a classic. In many ways, this is a faithful retelling. In others, it uses the story as a launching pad for something more incredible.
Miss Bennet’s Dragon is a delightful read, but it often felt weirdly split between retelling Pride and Prejudice and twisting in a different story using the same characters. The beginning was kind of rough going for me as I kept getting caught up in the Pride and Prejudice I know as the first half is more faithful to the story and then being thrown by the fantasy elements sliding into place. The second half was an experience with the reverse where I enjoyed the direction Verant was taking the story in, only to end up feeling a little wrong footed when the original slipped back in. I did like it mostly stayed true to the events of Pride and Prejudice and offered a different sort of retelling.
I think what I enjoyed the most was the full presence of the war with Napoleon. I wasn’t even aware of Pride and Prejudice being set during that time when I first read it when I was much younger, so I’m pleased that Miss Bennet’s Dragon not only didn’t keep it out of the story, but instead made it a huge piece. I loved that this book felt so well-researched, though, at times, I could have done with a bit less. It did, once in a while, feel like an historian was over-eager and just wanted to throw in all the historical accuracy. It deviated this retelling from the original, but it made the return to the original that much more jarring. Though I did really enjoy the directions it turned the story in.
The characters were much as I remembered and I really enjoyed how true to Austen’s characters they were. I also liked that the more minor women were given broader roles, like Mary. Lydia just exploded and Jane’s story was quite a big twist. I wish Kitty had been given a bigger role as she always just kind of felt like she was there for the sake of there being five daughters. But Mary was always my favorite, so I’m glad she played such a big role and made such fascinating comments on society, even if I sometimes couldn’t shake the image of a goth girl whenever she was on page. As always, Lizzy and Mr. Darcy’s relationship was a thorny courtship dance and was just as delightful. With all the secrets and special abilities swirling around them, their characters and relationship felt like they’d been deepened, but there were also some moments that didn’t feel quite right to me. Overall, though, I loved the roles they each played and was delighted to get to see more characters have more of a voice.
One of my favorite parts was how alive the world came to me. The lore behind the draca was fascinating and, as scary as they seemed sometimes, I still found them almost unbearably adorable. What I loved best, though, was how strong the setting was, how present it felt, especially considering how important certain geographical features were. I felt like it was easy to step into this world and it just kind of sprang up to life in my head.
Miss Bennet’s Dragon is a delightful retelling of an absolute classic. I liked that parts of it were completely faithful while others clearly took some creative license. It blended together not quite seamlessly, but beautifully enough that I really enjoyed it.
How many cups of tea will you need?
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Thank you to M Verant for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
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