Today is a bit of a grab-bag of things that don’t really fit together but I wanted to draw attention to anyway. I’m trying to ease my brain back into reading so I’ve been consuming a lot of novellas and comics. On with the reviews!
Miss Percy’s Pocket Guide to the Care and Feeding of British Dragons I really enjoyed this one. It’s a gentle exploration of a woman who’s been looked down on and under her sister’s thumb for many years and how she begins to push her own and her sister’s expectations through the unexpected gift of a dragon egg. While there is romance it’s very slow and subtle, the focus instead being on Miss Percy’s growth. The dragon, Fitz is absolutely adorable and this would be perfect for people who enjoyed Marie Brennan’s dragon series but wanted something a bit more domestic and rooted in the British countryside rather than far-flung locations
The Murders of Molly Southbourne This is an odd one. The premise is instantly engaging, a woman who creates murderous duplicates of herself every time she bleeds. But the framing at the beginning and the end of the book – whilst effective for creating tension and allowed the novella to work both as a standalone and easing into a sequel – didn’t quite work for me. I also found parts of the book a bit slow going – a strange thing to say about a novella and the explanation for how Molly had ended up that way was ultimately to me not needed, proof that sometimes less is more. But despite all of these minor grumps, I keep finding myself thinking about various scenes and unpicking the hows and the whys so it’s definitely one I’d recommend people read. Order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).
The Ladies of the Secret Circus Circuses are always a bit of a liminal space with the potential for both entertainment and danger and I’m always on the lookout for books that capture that dichotomy. Ladies doesn’t quite succeed in this but it was still a reading experience I enjoyed. The book follows both Lara in the present and her ancestor Cecile in the past Lara has always been aware of Cecile’s history with the circus, but when her fiance disappears on their wedding day Cecile’s past begins affecting Lara’s present in unforeseen ways. Like the majority of books that deal with two different time periods, one story is more compelling than the other. The descriptions of the circus in Paris at the time of Ernest Hemmingway and the lost generation, and its sense of macabre and menace are more attention-grabbing than the quieter and more solemn beginning of Lara’s story of dealing with loss and grief. However, this is just the set-up and although the beginning is slow, events are carefully threaded through time and foreshadowed effectively with a satisfying payoff in the end. While the blurb mentions magic, this is both more and less central than might be expected, and people who come expecting the otherworld-ness of the Night Circus might be slightly disappointed. But as a tale in its own right, The Ladies of the Secret Circus delivered and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).