M Verant, Miss Bennet’s Dragon (Acerbic Press 978-1-7366629-1-5, $17.99, 367pp, tp) May 2021.
There’s something about Jane Austen, particularly her Pride and Prejudice, that other authors can’t resisting playing with. M Verant shows a great love for the work and period in this charming retelling, while adding dragons and somewhat modernizing the actual writing. Most of the familiar characters are here, but we’re seeing them from slightly different angles. Bennet sister Mary is much improved, still pedantic but not, it turns out, clueless; Lydia, on the other hand, is drastically over-the-top different, but in context it mainly works. The dragons, or draca, are an intriguing variation, with various types that just feed the upper class obsession with status; an upper-class woman bonds with aristocratic dragons on their wedding nights, giving the couple added status based on the type they bond. The Bennets have a prestigious firedrake, but Mr. Bennet is ill, and if he dies his wife (as silly as the original) probably won’t be able to hold the firedrake, and without a draca, aristocrats can’t hold entailed property, resulting in the Bennet women’s loss of their home – similar to the situation in Pride and Prejudice. Then the plot gets a drastic twist when Elizabeth realizes she can control draca. Unlike Austen, Verant is willing to discuss the military situation with Napoleon Bonaparte threatening England, but in this world the French don’t have draca, and desperately want English draca to use as weapons, and it appears spies and traitors are already at work. So Elizabeth not only has to fend off pompous proposals, overbearing aristocrats, and the possible loss of her home; she’s got draca and danger to her country to deal with as well. It’s quite entertaining to see how the plot does and doesn’t diverge from the original; this is just book one in the Jane Austen Fantasy series, and I’m interested in seeing where future volumes go.
Carolyn F. Cushman, Senior Editor, has worked for Locus since 1985, the longest of any of the current staff, and handles our in-house books database, writes our New and Notable section, and does the monthly Books Received column. She is a graduate of Western Washington University with a degree in English. She published a fantasy novel, Witch and Wombat, in 1994.
This review and more like it in the July 2021 issue of Locus.
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