With probably one of the best opening scenes I’d read in a long time Chrys Cymri’s Penny White series jumpstarts with uniqueness then just powers onwards in Penny White and the Temptation of Dragons. Join our reliable vicar as she navigates her way through the offerings from Lloegyr, the Welsh speaking alternate world where dragons are bishops and dog-sized snails have razor sharp teeth and a penchant for baby flesh, not to mention sarcastic gryphons and vampires with personal space sensitivity.
Penny’s elevation to Vicar General of Incursions, the communication conduit to the two worlds, might just be her wildest dreams come true, but might also be her downfall if she’s not careful. A fantasy buff since forever, this new world allows her some escape from the weight of what a vicar faces daily, including the memory of her deceased husband, and she acquires an associate and housemate in the form of razor-tongued Morey the gryphon who’s partial, as she is, to a drop of Scotch now and again. More now. But her eagerness draws her into ever more dangerous territory, especially when her younger brother returns from New Zealand and gets himself into trouble. And then there’s Raven, the hot dragon. Yes, you heard it. Flying about like James Dean with wings, and with a craving for equality – plus he’s an artist you know – this guy stirs up all sorts of hnmnhh for Penny – but with the current dangers surrounding those in mixed relationships both in Lloegyr and back home, will the warning be strong enough to distance herself from him? There’s a hot human guy too, but, you know, dragon.
It sounds a bit serious from the above, and there are some moral questions brought up, but the series on the whole is actually a light-hearted and fun journey, chocker with sarcasm, reserved British conversing, hangovers and a bit of heart-wrenching. And much Scotch. And wine. The only issue I found was there were a few too many references and moral opinions weaved in. It is obvious the author is passionate about these things but they brought me away from the story on occasion.
The overall tone was fantastic – it reminded me very much of the TV series Rev on the BBC (which I loooooved), which gives a very human insight into the life of Church of England vicars and the weight they bear in their community and home lives (sadly no dragons). Like Rev. Smallbone, Penny’s just so damn normal so her experiences are easy to relate to, here on Earth and in Lloegyr. There’s a lot tied up in this book to think about, to rollick through, to proper belly laugh at, to marvel – there’s so much uniqueness (from my fantasy experience) in Chrys Cymri’s work generally, and this author is so good at tying everything up neatly without blinking. Go grab a dragon tacsi and take a spin, there’s a whole series for you to binge on!