‘The Temptation of Dragons:’ Book Review

Small-town English vicar Penny White thought the hardest thing she’d ever do is try to move on after the death of her husband eighteen months ago; then, she nearly hit a dragon on a dark highway, gave him last rights, and discovered a magical world beyond normal human sight.  Lloegyr, a realm populated with various mythical (by human standards) races needs another priest liaison, and Penny’s quick thinking when faced with the giant dying reptile and love of Doctor Who make her prime candidate number one.  Will chatting with parishioners about poor hymn choices ever live up to the excitement of traveling to another realm? Will she manage to make her gryphon associate stop terrorizing the birds in her garden? And what is really going on between her and Raven, a beautiful green-black dragon that stirs emotions she thought long dead?

Author Chrys Cymri clearly put a lot of herself into her protagonist, Penny White, since she is also a priest, loves Doctor Who, and has a deep fascination with dragons. (She settles for a parrot.) As a result, her writing blossoms with genuine emotion covering all aspects of the spectrum. (I particularly enjoyed a scene where Penny finally admits some of her frustration with trying to maintain her parish with few new church members and lack of funds.)  I don’t doubt some of Cymri’s own experiences trickle into the writing, although she probably has never had a dragon gentleman caller.

While Penny White and The Temptation of Dragons features the mystery of Endre/Brother Dominic’s death on a dark English highway, the main focus is Penny’s growth and connection to the individuals in her life, both old and new.  The parallels between her grief and her associate, Morey’s, loss help them find a way to understand each other even when their religious ideals are polar opposites.  Each new bond helps pull Penny out of her pain (and the seemingly safe retreat of alcohol) and gives her strength to do what is right, both for herself and the various parishioners she serves.

Because Penny is an Anglican priest, religion does play a part in the story, but I found it presented in an informative way that explained various characters’ motivations, rather than being preachy or distracting.  Penny and Morey possess a multitude of flaws, and the other religious entities are fully fleshed out individuals, not just paragons of virtue.   

If you go into fantasy stories expecting sweeping epics or rollicking adventures, The Temptation of Dragons will feel a lot like a tiny town, small and slower than the pace of everywhere else; however, if you want an introspective read that examines universal issues like forgiveness, love, and acceptance with a dose of magical creatures, you should give it a try.  It’s not the most boisterous story in the world, but it left me warm and comforted inside…a little like a nice cup of English tea.


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