Note: We were given a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows.
Title: Penny White and the Temptations of Dragons
Author: Chrys Cymri
Release Date: March 31st, 2016
Genre: Fantasy, Christian
Bishop Nigel smiled at me. ‘Holy water doesn’t harm vampires. Which is just as well, as it would make it impossible to baptise them.’
When I was asked by a dragon to give him the last rites, I never dreamed it would lead to negotiating with his cannibalistic family or running from snail sharks. Life as the priest of a small English village is quite tame in comparison. At least I have Morey, a gryphon with sarcasm management issues, to help me. And if all else fails, there’s always red wine and single malt whisky.
As if my life weren’t complicated enough, a darkly beautiful dragon named Raven keeps appearing where I least expect him, I’ve met a handsome police inspector who loves science fiction as much as I do, and my younger brother is getting into trouble for trying to pick up vampires.
That’s what happens when you’re dealing with an incredible and dangerous parallel world full of mythical creatures. And I have to learn to navigate it all without losing myself, or my brother…
My First Thoughts:
My last journey into Christian fiction was such a disappointment, so I wasn’t expecting much from this book. The author, Chrys Cymri, is a priest in England with a very Welsh name (from my limited experience), so I was intrigued about how mythology and Christianity were going to combine. The synopsis was… confusing, but all the reviews for it were good. I figured I would at least get a laugh from it, even if I didn’t enjoy it.
In my review for Soft on the Devil, I stated that there are two ways Christian fiction can go: either Christianity and religion are used to genuinely add to the characterization and story, or the reader ends up getting beaten in the face with a bible. I’m so excited to say that Father Cymri has done a wonderful job incorporating Christianity into his book in a way that feels genuine! I’ve never actually read a book that managed to do that.
The main character, Penny White, is the vicar (a type of priest for those who may not be informed) for a tiny English village. It makes sense for her to have religion be a strong influence in her life, but unlike so many Christian novels that I have read, it’s not the only influence in her life. Penny is a woman who has interests in books, movies, and television that I’ve seen quite a few “Christian” websites completely denounce as “works of the devil” (Doctor Who, Buffy, Charmed, etc.). She supports gay marriage, women’s rights, drinking in a little excess, and evolution, as do most of her fellows in the cloth. She is also imperfect, which I love. She’s been orphaned and then recently widowed; she has doubts about faith and her relationship with God. Those feelings are real and so important. She seeks guidance from those in place to guide her, who tell her it is okay to feel like that and help her to work through it. I feel like too much Christian fiction either has perfect people who never experience doubt and people who don’t believe that have some sort of experience and begin quoting bible verses in a second.
I also love her associate, Morey. This little griffon who wise cracks, follows the verses of the bible to the letter, is a creationist, and is fiercely loyal is a great counter to our vicar as she discovers the new world she has been selected to join. Morey is another character who grapples with his relationship with God, the Church, and his fellows as the story progresses. For a fantasy character, he feels real and I find myself caring so much about him. He and Penny grow so much over the course of the story. Honestly, all the characters feel so deep and real, and I look forward to learning more about them as the story progresses.
Of course, this book isn’t perfect (honestly, would a perfect book be interesting at all?) and there are some minor complaints I have. While I feel like I know all the characters personally, I have trouble picturing the human ones in my head. Every fantasy character gets an in-depth description, but then all the humans are just there. They are deep and I know a lot about them, I just can’t picture what they look like. There are quite a few instances where characters speak Welsh, which is so cool, but because Welsh is such a ridiculous language I would appreciate some sort of pronunciation guide/translation insert at the end of the book, just so I could go back and not just have my inner monologue sound like a keyboard smash (although, knowing Welsh, it still might!). Also, and I’m sure that this is because it is the first book in a series, there are a lot of things that I feel are unanswered. I guess I’ll just have to read the next book to find out!
Overall, I genuinely enjoyed this book. It was a lot of fun to read and a different take on fantasy and Christian fiction. I felt the characterization and inclusion of Christian elements was natural and in depth, and I found the story captivating.
This book was so much fun. I would recommend it to anyone looking for something different. I think it is a wonderful example of what Christian fiction should be, and such a different take on what fantasy normally is. This would be great for a quick read over a long weekend!