Do you ever read terrible novels and stick with them to the end? Have you been happy while thinking, “This is so terrible; I know I could do better”? That’s what Dragonne’s Eg by Mary Brown put me through.
Set during Victorian times, a poor but self-sufficient teacher in London named Sophy learns that she’s now the sole heir to a tiny horse figurine and weird, sizable egg (it’s a dragon). If she can return the egg to its rightful place on the Blue Mountain in China within a year, she will inherit a country manor that would make the perfect place for an orphanage to help all the underprivileged children she teaches. To make sure she gets there in a year, her dead uncle’s lawyers send two lackeys (they had job titles, but I forgot them). The horse figurine reveals itself to be a Ky-Lin, a servant of Buddha who must help others on earth so he can return to his master. He’s magical. He’s got wicked linguistic skills and “Sleepy Dust.” And when her favorite pupil mails himself to the manor before she leaves for China, Sophy has her traveling crew.
The lackeys are easy to confuse. At first, one seemed like a version of “Rebecca’s favorite cousin,” Mr. Jack Favell. The other, more gentlemanly. But as the louse became more normal and the gentleman gambled and drank, and the two sounded the same in description and dialogue, I assumed they were twinsies. I think one may have actually been Irish.
The favorite pupil’s dialogue runs the gamut from Cockney to good grammar and back again. I know he’s in school, but he practically changes overnight into a star sentence constructor. Honestly, I confused him with the dog from previous novels in this set of books. The dog and the boy were both constantly hungry and a Mary Poppins Dick Van Dyke version of British. The dog was a favorite character of mine, but because it’s 500 years later in this last installment of Mary Brown’s quartet of books, he can’t be alive. Instead, Sophy saves a cat that claims to be a Chinese prince cursed by a witch. He’s talkative and a little sexy and he’s slowly getting larger in each chapter. These are not things cats should be or do, but Mary Brown likes animals.
Nevertheless, our heroine stands strong with dignity and conquers each challenge set in her way. We miss a lot of those challenges because the book makes huge leaps in setting and time as the crew travels from London to China by river boat and on foot. Somehow, much like in Lord of the Rings (well, the film at least — I haven’t read the books), they are able to ride a train all the way back in no time after nearly dying a hundred deaths just to get the egg home to the nearly extinct dragons.
Each of the previous novels ended rather annoyingly with one of those “Well, townspeople gossiped one thing may have happened, or it may have been this other way” sort of endings. You can hear in a wispy voice sighing, “We’ll never know. . . .” Dragonne’s Eg actually has a confirmed ending, perhaps overly saccharine, but it’s more satisfactory than Mary Brown essentially saying, “I don’t know how to end this thing! YOU do it!!”
Because this is less of a review and more a puzzle asking why I finished a terrible book, I’m going to end with a list of some reasons:
- I was four books into a series, and this was the last.
- I was reading to my husband, who found my voices to be a hoot.
- It doesn’t seem to matter what we’re reading, my husband and I look forward to it each night.
- I wanted to know if the cat really was a cursed prince.
- The writing, though riddled with typos and the occasional poor sentence structure, was much improved over the course of the quartet, allowing me to read faster (and thus took us less time to get through).
- This all started with a novel called The Unlikely Ones, the first in the quartet, that I was assigned as an undergrad for a science fiction/fantasy class. The professor was amazingly odd and nerdy, but I respected her.
So, there you have it. A terrible book. I don’t recommend it (nor can I to most of you, as it’s the 4th in a series and I haven’t really “sold” Mary Brown’s work), but I do want to know what terrible books you’ve sat through entirely, either hating or enjoying the story as you did. Let me know in the comments!