Desert Isle Keeper
The world is full of reworkings of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, from story continuations to the inclusion of zombies. Well, now we have one with dragons. I wasn’t sure going in how well it would work – I was hopeful, but I’ve been let down before. Somehow though, Elle Katharine White has managed to blend the classic elements of Pride and Prejudice – the characters, the social commentary and financial issues, and the conflict between Lizzie Bennet and Mr. Darcy – with wonderful, monster-filled fantasy.
It all begins with hobgoblins, dragon riders and gryphons.
Aliza Bentaine knows full well the danger of monsters – specifically of the gryphons, though we also get treated to some lamias, dire wolves, and banshees – in her world. She’s already lost one sister to their savagery, so when she hears that Lord Merybourne has hired Riders (as in, dragon riders) to hunt down the horde, she is beyond relieved. Unfortunately, while her family might be safer now, the first dragon rider she meets, one Alastair Daired, is infuriating. He’s handsome alright, to quote Disney’s Belle, but rude and conceited, and not for her. She may be attracted to him, but that doesn’t mean she likes him.
Alastair is so perfectly Darcy; he’s wealthy, but socially awkward at best. He has power, but it’s fairly won. His past isn’t dark per se, but not everything comes easily to him, and he holds his friends close, unwilling to trust others. But, much like Darcy, he finds himself unable to turn away from Aliza, and it doesn’t help when they are thrown together by the machinations of the monsters of the land.
There is war, there is romance, there are fantasy creatures for both good and ill. It’s a fairly simple story at its heart, with good versus evil, but the simplicity works. We don’t need extra convoluted story lines, we need interesting characters and emotional investment, and I definitely had that here.
I mean, come on, people – it’s Pride and Prejudice with dragons. It has all the lovely romance with a hint of heartbreak from the original story, but combines it with fantasy in a way that feels utterly unique. There are definitely some elements included that are brand new when compared to the source material. Aliza proves herself to be a bit of a badass in the best of ways, and there are still elements of Lizzie Bennett shining through.
I also have to take a moment to mention the hobgoblins – little monsters that are basically allied with humans, but really hate dragons, mainly because they are considered an entrée for the larger creatures. They are definitely a new addition, but are so full of life and energy that I really loved them. After all, we basically meet them as they are chatting with Aliza and throwing mud at our hero. It’s kinda perfect.
I was surprised that this was White’s début novel, and would definitely recommend keeping a look-out for more. Combining two of my favorite things – retold stories and fantasy – was an absolute hit and I’ll be re-reading this one for sure! And maybe, if we are lucky, we will get some original stories in this universe as well.