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Mistress Meg and the Prigger of Prancers (Mistress Meg and the Elizabethan Rogues Book 1) Kindle Edition
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The eponymous Meg ties together this tale of mischief and mystery with a blend of insight and foresight with more than a hint of magic for good measure. Around the main plot of horse theft and the seedier underbelly of life, the reader is given a real sense of the sounds, sights and smells of the time. From the bustling and sweating kitchen of The Goat in Chains to the stables of the horse loving Sir George, the descriptive force of the book carries the reader just as much as the plot which is viewed from perspectives as likely to be equine and canine as human.
There are moments of pleasant contrast showing the tensions between an aging superstition, a militant puritanism and a growing rationalism that is skeptical of them both. However, these ideas provide a backdrop for a story that is ultimately one of very human concerns. The young maid, worried that she is, at the ripe old age of eighteen, destined for life as a spinster, to the aging and fraudulent friar who prefers his spiritual life to come from the bottle. Bibby draws together these all too human concerns with a style that is neither nostalgic nor patronizing. It rings all the more true because of an obvious knowledge of the period that runs throughout the work providing both insight for the reader and, one suspects, amusement for the author. It's worth stressing, however, that while the book is informative, it is never patronizing, and the reader is left with the happy sense that this enjoyable read could be justified as educational if the need ever arose.
As well as historical insight, the author's knowledge of - and passion for - country living in general and horses in particular is all too apparent. Both the Friar's ass and the Knight's stallion -not to mention the kitchen boy's dog - give all too believable opinions on the subject of their respective owners. However, it is ultimately the human inhabitants of Guildern and its surrounding estates and forests - both permanent and transient - that drive forward the plot. Rogues and mystics, charlatans and inn-keepers, gentlemen and drunks (and a fair number in more than one category) make for a pageant that is both as enjoyable in its rich sweep as it is intriguing in its detail.