Review: A Natural History of Dragons

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan

natural history of dragonsYou, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart no more so than the study of dragons itself… From Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, Isabella, Lady Trent is known to be the world s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning and natural history defied the stifling conventions of her day. Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects and her fragile flesh to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.

I loved this. The rest of the series is on my TBR and the second, The Tropic of Serpents, is sitting on my Kindle!

This is a very practical, pragmatic narrator. The Lady she now is – writing her memoirs – comes through incredibly strongly, and I love the contrast with (and occasional comments on) the younger Isabella. The feel of the entire book is very Victorian and scholarly; the upper class are permitted to dabble in biology and botany, to study and keep dragons, to indulge a mild interest – and then Isabella promptly bucks every convention of her class, and accompanies her husband on a dragon-hunting expedition to the middle of nowhere! The passion and interest of a Victorian woman pushing against the boundaries of her class – and succeeding – is a wonderful read.

The alt world is fantastic; I love the references to future events and  the almost-real-world geology. There is a feel of real history and depth behind everything, and I love that the dragons themselves are much more natural and animal than the traditional fantasy fare, and it makes them much more interesting as a result. The story itself is an entertaining mystery, and although in itself it gets rounded up, I want to know what happens next in Isabella’s life – and see more dragons!

If you’ve read The Lie Tree, or thought that sounded interesting, try this! And there’s more – a whole series! That’s increased my TBR (again)…

This is one of my Discoverability Challenge books.