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A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by…

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent

by Marie Brennan

Other authors: Rhys Davies (Maps), Todd Lockwood (Illustrator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Lady Trent's Memoirs (1)

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1,373808,446 (3.82)191

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Read for a book group. This book did what it did well, but it didn't do much. It's a straightforward story of a Victorian-style, amateur scientific expedition to a poorer country to study their dragons, narrated by a well-born young woman who bucks convention with her passion for natural science. There's conflict with the local peasantry, a mystery solved and a tiny bit of dragon biology, but it all felt flat and boring to me, and the only character who had any spark at all was Dagmira. The book is fantasy only in the sense that the names of the countries are made up, although they are plainly England and Russia, and the dragons have no fantastical properties. It was well-written and paced, just boring. ( )
  badube | Mar 6, 2019 |
A proper young lady should not be obsessed with the study of dragons (or any scientific or academic pursuit, really), but Isabella’s parents have never been able to fully discourage her from this odd obsession. When she is fortunate enough to find a husband who does not discourage her from reading scientific texts, she feels that she has been as fortunate as she has any right to expect — but then she hears about an expedition to study dragons firsthand . . .

I’ve been hearing about this series here and there for at least a few years now, and I can’t think why it’s taken me this long to read it! It’s just my thing, what with dragons and the quasi-historical setting that draws in mannerpunk characteristics. I’m delighted to see that there are several more books in the series. I also highly recommend the audiobook version, as Kate Reading’s narration is top-notch. ( )
  foggidawn | Jan 14, 2019 |
Isabella, Lady Trent, is a distinguished dragon naturalist and A Natural History of Dragons is the first instalment of her memoirs. A Natural History takes us back to the beginning with Isabella’s fledgling interest in dragons, her early marriage and her first expedition to the rugged mountains of Vystrana in search of rock-wyrm dragons.

Isabella is an intelligent, unconventional woman who manages to (mostly) navigate the easily recognisable world of Victorian social structures, morals and restrictions within which A Natural History is set. Looking back on her earlier years, Isabella offers some forthright commentary of some of her youthful actions that I think adds some humour and saves the reader from the irritation of a smart woman doing dumb things.

A Natural History is written in a very engaging, conversational style and there seemed to be occasional nods to some ongoing, real world issues. For me, text in two sections in particular had me drawing parallels to Japan’s programme of scientific whaling, and the often knee-jerk reaction of setting drum lines after a shark attack. While both of these instances threw me out of the story somewhat (mostly because I have strong opinions on both topics), I love that I could make those kinds of connections reading fantasy. In the About Author, Brennan writes that she “habitually pillages her background in anthropology and archaeology” and I think this is evident.

This is a faced paced, adventure romp with an underlying intelligence that makes this a great read which crosses several genres. There is also beautiful art throughout which adds to the reading experience. I'll definitely be getting my hands on the second book of the series. ( )
1 vote SouthernKiwi | Jan 5, 2019 |
This is the first of five books in The Memoirs of Lady Trent series. Previous to reading this book I had also read Brennan’s Doppleganger series (enjoyed it) and the first book in her Onyx Court series (didn’t like it). This is a historical fantasy of sorts and is told from an aged Lady Trent's POV. She tells the reader about her childhood and her start into the research of dragons. I ended up enjoying this quite a bit.

I listened to this on audiobook and really enjoyed it. Kate Reading always does a phenomenal job narrating and I loved listening to her read this book. I would highly recommend listening to this on audiobook if you enjoy audiobooks.

I love this kind of Victorian fantasy, and despite being a bit slow at times, I really enjoyed this. I love how scientific minded Lady Trent is and how she is portrayed throughout. She has a witty and dry sense of humor and is never overly sentimental. There isn’t any romance in this book, so if you are looking for that don’t look here.

Overall this was a great read and I will definitely continue this series. I can't wait to find out what happens in the next book. I would recommend to those who enjoy Victorian fantasies about mythical creatures. ( )
  krau0098 | Oct 27, 2018 |
Isabella, Lady Trent, is now the world's most famous dragon naturalist, by she was once a young girl in a land called Scirland, like and unlike our own Regency England, with an interest in dragons considered distinctly unladylike. But when it comes time for her to marry, her loving and indulgent father helps her find a husband who shares her interest in dragons and will be equally indulgent in letting her share the use of his library.

He did not expect that, after two years of marriage, Isabella and Jacob would join an expedition to study dragons in Vystrana.

What neither she, nor Jacob, nor Lord Hilford, expects is that she will do more than draw sketches of the the dragons and file the men's notes.

The story is told as the now-elderly Lady Trent's memoir of the first expedition that was the start of her scientific career, making breakthroughs not just in natural history but in what women were allowed to do.

I really enjoyed this. Isabella's developing interests, struggles against restraints and expectations, and blossoming as a young scientist are all very well down, and her voice is very convincing. Brennan avoids a mistake that many writers make, in that her back history of a world with actual dragons is, while recognizably our planet, not at all our history. Scirland has a fair amount in common with our England, but isn't our England. A country that isn't a Russia we'd recognize is ruled by a Tsar, but the people filling recognizably familiar roles, are not people we know from history, renamed or not. Altogether, it gives this fantasy world a greater sense of reality.

Recommended. ( )
  LisCarey | Sep 19, 2018 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Marie Brennanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Davies, RhysMapssecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lockwood, ToddIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Collins, GregDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lockwood, ToddCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reading, KateNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Not a day goes by that the post does not bring me at least one letter from a young person (or sometimes one not so young) who wishes to follow in my footsteps and become a dragon naturalist.

When I was seven, I found a sparkling lying dead on a bench at the edge of the woods which formed the back boundary of our garden, that the groundskeeper had not yet cleared away.
I had just discovered the wishbone when I heard a shout behind me, and turned to see a stableboy staring at me in horror.

While he bolted off, I began frantically trying to cover my mess, dragging hay over the disembodied body of the dove, but so distressed was I that the main result was to make myself look even worse than before. By the time Mama arrived on the scene, I was covered in blood and bits of dove-flesh, feathers and hay, and more than a few tears.
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Isabella, Lady Trent, known as the world's preeminent dragon naturalist, writes her memoir detailing 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 dragon discoveries that would change the world forever.… (more)

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