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A Natural History of Dragons by Marie…
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A Natural History of Dragons

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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890549,932 (3.84)146
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Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
While an interesting exercise I just didn't find this quite as enjoyable as I hoped. Why you might ask? Even though the introduction of our imaginary lady scientist did catch my imagination I found my interest fading the more I got into it and I was reminded that Elizabeth Bear's "Karen Memory" also fell a little short for me; even though this is a good faux 19th-century memoir maybe I'm just not that interested in faux 19th-century memoirs. As always, your mileage may differ. Also, I don't apologize for defining this book as SF as opposed to fantasy, in that it felt to me more like alternative history than a secondary-world fantasy. ( )
  Shrike58 | Mar 27, 2017 |
Told in its heroine Isabella’s voice, the language of this novel is perfectly pitched to suggest a broadly Victorian setting, in which young gentlewomen certainly do not practice dissection, read scientific books about dragons or get themselves into awkward situations with wild wolf-drakes. Looking back from her later years – in which she has become a well-known dragon naturalist – Isabella remembers her stubborn independence as a young girl and the books, pilfered from her father’s library, which helped to create her obsession with dragons. Beginning with the tiny Sparklings which live wild in the woods, her interest rapidly grows in scale until, as a young woman, she finds herself in the royal menagerie with her brother. Here she meets an eligible young man called Jacob Camherst, who is not only a catch on the marriage-mart but, more importantly, also interested in dragons.

It is, if not love, then at least fellow-feeling at first sight; and love follows. Isabella’s marriage blesses her with a husband willing to indulge her decidedly unconventional interests. Taking advantage of this, she manages to inveigle their way onto an expedition led by the explorer-naturalist Lord Hilford, to the mountains of distant Vystrana. Here Isabella will have her first encounter with true dragons, in a land of forests, chasms, smugglers, corrupt boyars, suspicious villagers and more intellectual satisfaction than she has ever known before. But it will all come at a tragic price…

For the full review, please see my blog:
https://theidlewoman.net/2017/03/08/a-natural-history-of-dragons-marie-brennan/ ( )
  TheIdleWoman | Mar 9, 2017 |
Genteel fun in a wonderfully faux-Victorian way. It's actually written in a style that I generally dislike - including the silly chapter sub-headings -, but the author's skill manages to make it shine in a way very few others have. It's the retrospective memoirs of the invented, but in her world now (in)famous Lady Trent. It opens with her as a young girl, in a proper landed family, discovering her joy in amateur biology and the science of Natural History. Such things weren't proper for a young lady of course, but in the countryside they do things differently, and her father aided her convenience around the most correct manners.

Isabel's attraction started with Sparkling's thought to be a type of insect, and her interest was resurrected after her marriage as a discreet hobby. Most of the latter half of the book is then an account of an expedition she manages to inveigle her away upon. It is to an alternate eastern europe by the geography, high mountain karst, peppered with small villages, hidden caves and a complex feudal political situation. But also populated by dragons, and it is these that the company have come to study.

Of course a story about the natural history of dragons would probably become dry quite quickly, and this isn't. Mostly it's about the made-up politics of the region and how the small group of informal scientists discover enough about the goings on to provide assistance. In the style of many Victorian explorers they had neither the local language, nor any understanding of the culture, and instead came burdened with expectations that as they came from a richer country they'd be able to do as they liked. Isabel's sly asides as to how her attitudes have changed, and her accounts of 'proper' scientific practise made this far more enjoyable than I've managed to describe.

Great fun. I'm not sure how much more of this the series will stand, as a technique could pale quite quickly, but it was very engaging writing. ( )
3 vote reading_fox | Jan 23, 2017 |
An enjoyable read. Written in the style of memoirs from the mid-to-late 1800s (I think), but set in world with dragons, the main character is an intellectual & irrepressible girl/young woman fascinated by dragons and natural science. Adventures ensue. Looking forward to the next one. ( )
  chavala | Dec 28, 2016 |
I went into A Natural History of Dragons expecting a quick, light read that was nothing but fun. While it was all of that, it was also an extremely interesting look at gender politics in fantasy/history. I view life through a feminist lense, so it was only natural for me to immediately pick up on what Brennan was doing, and I loved it. Her observations on how women were treated differently were completely on point, and the way that Lady Trent handled herself was both believable and encouraging.

I'd love to see more books like this on the shelves and fully intend on checking out some of Brennan's other work! ( )
  shulera1 | Jun 7, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
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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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Preface

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.
One

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.
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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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