A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

Just finished reading A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan which I loved.  This is such a lovely book written in the form of a memoir by the now Lady Trent who is taking a trip down memory lane and recounting her adventures.  We take a look back at Isabella’s early years when her all consuming love of the inner workings of things and her natural desire to collect and examine specimens brought her into much bother until eventually she turned her passions to the study of dragons.  A passion fortified by sneaking a book out of her father’s library and secretly reading it over and over again.  The book “A Natural History of Dragons”.  This is where it all began.

Of course, being set in the Victorian era (in a very similar world to ours but for one big difference – the existence of dragons) Isabella’s conduct and propriety must withstand scrutiny.  She must behave in a manner befitting a lady – particularly if she is to marry well!  And so, for a few years there Isabella is forced to conform – the ‘grey years’ as she fondly names them!  Then Isabella is finally released into an unknowing society to secure herself a place amongst her peers.  Fortunately she meets a like minded man in Jacob Camherst.  They marry and for Isabella she begins to feel a little more freedom as her husband enjoys her eccentricities and actually encourages them.

Now, at the time, very little is known about dragons and so naturally scientists and like minded people are only too happy to embark on expeditions to strange sounding and exotic places and it is on one such trip, that Jacob is invited along to (after some string pulling from Isabella behind the scenes) and Isabella also manages to secure herself a place – obviously not to take part in scurrying around the countryside but to keep records and draw anatomical pictures – thereby freeing up the valuable men’s time to do the important things!  And so the adventure begins and obviously it doesn’t go according to plan.

Things seem to have a way of going askew around Isabella!  From kidnapping to drawing the unwanted attention of a demon she has the uncanny ability to not only attract but to find trouble in the strangest places!

So, what did I like about this story, apart of course that it’s a good tale.

Well, firstly, the writing is excellent.  Brennan is a talented author.  She depicts the era perfectly without the writing being cumbersome.  She has an eye for detail and she manages to achieve an authentic sounding voice.  The tale itself combines adventure, fantasy, mystery and sci fi with a tiny bit of romance but, more than all of this, when you read this you actually want to believe it’s true.  Brennan has written this magical world of dragons – they’re not flying around breathing fire and carrying off peasants – although there are some attacks in the story but these are very much considered to be highly out of character and provoked in some way – and come on, who wouldn’t want to find a little dragon at the bottom of their garden!

Isabella is a good character.  She’s got an abundance of curiosity and a serious lack of caution.  Fortunately most of the constraints of the period have been removed from her character for the majority of the story as she is in unusual circumstances but even with that liberating factor you still can’t help gritting your teeth at certain points as her natural insights or theories seem to be ignored or, when they’ve actually been proven correct, adopted as the obvious.  So, yes, you feel frustration for Isabella at certain times but that’s to be expected to a certain extent and actually it almost adds to the story in an odd way.

Anyway, I understand there are to be more stories, which is really good news!  I will definitely read more about Isabella, I’m really looking forward to watching her character grow.  Her story so far has been quite unique and ends on something of a sad note – but I think this will help her to exercise even more of her stubborn free will in the future – and obviously she does so – otherwise we wouldn’t be reading these memoirs from the new famous Lady Trent!

I heartily recommend this – it’s a beautiful tale, set in a period that is lovely to read about but has been twisted slightly, there are dragons!  and, the book itself is a beauty.  Quick, compelling and perfectly packaged.

 

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4 Responses to “A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan”

  1. jdbookworm

    Can’t wait to read this one, sounds great!

    • lynnsbooks

      Yep, I think you’ll like it. It’s good fun.
      Lynn 😀

  2. A Natural history of Dragons — Susan Hated Literature

    […] reviews : The Incurable Bluestocking ; Lynn’s Book Blog ; Little Red […]

  3. Oranges and lemons, Say the bells of St. Clement’s… | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan – a little bit of a cheat this one in more ways than one.  Lady Trent originates from a place that is like an alternate London and – to be honest the majority of the stories are based elsewhere.  But I do love this series so thought it was worth mentioning. […]

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