Review: A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan



A Natural History of Dragons

Book One of The Memoirs of Lady Trent

by Marie Brennan

Fantasy | 334 Pages | Published by Titan Books in 2014


| Rating |


A Natural History of Dragons, the first volume in Marie Brennan’s Memoirs of Lady Trent, is a fascinating expedition into lands unknown, where cultures clash, society is upturned and magnificent, dangerous beasts stalk the earth, seas and skies.

From lands firmly rooted in our own cultures, Marie Brennan has created a world which resonates with a sense of real world history and weaves a thread of draconic magic throughout in this beautifully crafted and subtly fantastic memoir.

Marie Brennan begins a thrilling new fantasy series in A Natural History of Dragons, combining adventure with the inquisitive spirit of the Victorian Age.

You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart—no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon’s presence, even for the briefest of moments—even at the risk of one’s life—is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. . . .

All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, 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 and misunderstanding 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, natural history, and, yes, dragons 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 and bone 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.Isabella, Lady Trent of Scirland, has led a life of adventure, science and scholarly progress, a life which has swung between tremendous highs and painful lows. A noted and respected academic in the field of natural history, Isabella has travelled to the ends of the earth, battling societal pressure, gender repression and a distinct inability to conform in pursuit of her passion: dragons.

Now an elderly woman, Lady Trent, whose fame and success often eclipse her early struggles, puts pen to her early life. From adventurous child to budding explorer, Isabella sets out to overcome the restrictions placed on her as she ventures across the seas to Vystrana in search of the illusive Rock-Wyrm.

A tale of scholarly passions and societal acceptance, Marie Brennan has crafted a novel which, through its subtle charm, blossoms into life as the adventures of Lady Trent unfold. While sometimes lacking the depth and explosive excitement of epic fantasy, A Natural History of Dragons proves a pleasant and altogether human read where the course of life never runs smooth but its highs and lows never fail to make an impact.

Set in a world not unlike our own, where Lady Trent’s home country of Scirland could well be a Nineteenth Century England overrun with dragons; the first in this series captures real world history and culture and builds an enchanting fantasy from them. And while the storyline may have benefited from more of the fantastical and strange, the pockets of description and witty narrative style make for a fascinating mirror world.

Isabella proves an interesting narrator whose personality refuses to conform to the constraints in which society would shelter her. Speaking with the authority and openness granted to her in later life, she still retains the innocence and wonder which first led to her study of dragons throughout. And though the strength of her voice sometimes overwhelms those of other characters, there is enough interest and mystery surrounding them to leave the reader wanting more.

Marie Brennan has created a beautiful novel which captures the imagination and takes the reader on an expedition into the unknown. And while more detail and excitement may have been warranted where dragons are concerned, the pace and style of the narrative make this novel a joy to read.

A Natural History of Dragons is an imaginative and wonderfully pleasant foray into the life of Lady Trent, a woman whose own adventures promise to grow bolder and more thrilling with every tale, and a series which I for one am eager to continue.

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6 thoughts on “Review: A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

    1. This book really surprised me actually! The pace and the emphasis on almost real cultures rather than the more fantastic elements are not what I expected at all. But then again, perhaps having something a bit different is what made me enjoy it so much! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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