Friday, June 13, 2014

Review: A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

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.

In the last few years there's been an upswing in the amount of mainstream books about dragons, and I can't tell you how happy that makes me. I'm pretty sure 'More Dragon' will always be one of my mottos.

When I first saw the cover of A Natural History of Dragons, it turned me off. I thought that this book approached the subject somewhat like a mythical textbook, and I couldn't imagine that that would be anything but boring. So I put it on my long-term reading list, and put the thought out of my head. But I recently picked it up, and discovered that I loved it!

Written, not like a textbook, but as a memoir from an aging dragon naturalist (and explorer, adventurer, and all around breaker-of-rules) Lady Trent. The voice of this book is very unique. It blends the clear and ironic observations of hindsight with the firsthand sensation of memory, and weaves a truly fantastic tale. The society and manners of period England, combined with an alternate world provide something that is oddly familiar and strange at the same time. Natural History is the first in a series of books chronicling the adventures of Lady Trent, and this covers a good part of her childhood, her marriage, and her first expedition with her husband.

One other unique thing about this book are the illustrations. They are beautiful, and scattered throughout the book to help us picture key creatures and moments. If you're a fan of dragons, than this is definitely a book you shouldn't leave off of your list.

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