Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Natural History of Dragons (Marie Brennan)

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent
(The Lady Trent Memoirs series, Book 1)
Marie Brennan
Fiction, Fantasy
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: Lady Trent, widely recognized today as one of the leading dragon researchers in the world, at long last presents her personal memoirs, which tell a rather different story than her official papers. As a young girl in Scirland, Isabella was always drawn to the world of science in general and dragons in particular, interests that amused her father but horrified her proper mother. Try as she might, though, she cannot become a properly tame young lady, culminating in her joining her husband Jacob in an expedition to the mountains of Vystrana to study rock-wyrms in their native habitat. She was supposed to keep herself out of trouble, but problems with the locals - and with the dragons - soon land them all in danger.

REVIEW: Pseudo-historic fantasies with dragons aren't uncommon on the bookshelves these days, but Brennan offers a world that is both less familiar and more detailed than many. Her "Scirland" and other nations resemble Victorian-era Earth only in the broadest strokes, and her dragons become real creatures full of intriguing puzzles for a young natural scientist like Isabella to explore. She herself is a rebel against society only insofar as her passion for dragons and unladylike research; in other aspects, she's well entrenched in her class and culture. She even attempts to set aside her desires for the sake of her family and her future, but there's only so far she can make herself bend to society's will - and, fortunately, she finds allies to help her. The tale takes some interesting twists as the pursuit of rock-wyrms entangles with smugglers, thorny international politics, and other dangers in a foreign and increasingly hostile land. While the tangle of geographic names and relations grows a bit thick and the end has a couple twists that felt a little too convenient and subtly unsatisfying, overall I found it an intriguing start to a series I'll probably pursue through at least the next book.

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The Book of the Dragon (Ciruelo) - My Review
His Majesty's Dragon (Naomi Novik) - My Review
The Waking Fire (Anthony Ryan) - My Review

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