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Review – A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

A Natural History of Dragons cover image
Publisher: Tor Books
Publish Date: Out now
How I got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley

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.
This blurb came from the author’s website.

I am the adventuresome type. Well, I do like my civilized comforts but I also like exploring, finding new things, trying new things, learning the answer to “why”, and catching a glimpse into the unknown. That is one of the reasons I love reading because each book takes me on an adventure. I get to explore a new town, city, country, time-period, world, or even universe. Occasionally my adventures are via a factual account. As a result I have always been interested in stories that read like and adventure so while A Natural History of Dragons is different than most books I have reviewed here I had to give it a try. The blurb and style of this book said exploration, strong smart heroine, science, alternate world, alternate time-period, and DRAGONS. There was no way I could turn down dragons. While A Natural History of Dragons didn’t turn out how I imagined it would I was not left disappointed. Brennan delivered fantasy as if from a zoologist’s diaries and memories in a way that included discovery, emotion, and that same emotion colored with the sort of pointed honesty that comes with age and distance.

Lady Trent was a very unusual woman for her time. She was fascinated with science and particular fascinated with dragons. She was lucky enough to have family members who tacitly encouraged her interest instead of trying to keep her within the bounds of what polite society deemed acceptable. She was even luckier to make the acquaintance of a young man who was also interested in dragons and who thought her interest meant they could actually talk to each other. They married and he continued to support Lady Trent’s interest. Even when she manipulated him and when her curiosity got them into some unpleasant situations, he still maintained his love and support for her.

The real focus of this story is her expedition to Vystrana and what she discovered about herself, her husband, people, and dragons. I was captivated by the descriptions of the world and how dragons were seamlessly integrated. Dragons were not stuck in a single location with a single type but instead appeared in a variety of different ecosystems each with their own characteristics. I also liked how the people Lady Trent met on her travels were so very different from the society that she really did not fit comfortably within. She was so focused on her study of dragons that the idea that people were different wasn’t really something that was in the forefront of her mind. In fact, her lack of people skills contributed to both some of the difficulties and some of the successes of that particular exhibition. I have to admit I am curious about her ability to interact as she continued her dragon studies throughout her career.

A Natural History of Dragons is not your typical romance. Lady Trent does find love (not her dragons) but it is not a very demonstrative love. It was more about understand and supporting actions outside the normal roles while quietly working for the other person’s happiness. Lady Trent was rather self-centered and she admits this but she also never wanted to make her husband unhappy and she valued him for more than his forbearance. If you are interested in reading a fantasy that is styled in a rather untraditional (for this day and age) way I recommend that you take a look. While different than I expected I did enjoy traveling on the journey that Brennan constructed and I will certainly look for any further adventures of Lady Trent.

I give A Natural History of Dragons a B.

BP Note: Check back on Saturday for our interview with Brennan.

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By E_booklover

E is addicted to books. She discovered at an early age that not only were they her transport to far off worlds, adventures, and exotic cultures, but that she ran into far fewer objects if she walked while reading then if she wasn't reading. She reads across several genres, such as: romance, western,mystery, SF/F and its derivatives. She isn't too picky except for good characterization, settings she can imagine, and a story that flows logically... umm so ok -- she wants a good story. Have any to recommend?

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