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A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent Kindle Edition

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Length: 335 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up-Isabella, Lady Trent, opens her memoir by warning readers that, "this series will contain frozen mountains, foetid swamps, hostile foreigners, hostile fellow countrymen, the occasional hostile family member, bad decisions, misadventures in orienteering, diseases of an unromantic sort, and a plenitude of mud." Writing in an ornate, Victorian style with painstaking attention to detail (but also a generous leavening of dry, self-deprecating humor), the fictitious "author" describes how her girlhood obsession with dragons led to her career of studying and drawing them and her first foreign expedition to the mountains of Vystrana. Although her story takes place in a fantasy realm, readers familiar with the worlds of Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, and the like will understand the tropes and norms of high-society Scirland. Similarly, Drustanev, where dragons are supposed to lair, is reminiscent of imperialist Russia, from the geography of snow-capped mountain villages to the depictions of surly peasants and power-hungry boyars. Sketches of the various dragons and dragon-related scenes that Isabella encounters are scattered throughout the narrative. The pen-and-ink documentary style, which echoes textbook illustrations, adds to the atmosphere of scientific reality, which will appeal to fantasy readers and those who enjoy books such as Pierre Dubois's Great Encyclopedia of Faeries (S & S, 2000). The one criticism devoted dragon fans might have is that more attention is paid to establishing Isabella's entry into the world of scientists than to the magical beasts and their behavior.-Evelyn Khoo Schwartz, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DCα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


"Her Ladyship is a determined and canny woman in search of dragons--I wholeheartedly approve!"--Melanie Rawn, bestselling author of "Touchstone, "on "A Natural History of Dragons""Saturated with the joy and urgency of discovery and scientific curiosity.""--Publishers Weekly "(Starred Review)"If you've ever secretly wished dragons were real, this story is for you. Fans of Naomi Novik and Mary Robinette Kowal will especially enjoy this book.""--RT Book Reviews""Told in the style of a Victorian memoir, courageous, intelligent and determined Isabella's account is colorful, vigorous and absorbing. A sort of Victorian why-what-whodunit embellished by Brennan's singular upgrade of a fantasy bromide and revitalizingly different viewpoint.""--Kirkus Reviews""Lady Trent is the Jane Goodall of dragonkind, and I'm glad she's finally sharing her story with the world."--Jim C. Hines, author of "Libriomancer"""A Natural History of Dragons" stands somewhere between Naomi Novik and Elizabeth Peters, but rock-solidly in its own world and on its own terms. Highly recommended."--Daniel Fox, author of "Dragon in Chains"

Product Details

  • File Size: 3222 KB
  • Print Length: 335 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books (February 5, 2013)
  • Publication Date: February 5, 2013
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00AEC8P2Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,613 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Marie Brennan is an anthropologist and folklorist who shamelessly pillages her academic fields for material. She most recently misapplied her professors' hard work to the Onyx Court historical fantasy series (Midnight Never Come, In Ashes Lie, A Star Shall Fall, and With Fate Conspire). She is also the author of the doppelanger duology of Warrior and Witch, the urban fantasy Lies and Prophecy, the upcoming adventure A Natural History of Dragons, and more than forty short stories.

When she's not obsessing over historical details too minute for anybody but her to care about, she practices shorin-ryu karate and pretends to be other people in role-playing games (which sometimes find their way into her writing).

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Yubin Kim on February 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Written in the style of a memoir, the voice of Lady Trent is alternately proper and full of mischief. Although on paper they may sound similar, this has a very different feel from Naomi Novik's Temeraire series as the first-person voice is distictly feminine.

"A Natural History of Dragons" chronicles Lady Trent's early years and her first expedition, leaving plenty of space for future volumes. Thankfully, the story has a satisfactory conclusion rather than leaving the readers with a cliff-hanger as some first-of-a-series books do. The characterizations of various characters other than Lady Trent (and perhaps her husband) are somewhat two-dimensional and the I felt the pacing of the plot was a bit rushed at the end compared to the rest of the book, but the saucy narrative makes the book hard to put down.

As an added bonus, the hardcover copy of the book is absolutely beautiful. The deckled edges combined with text printed in chestnut brown ink immediately evokes the feeling of holding a handwritten journal. Also, Todd Lockwood is amazing as usual and the inner illustrations of various draconic species are stunning and lovingly detailed in an elegant sepia ink. The fanastic cover needs no words. This is definitely a book to purchase as a hard copy.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By E. Smiley on February 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The preface drew me in with its strong voice and promise to relate the adventure-filled career of a lady naturalist in an alternate Victorian age, studying dragons. The book itself is entertaining, but doesn't quite live up to that promise.

A Natural History of Dragons is the first in what looks to be a long series of fictionalized memoirs of Isabella, Lady Trent, a dragon naturalist. In this book, Isabella briefly takes readers through her childhood, courtship and marriage, then moves on to spend the bulk of the pages describing her first scientific expedition: from her quasi-English homeland to the quasi-Eastern-European mountains. Very little is known about dragons in this world, and Isabella and her companions seek them out with limited success, while meanwhile she must struggle against the restrictive gender expectations of her time.

This is a short, quick read, and an entertaining novel. It's not action-packed and the dragons' appearances are fairly limited, but if you enjoy historical fiction as well as fantasy, you and this book will likely get along well. The older Isabella, the supposed author of the memoir, has a strong and believably Victorian voice, and the world is interesting and grounded as much in historical fiction and anthropology as in fantasy, such that it feels more real than your average secondary world. Isabella is a bold and active protagonist, always up for an adventure. And the book does a great job of making fantasy elements feel realistic; dragons here are just another species of wild animal (albeit a particularly difficult one to study), and are given an entertainingly scientific treatment.

But while the book is certainly competent, some problems hold it back.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Alyc Helms on April 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Stop right now. If you're looking for Pern or Temeraire, then this book is not going to scratch that itch. The dragons in Lady Isabella Trent's world are natural creatures, and they are treated as such by both the character and the author.

If, however, you enjoy snarky old ladies commenting on the adventures (mis- and otherwise) of their youth, if you get a kick out of cryptozoology, if you love nature documentaries, anthropology, and mannered romances of the 19th century, if you wish you could have gone along on Darwin's voyage of the Beagle, if you think Wallace was shafted on the whole evolution issue due to class prejudice and structural inequality... then this book with thrill and delight you.

It's right there in the title. A Natural History of Dragons. Brennan doesn't disappoint on that front. She builds a convincing secondary world -- a good choice, as it frees her from the constraints of fitting her dragons in around the cracks of actual history and biological classification -- where exists an entire... hm... I think it would be Family in taxonomic terms... of reptilian creatures, some of which fit a set of characteristics marking them as dragons.

She shows us this world through the eyes of Lady Isabella Trent, and Lady Isabella shows us her world through her memoirs documenting her first forays into naturalism.

This double-voiced narrative is perhaps the strongest part of this book (alongside the excellent portrayal of scientific study and the challenges of fieldwork). Brennan draws the reader into the gap between younger Isabella's adventures and older Isabella's wisdom and regrets, and there is just as much emotional weight in what Isabella doesn't tell us as there is in what she does say.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Amber on February 13, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As someone studying to be a scientist, with a love of dragons and historical fiction, this book was a fantastic read. Told in first person, the main character is spunky and lovable, and her voice, at times reminiscent (it is a memoir after all), is a great way to convey the story. I absolutely loved it and devoured the whole thing in less than a day. It also has the occasional illustration which also greatly contributes to whole book. If you like dragons, great female main characters, and adventurous tales--buy it!
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