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

Marie Brennan
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (134 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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.

"Saturated with the joy and urgency of discovery and scientific curiosity."--Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) on A Natural History of Dragons

An NPR Best Book of 2013


Books In This Series (3 Books)
Complete Series


  • 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.

    Review

    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))

    Product Details

    • File Size: 3222 KB
    • Print Length: 335 pages
    • Publisher: Tor Books (February 5, 2013)
    • Sold by: Macmillan
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B00AEC8P2Y
    • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
    • X-Ray:
    • Word Wise: Enabled
    • Lending: Not Enabled
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,848 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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    Customer Reviews

    4.1 out of 5 stars
    (134)
    4.1 out of 5 stars
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    Most Helpful Customer Reviews
    35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars Hilariously Victorian 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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    20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
    3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining 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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    13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars More Darwin than Dragons 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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    7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
    By Amber
    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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    Most Recent Customer Reviews
    5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
    I adored this book!
    Published 13 days ago by H and E's mom
    4.0 out of 5 stars More Dragons Please.
    This book reminded me very much of The Lost World by Conan Doyle, except with dragons instead of dinosaurs– which was one of my favorite stories growing up. Read more
    Published 14 days ago by RamaniCossack
    4.0 out of 5 stars Great realism-styled fantasy
    Great Victorian era realism styled fantasy. Easy to read, fast paced, great feminist theme. Plus, dragons!
    Published 1 month ago by Rua
    4.0 out of 5 stars Better Than Expected!
    I enjoyed this book a lot more than I expected to! I liked the writing, and I liked Isabella a lot as a character. Read more
    Published 1 month ago by Laura
    3.0 out of 5 stars I really enjoyed the writing style
    While the plot or the secondary world are nothing special, I really enjoyed the writing style.
    Published 1 month ago by J. Aumir
    5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
    i'm hooked
    Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
    4.0 out of 5 stars Sparklings should really exist. I would gladly write about them.
    A fun combination of steampunk and dinosaurs. This is a lightweight easy read read and doesn't pretend to be anything else. Read more
    Published 1 month ago by goddessIMHO
    4.0 out of 5 stars Different take on dragons.
    I wasn't expecting to enjoy it much, but was pleasantly surprised. The hero is an engaging and driven young woman with a passion for learning. Read more
    Published 1 month ago by Beach Mystress
    5.0 out of 5 stars Love the characters - mesmerizing!
    I thought that this book was quite simply brilliant! I could not put it down. I found my self falling in love with the main character from the first page, and the sentiment only... Read more
    Published 1 month ago by Jade
    4.0 out of 5 stars Lady Trent and her discoveries
    The memoir of Lady Trent, Isabella, regarding her first foray into the scientific realm of dragons. Isabella grows up determined to spend her days discovering the intricacies and... Read more
    Published 1 month ago by Alexis DeSousa
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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).

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