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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 (91 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.99
Kindle Price: $8.89
You Save: $7.10 (44%)
Sold by: Macmillan

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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


At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.



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)

“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: 1026 KB
  • Print Length: 335 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0765331969
  • Publisher: Tor Books (February 5, 2013)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00AEC8P2Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,494 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 28 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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11 of 11 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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5 of 5 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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delight for any fantasy reader! February 6, 2013
Format:Hardcover
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Marie-Reine

*Beware of possible Spoilers*

This book is a memoir of the beginnings of a remarkable scientist and her first foreign expedition. Isabella, Lady Trent, the world's preeminent expert on dragons, takes the reader through the early evolution of her obsession with the species. As a child, she devours all writings on the subject--though these are scant and lacking in details. She collects all manner of creatures. But all these pursuits are quite unladylike, and she must give them up. Later she marries Jacob Camherst, who allows her obsession to roam freely. With him, she goes on her first expedition to the Bohemian mountains of Vystrana where she must fight irascible dragons and hostile villagers, as well as her own meddling curiosity and unfortunate impulsiveness.

Like many books in the fantasy genre, the story itself takes place in an alternative (but mirrored) world, where dragons fly the skies. Marie Brennan, the author, weaves in some explanations for the various cultural or scientific events that a reader of that world would normally be aware of. However, this is not heavy-handed and much is left to the reader's imagination. Brennan pulls back the curtain on a world that stirs the imagination and all that is needed is a guide, which she provides in her leading lady.

The protagonist, Isabella, lives in Victorian life where much stands in the way of women who wish to be natural scientists or worst, dragon experts. She is headstrong and determined, almost to a fault. Rarely taking care for her own safety, she pushes against the constraints of society in her native homeland, Scirland, and also on the expedition abroad.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Warning: NOT about dragons
I was very disappointed with this book, but perhaps it was my own fault for expecting too much. I had imagined there would be great deals of illustrations and vivid descriptions of... Read more
Published 22 hours ago by Purchaser
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing treatment of the main female character
While the writing style is just fine, this book bothered me in its portrayal of the main character as relatively weak (really only because she's a woman) for most of the story. Read more
Published 1 day ago by WanderingStar
4.0 out of 5 stars A truly fun romp!
Voiced by a proper Victorian lady with a wild hair for dragons. Very well done, save for some rushing in the later chapters.
Published 2 days ago by Curtis Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
This was a really enjoyable read!
Published 29 days ago by Christine Seaman
5.0 out of 5 stars Jane Austen & Dragons
This book was described to me as "Jane Austen meets dragons" and honestly, can you get any better than that? Read more
Published 1 month ago by mia walker
4.0 out of 5 stars Good start to the series
A Natural History of Dragons is the first book in a series of novels. Indeed, the second has already been published, and based upon the strength of this first book, that second... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Arthur Enyedy
4.0 out of 5 stars !!!!
!!!!!!!!!!! yeah so. that was what I thought about the book. so creative and great and well written! looking forward to whatever ms. brennan has planned.
Published 1 month ago by Veronica Perez
4.0 out of 5 stars In search of dragons
Written as a memoir from an imaginary yet familiar world, this "natural history" tells the story of a young woman and her journey into adulthood. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Kim Refle
5.0 out of 5 stars By far one of the best books I've read in awhile
By far one of the best books I've read in awhile. It drags you in very quickly and doesn't let go until the end. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Caleigh R Tuttle
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite worth the money
Entertaining enough, but not really all that gripping, this book doesn't live up to its promise. There's not enough science and in some ways it feels like a big prequel.
Published 2 months ago by Dr. Sarah E. McKibben
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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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