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A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent Hardcover – February 5, 2013


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Product Details

  • Series: A Natural History of Dragons (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1St Edition edition (February 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765331969
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765331960
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #345,496 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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


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

It is well written and engaging, with mystery, a little bit of romance, and an emotional ending.
Artemis97
Marie Brennan has written the book as the memoirs of Isabella, Lady Trent, and I thought that gave it a unique, distinct voice.
Ailsa
Todd Lockwood's beautiful illustrations are peppered throughout the book and are a real treat to dragon enthusiasts.
Sierra Klein

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 28 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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11 of 11 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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5 of 5 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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By OpenBookSociety dot com on 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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