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A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent (The Lady Trent Memoirs) Paperback – February 4, 2014
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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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“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
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Top Customer Reviews
"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.
Now on to the real review.
First the cons:
Honestly, I can't really think of anything I didn't like about this book. It was just that good, I literally loved every part of it.
Now the pros:
1. Lady Trent is a realistic strong woman, she doesn't pretend to be a man. She knows that she isn't. She is a woman and she has a woman's concerns and limitations. She doesn't put down other woman because they haven't achieved what she has and although she does find her friend Manda Lewis's obsession with sensation novels a bit frivolous, I never did get the feeling she actually hated Manda or really held it against her.
2. This book is about dragons. Dragons man. And they don't disappoint, there are some amazing illustrations in the book of these majestic and awe-inspiring creatures supposedly drawn by Lady Trent herself. They really enhance the mood and help you to understand Lady Trent's desperate obsession with figuring out how they work.
3. Jacob, Lady Trent's husband, is a humorous and likable secondary character. I loved him and well I won't say much more. You'll just have to read it.
4. Dragma and Lady Trent's relationship is hilarious and develops quite nicely over the course of the book.
5. The book is an easy and quick read and has a steady pace. It will suck you in and it will be hard to put down. But if you must you can and will you pick it up again it will be easy to get back into the world and the conflict of the story.
Buy this book, you won't regret it! It will be one of the best purchase you will make this year. I promise!
Our memoirist, the eponymous Lady Trent, starts off the "memoir" introducing the reader to herself as a child and relating her early and lasting fascination with dragons and the research of dragons. From the asides and tone of the book you learn that Lady Trent is now an older lady who has become famous during her lifetime for her discoveries, which let her get away with a lot of things that a less-famous and younger lady would not be able to pull off.
I did like that there were some original ideas in this iteration of dragons - it's always great to see something new brought to the table. With the scientific approach to dragons there was an emphasis on some things that usually get glossed over, like the physics of flight and commercial uses of things relating to dragons (trying to avoid getting adding spoilers). I also liked the quirk of dragon remains being extremely difficult to preserve and this presenting a real challenge for science.
This book really appeals to a lot of things I like - fantasy, dragons, Victorian/Regency mannerisms (fantasy of manners), and a fun adventure. Although there are definitely conflicts and some violence in the book, because of it being told at a bit of a remove because of the "memoir" format it never feels very immediate, which for me worked well with the Victorian/Regency style feel.
While this is not my new favorite book it was definitely an enjoyable read. This was the first book in a series and I'd be more than happy to read the sequels!