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A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent Kindle Edition
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
The Lady Trent Memoirs
1. A Natural History of Dragons
2. The Tropic of Serpents
3. Voyage of the Basilisk
4. In the Labyrinth of Drakes
5. Within the Sanctuary of Wings
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
From School Library Journal
“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
- ASIN : B00AEC8P2Y
- Publisher : Tor Books; First edition (February 5, 2013)
- Publication date : February 5, 2013
- Language : English
- File size : 3354 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 335 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #151,156 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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This is a good book, though; it deserves four stars, even if that means nobody will read this review. The good thing about it is Lady Trent. The plot works, but it's pretty predictable, and it's mainly there to be a framework for Lady Trent, and to set up her origin story. She's an interesting character, and it's her problems with the limited role of women in Victorian society that are of interest. Her Victorian writing style is quite well done. The plot is okay, but pretty predictable. It works, but it's not the interesting thing about the book.
This book presents her origin story. I enjoyed it, but I'm not moved to go on and read more in the series.
I highly recommend Naomi Noviki's Temeraire series, also a series set in the 19th century, with mainly English protagonists, dragons, and really excellent early 19th century language. That's one of those works for which five stars is hardly enough, and the events and developments are well worth following through the entire series. It starts with His Majesty's Dragon.
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!
The supporting characters felt more like MCs than support and that helped to paint a broader picture of the story. While this is a story with a happy ending, it isn't without sadness. That part hurt too, but as an adventure unfolds, danger around every rock, things can go wrong. Brennan didn't dwell on the sadness but made something of a triumph with it. It will be great to read how Isabella's career plays out and she becomes the world's preeminent dragon naturalist.
While the story is amazing and the adventures are fun and tense at the same time, there was one drawback I felt. I would have liked more dragon info but for the first book and one meant to be an adventure memoir rather than a textbook, this had a good intro into the subject. I've recommended this book to my teenage daughter to read and I'd recommend it to anyone else.
I will be continuing the series asap!
Top reviews from other countries
The conceit that this is a memoir of a famous person who the readers will all know, with the little asides about how previous biographies have missed out import parts, works well. We get to see Isabella grow up in a world where girls are expected to marry well, and where women are expected to be decorative. Isabella is passionate about dragons, and ill-suited to her world. Fortunately, she has chosen the right husband, and he and she embark on their dragon expedition together. Surly villagers, handsome smugglers, and political machinations all make dragon research more difficult, but are all, clearly, relevant to the mystery of the dragons’ strangely-changed behaviour.
What Isabella learns on her first expedition will stand her in good stead for what I am sure will be many further adventures.
The idea of having it as her memoir, for me while clever, was it's major weakness. Due to the character and it's time period, there was an understandable stiltedness to the narrative, but this was not something you could get over.
However, I am tickled enough to continue with the series one day, but not enough to do so straight away.
And enjoy it I did. The narrator, who tells her story as a memoir, has an instantly likeable voice. The story is set in a fictional Victorian-like world, perhaps a little bare-boned, but suitably fleshed out for the plot. Victorian mores rule; our indomitable narrator yearns to break free of social constraints, and realise her childhood dream: studying dragons.
So much care has been put into giving life to the dragons in this book, from their appearances to their behaviour to their physiology. There's no romanticism of them; many stories gift dragons with an intelligence comparable to humans, but here they are presented much more as animal, something I found refreshingly different.
The Victorian-style setting really does enhance the story, enriching the narrator's witty voice and providing the sense of a world teetering on the cusp of industrialisation, something that will surely come into conflict with the existence of the dragons (indeed, in the story, they are already said to have declined or be declining in many parts of the world). The book even manages to make itself relevant to our own real, contemporary world - at one point, the narrator defends herself and her fellow researchers for shooting a dragon for the purposes of scientific study, and argues how hypocritical her countrymen are for decrying the killing of animals abroad which at home they would not hesitate to kill for their own comfort or safety.
The plot is, probably, the weakest component of the book, if only because the others are so strong. This is one of those stories which is as much about the characters as the dragons, meaning that there were not quite enough dragons for me. The focus in the latter half of the book was almost a murder mystery, with a wholly human core. But the ending was sufficiently tied up, and holds plenty of promise for a sequel, which I expect the author (the real-life one) to produce!
It would be a crime to review this book without mentioning the drawings. There are a number of them interspersed through the book, most of them of dragons. They're wonderful to look at, and only enhance the reader's experience.
What I would caution is that Brennan does couch the language in an approximation of 19th century prose – however, it is only an approximation. There is nothing like the pages of intense description or long, involved passages of exposition you’d find in a novel written by Dickens or Mrs Gaskell. Brennan takes the story forward in the form of a memoir written by Lady Trent as an elderly lady about the exploits that made her famous, which moves along at a fair clip.
I was utterly beguiled. This is a wonderful conceit brilliantly pulled off by Brennan. The plot rapidly corkscrews away in all sorts of directions I hadn’t anticipated and there is a really shocking outcome that left me winded at the ending, while leaving me keen to learn more.
I’m so glad Himself has bought the next three books in the series – and the great news for fans of this accomplished series is that the fifth and final book, Within the Sanctuary of Wings is due out in February 2017. I’m very much looking forward to reading it – which also gives me an excellent excuse to tuck into the other three in the meantime. Happy Christmas me – and many, many thanks to Kivaria for her recommendation. She is spot on – this is one of my outstanding reads of the year.