Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction Publication.Date February 5th 2013 Pages: 336 Published By: TOR | Website Marie Brennan
A Natural History Of Dragons on Goodreads My review copy: Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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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.
Marie Brennan introduces an enchanting new world in A Natural History of Dragons.
I could not look away from it. My right hand groped blindly in the needles for the gun I had dropped, but did not find it. Panic built in my throat. The wolf-drake's claws tightened on the stone. I fumbled with my left hand, reaching out farther out, and there! My fingers wrapped around the stock of a gun. I dragged it toward me, raising it as I had seen men do, and the wolf-drake tensed, and as I brought the rifle up it leapt toward me and only as my finger tightened on the trigger did I remember, we had not loaded my gun.
No gentleman would want a wife covered in scars from misadventures with dangerous beasts. No gentleman would take on a woman who would be a disgrace to him. No gentleman would marry me, if I kept on this way.
The hunt for spouses is an activity on a par with fox-hunting or hawking, though the weapons and dramatis personae differ.
A Natural History Of Dragons is a beautifully written book, constructed with remarkable care for details and executed with passion and precision. The novel assumes the style of a memoir and leads the reader on a fascinating journey into the world filled with dragons. Everything - from the phenomenal Victorian/Regency Era atmosphere, coruscating dialogues, unforgettable visuals and - most of all - extraordinary (and perhaps a little bit eccentric) heroine - is to die for!
Lady Trent's uncanny narrative voice is what truly made this book for me (well, that and the gorgeously depicted dragons, of course!). She is clever, intelligent, witty, curious and passionate. She's a real lady - polite, cultured and well-rounded - but she can also be quite sharp-tongued if needed. If she really wants something, she will find a way to get it, but at the same time, she is smart enough to pick her battles. She's determined, but not senselessly defiant. Through her eyes, we get to see the mountains of Vystrana in their whole glory. Her descriptions are rich and tangible and they breathe life into every scene, character and place. I'm not sure if I can say that I fell in love with Lady Trent's character - she is not a heroine that you simply "like", but rather one you look up to, admire and respect. A wise old lady who is kind enough to share her amazing adventures with us. And her voice is strikingly authentic!
While the title might suggest a book filled with dry facts and boring passages, this story is, in fact, filled with interesting thoughts, reflections and emotionally affecting recollections that keep you captivated all the way through. There are many adventures and mysteries within the pages of this book. As I mentioned before, the story mimics an actual memoir and it certainly reads as one. The writing style, hand-drawn sketches of dragons (which, by the way, are absolutely gorgeous!), even the realistic Preface written by Lady Trent - it all makes you feel that what you're holding in your hands is, in fact, an authentic memoir of a famous dragon naturalist, magically transported here from a world where dragons are (very) real. The slow pacing of the story will only add to that feeling. Not everyone will love it. If you're allergic to memoir-style books, you will probably not enjoy it very much. If you're looking for epic battles, magic and larger-than-life heroes fighting evil villains - this is not where you'll find all that. But if you appreciate good storytelling, characters that are so realistically drawn you think of them as historical figures, and alternative world settings that are just as believable as they are astonishing, you are in for a treat!
I loved this novel. I loved this world. And I loved this journey.
I would recommend this book to anyone who loves dragons (the realistic, dangerous kind, not the "How To Train a Dragon"-kind) and intelligent adventure/exploration stories. With vivid settings, breath-taking description of dragons and deliciously evocative prose, it's a feast for imagination. I can hardly wait to read next one of Marie Brennan's phenomenal novels!