Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent by Marie Brennan

Dragons are a staple in fantasy, they are powerful, destroyers, companions and enemies. Occasionally they talks and are frequently mysterious, but rarely are they ever looked at and analyzed in a scientific manner. A Natural History of Dragons takes this old standby and tells an altogether different and engaging story.

We follow the early events of Isabella, or more formally known as Lady Trent, life and rise to one of the preeminent dragon naturalist. Told in in memoir form we learn of Isabella as young girl growing up in the Scirland countryside, a country remarkably similar to Victorian England. She is given little opportunity for science in general and no opportunity to study the little developed field of dragon naturalism. But she manages persevere, acquiring the a copy of the single authoritarian text on dragons, has a chance encounter with one, finds a scholarly husband, and embarks on an expedition to Vystrana to study the local rock wyrms, who are noted for being relatively calm  The expedition is full of smugglers, superstitious locals, ancient ruins, and mysterious and characteristic dragon attacks. Isabella must use all her intelligence and courage to determine what exactly is causing the dragons to attack.

The start seemed to plod along at times, even with the consideration that it was needed to establish Isabella’s background and motivations. It seems especially slow in comparison to the concluding flurry of action. However, Brennan does a remarkable job mixing memoir, fantasy dragons, and naturalism, all with a good dose of who-dunnit.

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