Review: A Natural History of Dragons

A Natural History of DragonsMarie Brennan, A Natural History of Dragons

This book purports to be the memoir of Lady Isabella Trent, a woman living in something analogous to 19th-century England. But in this world, dragons are real, and they are perceived as another species of wild predator like a lion or a bear. Isabella relates her lifelong obsession with dragons, beginning with her childhood. She is a curious and scientific young woman who dreams of studying dragons and adding to the world’s knowledge about them. But since such pursuits are not suitable for a lady, Isabella’s dream seems unattainable — until a fortunate marriage and a chance meeting give her the opportunity to join a scientific expedition that plans to study dragons. But Isabella’s joy at her good fortune is soon tempered by various mysteries and misfortunes that befall the expedition.

This is one of those books that pretty much deliver what you’d expect from the synopsis. If you’re intrigued by the idea of Victorian-esque setting plus dragons, you’ll probably enjoy this novel. I liked it a lot; I think Isabella is an extremely well rendered character, and her world is both convincing and interesting. I should note that in this world, dragons are seen simply as animals to be studied. They don’t (as far as this book indicates) have any magical powers or the ability to reason or communicate. So these are definitely not your standard fantasy-type dragons. Also, I think there must be sequels planned, because while the main plot of this book is resolved, there’s still a lot more to be said about Isabella’s life and work with dragons. I definitely plan to read the next book when it comes out!

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