In an engaging journey of true passion, Marie Brennan’s A Natural History of Dragons catapults the reader into an epic tale of one woman’s life, finding her passion and having the courage to act on it. A Natural History of Dragons brings a world which is truly familiar yet beautifully different; letting readers be immersed in the enchanting landscapes of Brennan’s imagination. Fans of Brennan’s captivating writing will not be disappointed!
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.
It has been a long time since I have found a main character I love as much as Isabella. Part Maggie Smith in Downtown Abbey and part Jane Goodall, Isabella is the perfect narrator. She unabashedly tells her story in a manner which befits her station and life’s work. Each page is filled with her quirks and observations, oftentimes regretting the choices of her youth with the acceptance of experience. Brennan has truly created a three dimensional character, a woman who is both a product and a pioneer of her somewhat Victorian era upbringing.
The best part of A Natural History of Dragons is Brennan’s masterful telling of the meeting between the analytic mind and the emotions behind it. Isabella relays some of the most common frustrations to the analytic mind; mainly the perceptions against the strong emotion for your chosen field. Not only is her choice of pursuing science questioned due to her gender but like many modern women, Isabella finds herself under scrutiny for her pursuit of happiness, the norm being to find happiness in love. It is truly spot on how Brennan captures Isabella’s inner emotions on the world around her. Through Isabella, Brennan shows the love for science and how it does not exclude the love of family, animals or oneself.
The beautiful backdrop of Isabella’s life is the perfect synergy of otherworldly and familiarity. Using elements of various cultures, there are tangible links between our world and hers. Whether it is how the Scirland countryside calls to mind picturesque England vistas or the craggy landscape of Vystrana is reminiscent of many a Slavic escape, this world feels very much like home. Each similarity makes Isabella’s world realistic until the reader can’t help but picture dragons in their backyard–which is a defining feature that makes A Natural History of Dragons so immersive.
A Natural History of Dragons is a modern day exploration and adventure novel that clearly draws inspiration from Sci/Fi greats such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This task could not have been executed nearly as well had it not been written by a visionary author, like Marie Brennan. The seemingly relaxed pace is truly fast as each tale becomes a page turner. Through a charming protagonist and a fully realized/developed world, A Natural History of Dragons is poised to become one of the best books of 2013. I can easily imagine fiction and non-fiction lovers falling in love with this tale of a lifetime.