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

Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 2/4/2014
Series: Memoirs of Lady Trent Series , #1
Pages: 352

Book Summary

"All the world from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, knows Isabella, Lady of 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 that we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and yes, dragons defied the 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."


There are innumerable exciting tales featuring adventurous encounters with dragons. But never have I ever read one written in the style of a memoir. Told from the perspective of Lady Trent, a legendary natural biologist famous in her mythical world for her groundbreaking work on dragons, A Natural History of Dragons captivates the reader with its unique voice. 

Set in an imagined, medieval world fraught with rigid gender roles and mythical beasts, the novel follows the awkward and rebellious childhood of Lady Trent through her early marriage and first adventures in foreign lands. Filled with dragons, smugglers, and haunted ruins, the plot rarely pauses for breath, and even in rare moments of calm, the narrative's momentum is carried by the charming and self-deprecating tone of its protagonists' commentary.  

Although the retrospective inflection of the novel often interrupts the present action to hint at future accomplishments, the book proves to be less about 'scientific' discovery and more about self-discovery. Lady Trent, flawed, impulsive, and uncertain, often fumbles into mistakes and awkward situations, but as the novel progresses, she begins to learn from these situations and grows comfortable within her own story. By turns jaunty and serious, A Natural History of Dragons was an enjoyable and memorable read.  

Reviewed by Miranda Wojciechowski

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