Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Natural History of Dragons (A Memoir by Lady Trent #1), by Marie Brennan

Tor Books, ISBN 9780765331960, February 2013

Isabella, Lady Trent, is now the world's most famous dragon naturalist, by she was once a young girl in a land called Scirland, like and unlike our own Regency England, with an interest in dragons considered distinctly unladylike. But when it comes time for her to marry, her loving and indulgent father helps her find a husband who shares her interest in dragons and will be equally indulgent in letting her share the use of his library.

He did not expect that, after two years of marriage, Isabella and Jacob would join an expedition to study dragons in Vystrana.

What neither she, nor Jacob, nor Lord Hilford, expects is that she will do more than draw sketches of the the dragons and file the men's notes.

The story is told as the now-elderly Lady Trent's memoir of the first expedition that was the start of her scientific career, making breakthroughs not just in natural history but in what women were allowed to do.

I really enjoyed this. Isabella's developing interests, struggles against restraints and expectations, and blossoming as a young scientist are all very well down, and her voice is very convincing. Brennan avoids a mistake that many writers make, in that her back history of a world with actual dragons is, while recognizably our planet, not at all our history. Scirland has a fair amount in common with our England, but isn't our England. A country that isn't a Russia we'd recognize is ruled by a Tsar, but the people filling recognizably familiar roles, are not people we know from history, renamed or not. Altogether, it gives this fantasy world a greater sense of reality.


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