4 out of 5 stars
I loved reading A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan and I couldn’t be more delighted to find out that this is the first in a series of five books, The Memoirs of Lady Trent. The book is set in an alternate Victorian universe, one that stays true to the manners and rules imposed on the gentry during those times but populated by dragons. Lady Isabella Trent just wants to study dragons but is constrained by her family and society’s rules for ladies at that time.
Per the back cover description:
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.
This book is no bodice-ripper, and some readers may be put off by the stilted language and exasperating choices made by Isabella throughout the story, but she lives in a time where (in our world), people covered up chair and table legs so as not to shock the ladies and possibly arouse the men with thoughts of uncovered ankles. I feel like author captured that feeling perfectly. The world-building was excellent and I enjoyed the characters immensely. The dragons were not as fleshed-out, but that is to be expected when the premise of the book hinges on the fact that they have not been studied extensively and that is what Isabella endeavors to do.
I highly recommend this book for young adult on up, and I will be looking for the next book in the series, The Tropic of Serpents.