#ANaturalHistoryOfDragons by Marie Brenan - Mini Spoiler Free Book Review
A Natural History Of Dragons - A Memoir By Lady Trent is a fictional work written by Marie Brenan, but is written as if it were the factual retelling of the good Lady Trent's introduction to the world of science, and subsequently her unique relationship and study into the lives of dragons.
Set in a kind of Victorian Era fantasy world, the values of the upper class are very much similar to how they would've been, expecting women to behave appropriately and when the time came, to simply marry appropriately and be entirely supported by their spouse.
Lady Trent's memoirs begin autobiographically, recounting her childhood misdemeanours of allowing her elder her brother to pilfer scientific literary works from her Father's office for her to read. She develops a fascination to all things Naturalist, and in particular an obsession with Dragons. To quell this, she begins to collect Sparklings, a hobby that should've been discouraged in her as an upper class female, but one which her father eventually allows. Sparklings are described as an almost insect like creature, having a dramatic resemblance to the biology of dragons, and like a Victorian child may hunt bugs, pinning them to a board and labeling them with both their Latin and common English name, so does Lady Trent begin to do the same with Sparklings.
The story progresses to the Lady's desire to please her family and marry an eligible suitor, discussing all the social and dramatic pitfalls along the way. Luckily enough, she manages to snag and appropriately well bred husband whose interest in science is on a par with her own.
Eventually, as events unfold, Lady Trent becomes herself involved in an expedition to a land to assist first hand in the research into a specific breed of dragon.
The book continues as a chronology of events during the expedition, making many (pseudo) scientific insights about the land, the inhabitants, the creatures and most importantly, the dragons. Trent accompanies the expedition as a clerical assistant and artist, taking detailed diagrams of the locations and creatures they encounter on their expedition. The book includes some of these drawings which look exquisite and really help you to see how she was contributing to the research party.
However, as with all things, the story unfolds into a dramatic series of social and political events which are having a large influence on the village where they are staying, and to the behaviours of the beasts they have come to study. I will avoid any spoilers as usual, but as the story unfolds it quickly becomes a dramatic page turner with shock surprises until the very end.
I really enjoyed this book, and I think that it is written as though dragons are assumed to be a scientific fact, helps. It's unlike anything I've read before and I really enjoyed the style of Lady Trent's recounting her memoirs. The locations, creatures and events are all expertly described adding to the realism and tension appropriately and when required. Despite it being a largely factual retelling, I still found myself attached to Lady Trent and other characters, and found myself emotionally committed to them. There are also a number of twists and turns in the plot I did not expect. Most importantly, the entire book is believable.
It also ends on a suitable cliffhanger, without being cheesy, leading into the next story which I believe is A Tropic Of Serpents. I'm really excited to continue my adventures with the good lady over the next 3 books currently out in the series.
Thanks for reading.