For my birthday, I was given A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan. As in, Marie Brennan wrote the book. She didn’t give it to me. Unfortunately, with exams and the general hecticness of university, I didn’t get a chance to read it until recently. I guess commutes are good for something.
The book, fabulously displayed by Eddie the dragon.
It wasn’t what I expected. I was expecting a kind of field guide to dragons with anatomical drawings and such. What the book actually is, is an introduction by the fictional Lady Trent to her life, which, it must be said, revolves around dragons.
Set in a fictional world in where it is apparently the 1800s or early 1900s, the world in which Lady Trent lives has real live dragons. Apparently, she has been fascinated by them since childhood and is now an expert in the field. This book is her first memoir, recalling how her obsession began and detailing her first expedition to study dragons.
It’s a well written book, even if I was a little sceptical at first. Like I said, it wasn’t what I was expecting and honestly, the era the story is based on means that as a woman, Lady Trent is discouraged from following her passions. Of course, she overcomes this, but that is largely due to social status and encouragement and permission from her father and later her husband. In the book, she is aware of her privilege, which I greatly appreciated, but this is a trope that I think I’ve read too many times. I’m ready for stories set in a world where women can follow their passions without society telling them that it’s unladylike.
The mythology of dragons in this book is well thought through and consistent, even down to dragon grieving rituals. As the protagonist and narrator, Lady Trent often alludes to vaguely scientific ways of study and understanding the creatures, as you would expect an expert in a burgeoning field to be.
Overall, this is a good book, even if it took me a while to settle into the world it builds. I found out the other day that it’s actually part of series and I do want to read the next one. But I’m not rushing out to Waterstones right this instant. I can wait. And I think that sums up my feelings about this book. It’s enjoyable, but you don’t have to rush to read it. It can wait a while.