Title: A Natural History of Dragons (Memoirs by Lady Trent #1)
Author: Marie Brennan
Published: February 5th 2013
Dragons! Isa seems to be under the impression that every other book I read is about dragons, but that’s not true at all. The thing is, this book is so good I just can’t stop talking about it. Just look at the cover! I read almost exclusively on my Kindle but I wouldn’t mind a hardcover copy of this just to have the full drawing of that gorgeous, anatomically-accurate dragon in my hands.
Ahem. Anyway. The book fits in the magical realism genre, which means that it’s not your usual fantasy book with swords and sorcery. Yes, there are dragons, but they’re treated like a strange (and dangerous) animal species. The narrator protagonist, Isabella, is a lady from Scirland, which is basically England with dragons. Narrator!Isabella is your typical old lady, poking fun at pretty much anything, including her younger self, as she tells the story of her journey to Vystrana, which is basically Eastern Europe with dragons. Young!Isabella is an adventurous spirit who wants to become a dragon naturalist and is driven by her insatiable scientific curiosity.
Full disclosure: I love bookish characters, especially female bookish characters. And for a while as a kid I wanted to become a naturalist, so the first chapters about little Isabella reading her father’s books immediately resonated with me. The majority of the book is about her scientific expedition, or rather the expedition she tags along with, because nobody would trust a woman on her own. I thought the book deals quite sensibly with the subject of female scientists and the difficulties that they had (and still have) to face. Isabella doesn’t magically swoop in and take control of everything, but neither she’s a helpless damsel in distress. She’s a young scientist and she’s still learning the ropes, and I’m curious to see how her growth in this book will influence her in the next, since it’s said that later on Isabella became very famous for her work and studied dragons all over the world.
To sum it up: dragons! female scientists! magical realism! snarky old ladies! The sequel, The Tropic of Serpents, is about to be published and it’s one of my most anticipated books of 2014, but in the meantime you should definitely check out A Natural History of Dragons.