I found this by accident and I wish more people knew about it! It’s a book written like the Memoirs of a naturalist who just so happens to be a woman who studied dragons way back before dragon study was a respectable field.
Title: A Natural History of Dragons
Author: Marie Brennan
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.
(Blurb from Goodreads)
I love the mock memoir style. What I like about this novel is Lady Trent is unapologetic and hella sarcastic about what has happened in her life, and she treats the reader like they are well versed in dragon and her role in delivering information about dragons. I only read one of the series but I am eager to buy the rest and read them!
The world is still patriarchal, and Victorian in style so a good chunk of the book is the MC forcing herself to fit in until she decides it isn’t required any more. It’s realistic, even if unsettling how she describes fitting in in so frank a way. But I appreciated how the MC describes how dragons have fitted into her life, and how everything panned out with honesty and asides to her publisher about how they bascially can’t censor her because it’s her memoirs and she will talk about her initally transactional relationship with her first husband in any way she pleases, thank you very much.
And it wasn’t just about dragons, there is colonialism in the way Isabella, her husband and the other dragonologist approach their stay in the high-in-the-mountains village which is uncomfortable and all that she learns from being forced to adapt to other customs. There is the learning process, because this is a world that doesn’t know much about dragons yet and there is infomation that is treated as fact peppered in with explainations of how it wasn’t known back then.
It’s adventure, science, dragons and travel through a fab narrator battling the sexism and limitations of her time. It feels like it could be real, even though it very clearly couldn’t be (because it’s about dragons). I liked that it was a science focussed book, not a book about slaying or riding dragons (though I do love those as well).
I enjoyed it. I want to read the rest. That’s bascially a summary of this review. In fact, I read this in ebook, and as soon as I have more shelf space, I will buy the entire collection in whichever physical format I can.
I love dragon books.