From Goodreads.com: 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.
Why I Chose It: I have always liked dragon stories, so the idea of reading about the natural history of the creatures was incredibly appealing.
To start off, this book is less about dragons and more about Isabella – who becomes Lady Trent – and her fascination with dragons. The story is written by Lady Trent as a memoir, looking back to her childhood days and reminiscing about how she loved to learn, and wanted nothing more than to study dragons.
At the beginning of the novel, I did not like Lady Trent as the narrator. She seemed incredibly smug and full of herself, and constantly stopped to remind the audience that her childhood form was not stupid, but rather young and naive. I didn’t need the constant reminder and I felt belittled as a reader because of it. But over time, Lady Trent’s voice does become less off-putting. She is proud, but not vain; she knows she has accomplished much more than any scholar – much more than any woman – of her time, and she does not hide this achievement. I actually think her narrating voice was quite well written, and I began to entirely trust her opinion as an authority figure.
The world that Brennan creates is magnificent. There is a lot of natural elements to the story; even when living in town, Isabella is outside and observing nature around her. Further into the story are wonderful descriptions of the rough, remote wilderness they explore. The descriptions of the dragons are incredible, both at a distance, such as flying, and up close, when the scholars study minute features. Brennan has carefully mastered the finest details for her world, creating a wonderful experience that I very much enjoyed.
I have to admit that there is nothing remarkably surprising about this book – it has many elements of a typical YA novel. Yet there are certain aspects I felt made it stand out. The narrating voice is very distinct and strong in character, and speaks with a more elegant vocabulary. The acute details given to the dragons, their anatomy, natural environment, and behaviours makes the story incredibly interesting. Finally, the status of the characters as scholars allows for a different form of interaction and creates a high level of intellectual debate which I greatly enjoyed. I am looking forward to reading more from Marie Brennan, and I would highly recommend this story for those who are interested in dragons, or scholarly research in a fictional setting.
Rating: 4 / 5
“Sparklings were not the only things I collected in those days. I was forever bringing home other insects and beetles […] and many other things besides: interesting rocks, discarded bird feathers, fragments of eggshell, bones of all kinds. Mama threw fits until I formed a pact with my maid, that she would not breathe a word of my treasures.” p 16
“And then the dragon came. It flew from the west, so that all I truly saw at first was a black silhouette against the fiery sky. Then it caught an updraft and skimmed up the mountain’s slope, barely above the trees, and that gave me a better view; the blocky plates of the hide; the close-tucked legs and trailing tail; the enormous expanse of wings dwarfing the body they bore.” p 148
“Its – it’s as if there is a dragon inside of me. I don’t know how big she is; she may still be growing. But she has wings, and strength, and – and I can’t keep her in a cage. She’ll die. I’ll die. I know it isn’t modest to say these things, but I know I’m capable of more than life in Scirland will allow. It’s all right for women to study theology, or literature, but nothing so rough and ready as this. And yet this is what I want. Even if it’s hard, even if it’s dangerous, I don’t care. I need to see where my wings can carry me.” p 149