Sunday, June 05, 2016

A Natural History Of Dragons - Marie Brennan

Book Details

Book Title: A Natural History Of Dragons

Author: Marie Brennan 

: Titan Books 2014

Source: Library (my home away from home)

Page Count: 351

Format: Paperback

Genre: Fantasy

Audience: Those who enjoy dragons but do not love them...

Summed up in one word: Adventurous

First Impression: I saw this book and thought it was going to be more of a history piece of dragons from across the ages but in fact it is part of a fantasy biopic of one Lady Trent and her run ins with Dragons and other animals across her world of Anthiope. Lady Trent is a great character and I was not disappointed with this book.

Summary Of The Book: 

Here in 'A Natural History Of Dragons' we follow the lovely. tenacious and knowledge/adventure seeking Lady Trent. This story begins in Lady Tent's youth, when instead of taking the path expected of her as a high class lady, she starts tucking into books and learning all there is to know about the world she lives in. This interest goes to the next level when she starts to dissect animals to learn their anatomy (at age 12). Lady Trent's education comes into fruition when she gets her hands on her fathers copy of 'A Natural History Of Dragons' . This starts a life long obsession to all things Dragon.

After sneaking off on one of her fathers Dragon hunting expeditions dressed as a stable boy, she gets her first interaction of a real-life Dragon when it attacks her party and injures her friend. This only increases the passion Lady Trent has for these creatures and their existence. When it is discovered she was on this expedition she is disciplined and told to start acting like a proper Lady. Her books are confiscated and that is that for quite a few years.

Upon reaching the time of an arranged marriage, her father seeks out men who he thinks can please her with their sense of adventure and more importantly their library! But fate  intervenes at a Dragon viewing event and Lady Trent meets her perfect match Jacob Camherst. They share a love of adventure and more importantly Dragons. Along with Jacob and a team of scientists, Lady Trent travels to Vystrana, a collection of islands where a breed of Dragons is in need of research. 

This is where this story begins, there are many dangers in Vystrana. Dragons, Smugglers, Religious Locals, Zhagrit Mat (a mystical half man/half Dragon), Curses and mainly the people who run the place...
Lady Trent is going on this expedition to research the most fearsome creature in the lands, and they are very angry with the intrusion.

My Review:

Creating a sense of wonder in a book is an art-form and this author nails it! Wonderful writing accompanied by awe-inspiring artwork is what the reader gets with 'A Natural History Of Dragons'. They only thing they don't get that they really should is enough dragons...

This piece of fiction is top notch. The story has a lot of potential. Dragons are a well respected and enjoyed subject and MB does it justice. The story is formatted as a memoir of Lady Trent and is styled as one of her many adventures that she embarked on in her youth. I liked the fact it is an entry written in her golden years as it leaves so much room for additional stories (there are 3 more books already). This story is mainly about LT's background, why she loves Dragons the way she does and her first real expedition into Dragon territory. ANHOD has a more traditional setting, where everyone was proper and women were less involved then they are today, this acts as motivation for Lady Trent's character to fight prejudice and do the things that she enjoys.

The writing is light hearted (for the most part) and extremely quirky. It is enjoyable for a wide audience though those who enjoy more traditional fiction will get the most pleasure out of this tale. The story revolves around Lady Trent and she is just as layered and textured as the story itself. My main problem with the story is a dire lack of dragons...I not saying they are radically sparse but I would have enjoyed more involvement on the Dragon front. They appear here and there, they are present in Vystrana but in the distance or spontaneously attacking people then flying off again. I hope in future instalments they explore Dragons more deeply. The other difficult part of the story is the politics sections which are a bit dry and are only there to elaborate on background issues.

As far as characters go, Lady Trent is the star and the rest of the characters don't bring much else to the story other than to drive it forward. Jacob adds some depth to LT but he is just as stiff and stern as the other members of the group. Jacob does open up more towards the end but by then it is too late. The other memorable 'character' is Zhagrit Mat, the drawing of him still haunts my dreams.... Zhagrit Mat is a man who made a deal with a demon to become a dragon. He only half transforms though and is left as a human/Dragon hybrid...creepy stuff. Though he is only a thing of legend he still dominates parts of this book. There are some great themes in this book, overcoming prejudice, cultural differences and scientific discovery.

Overall this book is original and is breaking new ground for science/historical fiction. Rein back the politics and don't scrimp on the Dragons and this would be an outstanding book.


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