… the shocking lady scientist? In A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir of Lady Trent, Marie Brennan tells the tale of another world, with different countries and animals from ours. Isabella, Lady Trent, is writing her memoirs, starting with her childhood fascination with dragons and progressing through her first opportunity to join an expedition with her husband. The world-building works smoothly through the memoir format to show a culture very similar to Britain during the Victorian Era. Isabella is a minor noble, but fortunately for the reader, she is not very good at being a proper lady. After a particularly wild incident, she is forced to tame her ways for what she later calls her “grey years.” In time, she is lucky enough to find a husband who is very accepting of her scientific interests and fascination with dragons. This is the first in what I hope will become a series of books about her grand travels and adventures.
Marie Brennan does an excellent job telling the story of a highly-intelligent and curious woman who is ahead of her time. Isabella faces great dangers and heartaches, but she also experiences great joy. She is unflinching in sharing the truth about her early years and experiences on an expedition, taking the reader back to a time when brave men left their civilized homes to explore strange lands and bring back new knowledge and beasts for the glory of their empire. This is an elegantly-written book from the point of view of an extraordinary woman. The addition of illustrations from her notebooks adds to the experience and helps the reader visualize the animals, people, and setting.
Reviewed by Fran (staff)