By: Cynthia Ayala
Before she was Lady Trent she was just a young woman who wanted to explore her passion for dragons, but with the society standards keeping woman at a lower station, Isabella had to keep her passions bottled up in a shed. That is until her husband, her equal took her on a pioneering adventure. This is her true story, in her own words about her very first adventure with dragons.
A Natural History of Dragons indeed. Published February 5, 2013 by Tor Books, A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan recreates history is this this historical fiction/fantasy novel. An alternate history of the world that makes the imagination buzz with excitement.
However, readers pleased be warned that this novel is exactly what it claims: a memoir. Don’t try to think that this novel is anything different because disappointment will be the main feeling after reading the first part of this novel. With that in mind, just be open-minded and this novel will be quite the enjoyable read.
This novel is told by the hand of the fictional Lady Trent recounting her earlier years. Now, the readers don’t know why she is famous, but the way Brennan tells the story, readers get to know who this person is, why she is famous without bragging about who this person is. More than her title, readers understand why she has a title and the weary voice of a seventy-year-old woman recounting her past is very evident. There is a classy Victorian England-era sense to the novel that the voice exudes.
As for the story itself, it is constructed into four parts that tell build the story up towards the climatic ending. Each part begins with a slightly humorous epigraph that hints at what’s to come, giving the reader a taste of the mystery and the adventure. While there isn’t a lot of action in a lot of the story, the tension and the detail surrounding characters, alongside the comedic moments are what captivate the reader as long as they give the novel a chance.
What is also very impressive is the way the world is built. The proof is in the text. It’s very clear how much effort Brennan put into creating this world. But what highlights her talent is the way she can use the fewest words to build this story and spark the imagination. The world builds itself up in the readers mind and the addition of the artwork depicting some elements of the story help to reinforce an image in the mind.
Admittedly though, this is a difficult book to get into because the reader is reading a memoir, they are reading the memories that go way back to when she was a child, building the story and the events that created her passion for dragons and those events that only fueled them to grow even more. While it works as a grounder, making the novel feel real and it also works to make Lady Trent a real person the readers can relate to.
All anyone has to do is look at the cover to be entrance. The interior artwork is just beautiful as that, and while getting past the first few chapters is a bit difficult, more than half the novel makes it all worthwhile. (★★★☆☆ | B+)