Short works

Books : reviews

Marie Brennan.
A Natural History of Dragons.
Titan Books. 2014

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 12 March 2016

“You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart—no more so than the study of dragons itself…”

From Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, Lady Trent is known to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist, who brought the study of dragons into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we now know, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning 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 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.

In this semi-steampunk, semi-dragon fantasy world, Isabella, Lady Trent is famous for her work on discovering the secrets of the various species of dragons. But she wasn’t always famous. This is the story of her childhood, her marriage to Jacob Camherst (for his library), and her very first dragon expedition.

The conceit that this is a memoir of a famous person who the readers will all know, with the little asides about how previous biographies have missed out import parts, works well. We get to see Isabella grow up in a world where girls are expected to marry well, and where women are expected to be decorative. Isabella is passionate about dragons, and ill-suited to her world. Fortunately, she has chosen the right husband, and he and she embark on their dragon expedition together. Surly villagers, handsome smugglers, and political machinations all make dragon research more difficult, but are all, clearly, relevant to the mystery of the dragons’ strangely-changed behaviour.

What Isabella learns on her first expedition will stand her in good stead for what I am sure will be many further adventures.

Marie Brennan.
The Tropic of Serpents.
Titan Books. 2014

Marie Brennan.
Voyage of the Basilisk.
Titan Books. 2015

Marie Brennan.
In the Labyrinth of Drakes.
Titan Books. 2016

Marie Brennan.
Within the Sanctuary of Wings.
Titan Books. 2017

After nearly five decades—and, indeed, the same number of volumes—one might think they were well acquainted with Isabella, Lady Trent, dragon naturalist and scandalous explorer…

Lady Trent is perhaps as infamous for her company and feats of daring as she is famous For her discoveries and additions to the scientific field. And yet, from her initial adventure in the mountains of Vystrana to her exploits in the depths of war-torn Eriga to the high seas aboard the Basilisk and then to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia, the Lady Trent has captivated hearts along with fierce minds.

This concluding volume will finally reveal the truth behind her most notorious adventure—braving the highest mountains in the world, buried behind the territory of Scirland’s enemies—and what she discovered there, within the Sanctuary of Wings.