Book Review : A Natural History of Dragons : A Memoir by Lady Trent
Isabella, a young girl growing up in Scirland (a country similar to England in the 1800s), disregards her society’s strict rules of behavior pertaining to women—and young girls. She is fascinated with science, especially natural history, and yet is discouraged from asking questions and searching for answers. A scientific career is out of the question.
Her main interest is in dragons, about which not much is known. She is allowed to catch and study sparklings, small creatures that look dragonish though are considered to be insects. But this research only piques her curiosity, rather than satisfying it. And when a wolf-drake is discovered on her father’s land (a rare occasion indeed), she is determined to join the hunt organized to get rid of the nuisance..and catch her first glance of a creature similar to dragons. Unfortunately, her scheme almost ends in tragedy.
Isabella’s father, while sympathetic to his daughter’s passion for science, lays down the law: her only future is marriage, but no man will have her if she continues in this way. So she backs off from her studies, learns how to gossip and act like a “proper” lady, and is miserable…until the day her brother takes her to see a collection of captured dragons.
As the title states, this book is told as a memoir by Lady Trent—Isabella. She is now an old woman, a famous writer and scientist, and the world’s foremost expert on dragons. She explains how she was able to get her start in studying dragons (outrageous!) and describes her initial exciting—and terrifying—expedition to the mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of her many discoveries about the behavior of dragons.
Isabella is a very proper lady, and her voice reflects that as well as her passion, her wit, and her sarcasm. There is never a hint that this is a made-up memoir (is it?) Her expedition is scientific, not a bloody campaign to kill the dragons. But that doesn’t make it any less dangerous. As Lady Trent says in the preface to her memoir:
It is not for the faint of heart—no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon’s presence, even for the briefest of moments—even at the risk of one’s life—is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten.
And there is romance, a very nice romance—but not, thank goodness, that of a teen girl constantly swooning over a boy’s lips and muscles.
Since this is Lady Trent’s memoir of her first expedition, I can only hope that means there are more to come!