Marie Brennan's A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS
A book review by Dennis D. McDonald
This is a work of imagination. The story is clever, the prose is well written, and for this audiobook Kate Reading’s “performance” is impeccable.
The story takes place in the world very much like our own, in land very much like Victorian England and Europe in the 19th century.
We follow a young woman, Isabella, as she is raised in a rural manor house on the fringes of upper class society. What makes this interesting is that, unlike other girls at her station in society, Isabella is not interested in “typical” female pursuits. She’s interested in natural science at a time when the sciences are beginning to percolate throughout society. What really sets her apart is the object of her scientific curiosity: dragons.
Dragons exist in the world created in this book. There are many different species. Humans are just learning in detail about their habits and physiology.
Our heroine has the good fortune to fall in with a group intent on a voyage of discovery to a foreign land to observe a particularly mysterious species in its natural habitat. This sets the stage for a series of melodramatic adventures in foreign lands that play out in not unexpected ways but which are enjoyable, entertaining and described in almost cinematic detail.
One very enjoyable aspect of this book - - thankfully the first in a series - - is that the story is told from the perspective of an old lady writing her memoirs. Isabella recalls and “sets the record straight” about her adventures as she has become one of the preeminent dragon hunters of her time. The audiobook’s narrator masterfully adapts her voice and accent to reflect the different accents, ages, and sexes involved in the story.
Through this story we get to observe social history, an inquiring and creative mind at work, and clever observations about class and social customs from the perspective of a young mind long sheltered from the real world.
Review copyright (c) 2016 by Dennis D. McDonald. Scroll down to see more reviews like this.