Thursday, 5 November 2015

Book review 5// A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent, by Marie Brennan

I first saw this book online in a review. I didn't really read the review but I was totally caught out about the cover. For one; dragons are the bees knees. Two; I love the way the dragon turns into an anatomical drawing, it's a brill idea. It brings dragons and science together; perfect for me! And finally three; the style of the cover is reminiscent of a diagram from some old encyclopaedia somewhere. It makes a suggestion that dragons are a normal resident on the planet that require studying, in the same vain as lions and tigers etc. 
Any world where dragons live is one I want to read about!!
So this all flashed through my mind the first time I saw the book, and the second, and the....well you get the idea! 
A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent, by Marie Brennan. Modelled by Heffa the Elephant
It, therefore, didn't take much persuasion for me to pick up kindle copy (dreaming of a real one, someday).

In terms of the actual book...In this installment (there's been 3 so far) we see Lady Trent grow from small child to a married young woman. We see her interest in dragons grow and flourish, taking her study from backyard varieties to those in distant cold mountains.

The period is reminiscent of late 1800's to 1900's, during which it would be frowned upon for a woman to be interested in science. Although set in a different world, it easily brings reflections of our own. We, as the reader, get to see how Isabella Trent tries to balance societies expectations of her and her own curiosities and scientific nature. I personally, think this is a fascinating perspective, as it is only within the past century that science has truly begun accepting women. It is easy to imagine women having similar struggles in our own history, albeit not with dragons.

I found the writing style pleasant and easy to follow. One could easily believe that these are in indeed the memoirs of a successful female scientist, with plenty of foreshadowing being laid down. 
I think, that the foreshadowing is probably the only negative I have about this read. There was plenty, most of which fit nicely and created appropriate levels of anticipation and curiosity. Other times, it just felt too much to me. Maybe it's just me. I had a similar kind of "clunky" sensation when picking up on foreshadowing when reading Lee Child's Make Me. Maybe I just don't respond well to the literary technique.

Of the character Isabella Trent, I was extremely impressed. She had her own layers and thought processes that the reader could follow. Felt real emotions, guilt about manipulating people to her own wishes. Her frustrations, her fears and wants, all came across clearly because the character depth was there.
She wasn't a perfect woman, and that makes her interesting.

 The nature of the book being a memoir style meant we had her own insight into her flaws. Of which there were a few, as you would expect from many young adults. As people age, they grow in maturity, and I felt this was beautifully reflected in her musings about her younger self. 

In conclusion, I'm rating this book 4.5/5. It really was a brilliant read that I'd recommend to fellow fantasy lovers, but the foreshadowing just held it back for me. Nearly a 5/5, just not quite there...

So, I totally judged this book by its cover, and it turned out great. Have you ever done the same? Or had a book with a good cover that was a total letdown?
Abi x