Book Review: A Natural History of Dragons, The Memoirs of Lady Trent Series.

The cover illustration was the thing that originally caught my eye. Yes, even though I'm an admitted audiophile, I get caught up in the romance of good book design.

I had just coming off a binge listening to the entire Harry Potter series {thanks LASEK} and I needed more. More of the fantastic and more of the otherworldliness tinted with an English accent.  It was winter and I needed an escape.

This book is about dragons, yes. And it's set in a alternate reality {more about that below}. And it's set in an era that mirrors Victorian times. And it's got loads of travel and adventure: mountains and tropical rainforests and piercing deserts and the volcanic islands. But...

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Peel back the layers of science fiction {because I would argue this is science fiction, not fantasy} and, at its core, this is a book about growing up as a curious child and becoming an intelligent woman. This book is about the hard work that happens alongside curiosity. This is a book that addresses race and class and socioeconomic differences. This book is about science and the good and bad that often comes about because of scientific discoveries. This is a book about {as trite as it sounds} reaching big goals through failure and strife and embarrassment and ridicule and not knowing if the work one is pursuing will make a difference in the end. Spoiler alert: It does.

As a psych major, I am not terribly educated in the difference between fantasy and science fiction {though I welcome to any helpful links and/ or discussion in the comments}, but this book didn't "feel like" the Harry Potter that drew me to it. Harry Potter lives on Earth that has magic. Isabella {Lady Trent} lives on a different planet. This is never explicitly explained but a quick reading will clue you into the fact that it is the same as Earth in that the continents are arranged the same and the climates are the same and most of the animals are the same and the natives of all the disparate countries have accents that one would expect to have on Earth.

But this planet has dragons. And they are fantastic dragons. But they're not magical dragons. There not things that are only seen in the "magic world"; they are natural occurrences that occur alongside the lions and tigers and bears and butterflies of this  particular world.

I explain all this to say that, to me, the entire series was more real and vivid to because of this subtle difference.

The memoir style is particularly effective to me. It has the benefit of letting the reader know what she was thinking when she was a 7 year old wondering what the purpose of a wishbone grounded by the experienced tone of a much older woman. It is, I think, because of this device that I developed a sort of relationship with Isabella. A relationship which, to those of us who have an appreciation of a conversation that takes place via the written word, was immediate and initiate despite the differences between the reader and the "memoirist".


A Natural History of Dragons
{and the entirety of The Memoirs of Lady Trent series}

Recommended for:

  • Smart girls {and by that I mean teenagers who are looking to step out of YA and explore while still being safe context-wise}.
  • Anyone who likes a heavy helping of science with his or her adventure {surely I'm not the only one who didn't previously know the meaning of "crepuscular"}.
  • Someone looking for beautiful escapist fiction.

Drawbacks:

  • I can't think of any. I tore through these books so fast, the only thing I can find to dislike was that the series only contained five installments instead of twenty-five.

Best Bits:

  • I appreciated the authenticity of a woman talking about the drudgery of the baby years... and the resulting mix of guilt and resentment that go with that. On the other side of that issue, it was a delight to see how the main character and her son's relationship evolved into something beautiful.

I would love to hear your take on this series if you've read it.

Did book 3 have you holding your breath as much as someone who is supposed to be doing housework can hold one's breath? Did the description of the sandstorm in book 4 make you itch all afternoon as it did me? Did book 5 shock you as throughly as it shocked me?  {I had to stop listening for a bit to process guys. Which is a delightful feeling : pleasant creative shock doesn't happen much for adults does it?}