A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan is what happens when you take a curious minded scientific woman in a time when women weren’t supposed to be scientific or curious, like Marie Curie for example, and drop her in a world where dragons exist. It’s awesome. Set in a faux Victorian England this is the autobiography of the world famous dragon expert Lady Isabella Trent, or it’s the first part of her autobiography. I loved every second of this book.
One of the things I really enjoyed was the framing of this book. It’s a fictional autobiography, so we get the voice of an older, experience woman telling the story of her younger self. Older Isabella has seen a lot of progress, both in the scientific world and in the feminist one, and so her views on her experiences is filtered through the lens of having fought for that progress. This book, the first part of her memoirs, tells the story of her youth, marriage, and scientific journey to investigate dragons. Once Isabella goes on the scientific journey there’s more plot stuff that happens, there’s mysterious dragon attacks and missing people and things like that to solve. However, that part of the story doesn’t get started until about 50% of the way through the book, so you can’t really say that those ploty type things are what the book is about. The book is about a young woman fighting for her right to do scientific work in an era where women just weren’t allowed to have brains. Throughout my reading of this book I kept thinking about all those women in our past whose work was credited to their husbands or brothers or fathers. This is why, when the really terrible thing that happens near the end of the novel happened, I understood why it had to happen.
Definitely recommend and I’ll be checking out the rest of the books in this series. I can’t wait to find out what happens to Isabella next.