When I was seven, I found a sparkling lying dead on a bench at the edge of the woods which formed the back boundary of our garden.
–Marie Brennan - A Natural history of dragons - c.2013
A memoir by Lady Trent
Lady Trent, as all know, is the world’s pre-eminent dragon naturalist. This is her story of how she became that world renowned scientist, how her interest in dragonkind began in her childhood with the preservation of her very first sparkling. A Natural history of dragons is also her memoir detailing her very first scientific journey, along with the problems she faced as the first woman to venture into this academic field.
Okay, it was obviously the cover that attracted me to this book. Take a look at that cover, isn’t it cool?
And the title is intriguing as well, don’t you think. A natural history of dragons, which is also a memoir :) awesome.
The book is set in Scirling, which I pictured as a vague sort of Victorian England, albeit a world in which dragons exist. Isabella, as a child, is fascinated with all animals that fly. But as her interest grows so does her realisation that society will not look favourably on her scientific endeavours. After an accident involving a wolf drake Isabella’s father takes her to one side to explain this, and Isabella realises just what her interest may result in. She decides to be bound by society’s strictures and rules and takes a step back from dragons and all they represent to her.
Of course we know that she will return to that world, otherwise she would never have become the pre-eminent dragon scholar, would she? But I really appreciated the fact that Isabella realised how society would treat her and what it could mean, and dealt with it in a logical manner.
Throughout the book Isabella highlights just how difficult it is for anyone not male and of the upper classes to get ahead, although sometimes only with the benefit of hindsight, this is, afterall, her memoirs. She is looking back and reminiscing so she able to point out later deductions she made as well as how she was feeling at the time.
I have to say that I really enjoyed this book. The voice of Lady Trent really comes alive and adds so much to the story. I’m also going to count this as my first read for this year’s Sci-Fi Experience. Normally anything with dragons means fantasy not science fiction1 but this book is all about the science, and there is no magic at all. Isabella is a scientist first and foremost, this is a story about a scientific life. Okay it is fictional, and about dragons, but to me it is still a pretty good work of science fiction.
Pern is really fantasy no matter how McCaffrey tried to make is science ↩