Publisher: Tor Books
Book Review by SJ Higbee
Have you read this book?
Regular visitors to my blog will recall my attendance at Bristolcon this year, where I had one of the best evenings of my life, talking books with similarly passionate readers. One of these marvelous people — Kitvaria Sarene highly recommended this series as one of her favorite fantasy reads. When Himself hit a reading slump a few days later, I suggested he get hold of this one. Once he did so, he then bought the rest of the series. So would I also become a huge fan?
Everyone knows Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. Here, at last, in her own words, is the story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, prospects, and her life to satisfy scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the mountains of Vystrana, where she made discoveries that would change the world.
This is gem is a must-read for those smitten by dragons. It is set in the Victorian era in a parallel world where a high-spirited, intelligent girl makes a habit of sneaking into her father’s study to read his learned tomes deemed unsuitable for well born young ladies. And she encounters the book A Natural History of Dragons and falls in love with them. From then on, she is determined to try to learn more about them in any way and this story charts her efforts to do so.
What I would caution is that Brennan does couch the language in an approximation of 19th century prose — however, it is only an approximation. There is nothing like the pages of intense description or long, involved passages of exposition you’d find in a novel written by Dickens or Mrs. Gaskell. Brennan takes the story forward in the form of a memoir written by Lady Trent as an elderly lady about the exploits that made her famous, which moves along at a fair clip.
I was utterly beguiled. This is a wonderful conceit brilliantly pulled off by Brennan. The plot rapidly corkscrews away in all sorts of directions I hadn’t anticipated and there is a really shocking outcome that left me winded at the ending, while leaving me keen to learn more.
I’m so glad Himself has bought the next three books in the series — and the great news for fans of this accomplished series is that the fifth and final book, Within the Sanctuary of Wings is due out in February 2017. I’m very much looking forward to reading it — which also gives me an excellent excuse to tuck into the other three in the meantime. Happy Christmas me — and many, many thanks to Kivaria for her recommendation. She is spot on — this is one of my outstanding reads of the year.