Friday, 22 February 2013

Blog Tour & Guest Post: A Natural History Of Dragons - Marie Brennan, Book Review (214).

A Natural History of Dragons

A Tor Hard Cover
ISBN: 978-0-7653-3196-0
On Sale: February 5, 2013
Available here:

Not a day goes by that the post does not bring me at least one letter from a young person (or sometimes one not so young) who wishes to follow in my footsteps and become a dragon naturalist. Nowadays, of course, the field is quite respectable, with university courses and intellectual societies putting out fat volumes titled Proceedings of some meeting or other. Those interested in respectable things, however, attend my lectures. The ones who write to me invariably want to hear about my adventures: my escape from captivity in the swamps of Mouleen, or my role in the great Battle of Keonga, or (most frequently) my flight to the inhospitable heights of the Mrtyahaima peaks, the only place on earth where the secrets of the ancient world could be unlocked.

Even the most dedicated of letter-writers could not hope to answer all these queries personally. I have therefore accepted the offer from Messrs. Carrigdon & Rudge to publish a series of memoirs, chronicling the more interesting portions of my life. By and large these shall focus on those expeditions which led to the discovery for which I have become so famous, but there shall also be occasional digressions into matters more entertaining, personal, or even (yes) salacious. One benefit of being an old woman now, and moreover one who has been called a "national treasure," is that there are very few who can tell me what I may and may not write.

Beyond this point, therefore, lie foetid swamps, society gossip, disfiguring diseases, familial conflicts, hostile foreigners, and a plenitude of mud. You, dear reader, continue on at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart -- no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon's presence, even for the briefest of moments -- even at the risk of one's life -- is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. If my humble words convey even a fraction of that wonder, I will rest content.

In this first volume, I will relate to you how my career as a lady adventurer and dragon naturalist began, commencing at the creation of my childhood fascination with all things winged, and for the bulk of its length describing my first foreign expedition, to study the rock-wyrms of Vystrana. Common gossip has made the bare facts well-known, but I warn you, dear reader, that all was not as you have heard.

Isabella, Lady Trent
Casselthwaite, Linshire
11 Iyar, 1895

My Thoughts.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, the memoir aspect, the storyline, the illustrations (though few but very well done) and the way the whole entire book was put together made this a very intriguing book to read through.

What Brennan has created here is a story that will captivate and keep you entranced all the way through till the action packed ending.

I loved the fact that although this book is fiction it's written in the way of a memoir, the life of Isabella a rambunctious and wilful child who discovered her first Dragon at a young age which then started her obsession with discovering the workings  (both inner and outer) of the species.
Starting with her early childhood and working her way through to her early twenties her fascination with Dragons never diminishes and sets her off on an expedition to Drustanev to assist in researching them.
And whilst I did have some trouble in pronouncing a lot of the names and places ( a section at the back of the book dealing with the pronounciations would have been helpful), the world building that occurs throughout with these imaginary places takes you to faraway places a journey that will enchant you.
The illustrations were gorgeous and as I said at the start of my review I definitely would have loved more, they help the imagination more in picturing the Dragons and having an idea of just what the author is describing.

The chapters were another interesting addition to the book, the way that at the start of each  there is a description of sorts on what will occur in the following chapter, I found this was a part of the book I was looking forward too, knowing what's coming but not getting exact detail either.

I hope that this is going to be the first book in a series, I can imagine that Isabella has a huge amount of adventures that she still has to share, I will definitely pick up any further books that may be released of the memoirs of this headstrong and sometimes opinionated heroine.

I give this 4/5.

 A physician had accompanied the hunt, to minister to both the dogs and the men; he arrived shortly after we did. I was not his first patient, though. I heard Jim’s voice moaning from the other side of the small room, but I could not see him through the press of other people.
            “Don’t hurt him,” I said to no one in particular, though rationally I knew the physician must be trying to help him. “Don’t blame him. I made him do it. And he protected me; he got in the way when the wolf-drake attacked.” This I had pieced together after the fact.
            The injuries Jim suffered through his heroic move were one of two things that kept him from being ignominiously sacked. The other -- though I can take little pride in it -- was my tireless defense, insisting that he was not to be blamed for bringing me on the hunt. Now, far too late, my guilt boiled up, and I fear I kept harping on the point long after my father had agreed to keep him on.
            All of that came later, though. Once finished with Jim, the physician came to me, and banished everyone but my father and the now-sleeping Jim out of the hut, for the wound was on my shoulder and it would not be appropriate for others to be there while it was bared. (This I thought foolish, even at the time, for young ladies may wear off-the-shoulder dresses, which show just as much flesh as his ministrations did.)
            I was given brandy to drink, which I had never had before, and its fire nearly made my eyes start out of my head. They made me drink more, though, and after I had enough in me, they poured some over the wounds in my shoulder to cleanse them. This made me cry, but thanks to the brandy I no longer particularly cared that I was crying. By the time the physician began to stitch me up, I was not aware of much at all, except him telling Papa in a low voice, “The claws were sharp, so the flesh is not too ragged. And she’s young and strong. If infection does not threaten, it will heal well.”
            Through lips gone very thick and uncooperative, I tried to mumble something about how I wanted to wear off-the-shoulder dresses, but I do not believe it came out very clearly, and then I was asleep.
Guest Post.
It doesn’t look anything like it at first glance, but this series was actually inspired by a calendar and a Dungeons & Dragons book. The book in question is the Draconomicon, a third edition supplement with information on -- you guessed it -- dragons. Now, although I’m a gamer, I tend to rag on D&D: its books are usually just new prestige classes, feats, spells, and magic items, with a token bit of setting information dropped on top like a spring of limp parsley. (I prefer RPGs for their narrative aspects, not for the crunch of game mechanics.) The Draconomicon, however, is different. Sure, it has mechanics in there, but it also has lots of cool information about the life cycle of dragons, their language, their psychology, and so on. As it happened, when I went browsing through that book for a game, I had a certain calendar on my wall: a Dragonology calendar, a bit of merchandise for the books of the same name. These take the conceit of being scholarly discussions of dragons, talking about different breeds in different parts of the world from the viewpoint of a natural historian. You can probably see where this is going. Actually, I don’t know whether my first thought was a novel. I know that in the space of a month or two, I flip-flopped half a dozen times as to whether I wanted to write a book about a natural historian of dragons, or run a game in which the player-characters were out to study them instead of killing them and taking their stuff (that being the usual mode of a D&D campaign). I played around with the beginning of the book for a little while, just to see how it went, and thirty thousand words fell out of my head; that seemed like a good sign. But that was right around the time that I started on the Onyx Court series, so this project got postponed for a good four years -- four years in which I probably could have run the game, but didn’t. Isabella had staked out that territory in my head, and wasn’t letting go. Besides, the dragons in my head weren’t D&D dragons anymore. The ones in the game system are intelligent creatures, capable of speech and magic; they defy anything like plausible biology, and they live for hundreds of years. The ones in Isabella’s world are animals, like tigers or bears; they may be a bit more complicated than mundane animals, but they’re not the godlike beings of D&D. And I’m trying, in my handwavy fantasy-science way, to make them vaguely plausible on the biological front. But it still all stems from a roleplaying game and a calendar. The imagination, it works in mysterious ways.

Marie Brennan is a former academic with a background in archaeology, anthropology, and folklore, which she now puts to rather cockeyed use in writing fantasy. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to many short stories and novellas, she is also the author of A Star Shall Fall and With Fate Conspire (both from Tor Books), as well as Warrior, Witch, Midnight Never Come, In Ashes Lie, and Lies and Prophecy. You can find her online at
 Marie Brennan (WebsiteTwitterGoodreads)

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