It’s been ages since I read A Natural History of Dragons, which meant I was playing catch-up a little with the characters and the situation. I wouldn’t suggest reading it without reading the first book, since it’s an almost continuous narrative — but if it’s just been a while, well, you’ll probably be okay. I got there pretty quickly, once I remembered who all the characters were and how they all related to each other.
As with the first book, it’s fascinating to read this version of our own history, with a female natural historian front and centre. Given the trouble the likes of Mary Anning had, I understand the context a lot better now, though I do find myself thinking that, if anything, it’s a little too easy for Isabella to get where she wants to go. Still, I already criticised the first book for being a little slow, and there are plenty such drawbacks here as well. There’s another interesting meeting with different cultures, and some of the ways that that limits Isabella — but also one surprising way it gives her more opportunities.
I read this much quicker than I read the first book. It’s not exactly “unputdownable”, because you know that Isabella must survive to be writing the memoir, but it is compelling. I especially enjoyed the strengthening of Isabella’s relationship with Tom Wilker, and the way their characters clashed and meshed through the book. Natalie is a fun addition, too: a woman who, like Isabella, wants more than society (and her family) want to give, a woman who is in fact an engineer of some skill.
I’m having a hard time picturing Isabella’s adventures coming to an end after Voyage of the Basilisk, so I’m hoping that I’m misremembering that this is a trilogy… All in all, I’ve gotta say that these books have definitely won my heart now. I might have been doubtful about the first one, but I thoroughly enjoyed the second.