A Natural History of Dragons, Marie Brennan Review from April 12th, 2013
It took me a while to get round to finishing reading this, even once I was a decent way into it and knew I wanted to finish it. It’s a slow sort of book, one I suspect you will either get on with or not based on the narrator and setting. The idea is of a Victorian-era analogue in which dragons exist, and in which one young woman has the opportunity of a lifetime to go and study dragons scientifically after having obsessed over them all her life. The conceit is that it’s narrated by her in the form of memoirs, in a very Victorian sort of style.
It’s fascinating in its attempts to place a female character realistically in a society that is a Victorian analogue and have her still free enough to have this sort of story happen to her without it sounding far fetched — it mostly works, I think. Unfortunately it’s also pretty slow, and relatively uneventful when compared to so many other dragon books. I did get into it (or rather, back into it) eventually, but I can see it won’t be to everyone’s taste. I did, after all, also love Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.
The illustrations are, by the way, perfect. I spent quite a while examining each one in detail. And the world built up around this story is both frustrating in its close and quite naked similarities to ours and tantalising in details that aren’t comparable, or at least instantly placeable.
This week’s theme for Top Ten Tuesday is “top ten books you’re looking forward to in 2015”. Now, I actually don’t keep a very good track of this, so I might not manage the full ten, but we’ll see how I do…
Jo Walton, The Just City. Yeah, I know I have an eARC and I’ve borrowed someone else’s ARC, but I’m still looking forward to it being out and getting to discuss it more widely.
Maria V. Snyder, Shadow Study. More Yelena! I still need to do my reread, but these are totally my popcorn books and it’ll be nice to have more to look forward to. I might actually manage to read the Avry trilogy when I know there’s more awaiting me…
V.E. Schwab, A Darker Shade of Magic. I don’t know that much about it, but it sounds awesome, and I keep being recommended Schwab’s work.
Joe Abercrombie, Half a World. I still need to get round to reading Half a King, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy it, and this is another in the same world.
Catherynne M. Valente, Radiance. From reading the summary, I’m not quite sure about it, but I adore Valente’s way with words, so it’s going to be worth a try.
Naomi Novik, Uprooted. I remember enjoying the Temeraire books, and I love reading retellings of myths/legends/folktales/fables, so this sounds right up my street.
N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season.Gimme! Gimme!
Marie Brennan, The Voyage of the Basilisk. I need to read the second book, but still. Still. Badass Victorian lady!
Nicole Burstein, Othergirl. Just spotted this on someone else’s list of upcoming 2015 books. Sounds like fun, and there’s superpowers, sooo. I’m a sucker, I know.
Brandon Sanderson, Firefight. Another one where I still need to read the previous book, but shush. Superpowers!
Oof, I managed it. What’s anyone else looking forward to?
At first, having won this on LibraryThing FirstReads, I intended to wait until I read at least the first book of this series to read this, but it sort of surfaced on my ereader today and I thought, well, why not? If I don’t understand the world, I can always stop and save it for after I’ve read the other books. Actually, I found it a decent introduction to the world. You have to be ready to be pretty spry in your thinking to understand some of the rules that shape the world, but for me it came together fairly well.
The story itself is suitably novella-sized, and even though I did see the conclusion from a mile off in terms of the resolution to the larger plot, I enjoyed seeing the process of how it came about. I suspect Deven is a character from other books, and Lune as well, but while details of their relationship were lacking, their problem still worked as a drive for the structure.
One odd thing was the way the narrative jumps about in time. I caught on to the pattern easily enough, and the alternation made sense, but it could be a little disorientating. Overall, though, I enjoyed this one, and am looking forward more to reading the other books of the series.