Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A Natural History of Dragons (on Audible)

I've really enjoyed listening to books on audible, as I've written about before. Thus far I've mostly listened to history books or lectures like the History of Ancient Egypt or the Plantagenets, so I decided to try something new for my next book--A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan. I've been interested in reading this book for a while now, and with audible I listened to it in the car while commuting or doing long distance drives.

I loved listening to A Natural History of Dragons. The narrator's voice seemed perfectly suited to the content, and the book itself was excellent. Lady Trent is one of the best female characters in fantasy since Lessa and Menolly in Anne McCaffrey's series Dragonriders of Pern. Lady Trent, called Isabella Camherst in the first book, is obsessed with dragons and science, two topics considered inappropriate for young ladies in her Victorian-esque world. Despite all the obstacles and discouragement she receives, she pursues her studies to distant lands with her faithful husband, who gently tolerates and eventually encourages his wife's passion. Isabella Camherst is a flawed but lovable woman, whose curiosity both gets her into trouble and leads her to new discoveries about the mysterious and dangerous Vystrani rock-wyrms she studies. But perhaps the most enjoyable part of her character is the striking contrast between her cool scientific exterior and her warm, deeply passionate heart. To often women in science fiction or fantasy are depicted as either sexless nerds or some hero's girlfriend, but Isabella is a loving wife with a brilliant scientific mind. She defies the stifling conventions of her time and place without rejecting her womanliness, and by the end of the book (spoilers) she's even become a mother. It's refreshing to read (or listen to) a book with a fully developed female character.

I enjoyed this book so much that I recently bought its sequel, The Tropic of Serpents, and I look forward to reading more about the adventures of Lady Trent.

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