Attentive readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoir, A Natural History of Dragons, are already familiar with how a bookish and determined young woman named Isabella first set out on the historic course that would one day lead her to becoming the world’s premier dragon naturalist. Now, in this remarkably candid second volume, Lady Trent looks back at the next stage of her illustrious (and occasionally scandalous) career.
Three years after her fateful journeys through the forbidding mountains of Vystrana, Mrs. Camherst defies family and convention to embark on an expedition to the war-torn continent of Eriga, home of such exotic draconian species as the grass-dwelling snakes of the savannah, arboreal tree snakes, and, most elusive of all, the legendary swamp-wyrms of the tropics.
The expedition is not an easy one. Accompanied by both an old associate and a runaway heiress, Isabella must brave oppressive heat, merciless fevers, palace intrigues, gossip, and other hazards in order to satisfy her boundless fascination with all things draconian, even if it means venturing deep into the forbidden jungle known as the Green Hell . . . where her courage, resourcefulness, and scientific curiosity will be tested as never before.
Devoted readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoirs, A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents, may believe themselves already acquainted with the particulars of her historic voyage aboard the Royal Survey Ship Basilisk, but the true story of that illuminating, harrowing, and scandalous journey has never been revealed—until now. Six years after her perilous exploits in Eriga, Isabella embarks on her most ambitious expedition yet: a two-year trip around the world to study all manner of dragons in every place they might be found. From feathered serpents sunning themselves in the ruins of a fallen civilization to the mighty sea serpents of the tropics, these creatures are a source of both endless fascination and frequent peril. Accompanying her is not only her young son, Jake, but a chivalrous foreign archaeologist whose interests converge with Isabella’s in ways both professional and personal.
Science is, of course, the primary objective of the voyage, but Isabella’s life is rarely so simple. She must cope with storms, shipwrecks, intrigue, and warfare, even as she makes a discovery that offers a revolutionary new insight into the ancient history of dragons.
I read these books back to back, and because I am lazy I’m reviewing them together. My thoughts on them are pretty similar anyway: I adore these books.
The premise of both books it that we follow Isabella, a female dragon naturalist, on her expeditions to learn more about dragons. And like any good expedition, she is met with all kinds of setbacks such as diseases, kidnap, shipwrecks and bad weather. The focus is on dragons (obviously), but local inhabitants with their customs, language and politics also play a big role in the stories.
All of it is made up, the locations, people and species. Yet all of it feels so real. Brennan payed great attention to all the little details, making it so easy to get completely immersed into the world. And then there are the gorgeous illustrations, bringing the dragons and characters to life.
I adore the main character. She is brave and passionate. Yes she does some questionable things, but they can be justified by her love for dragons and science. She does what needs to be done and she doesn’t let her gender get in the way of doing what she loves, even if that gets her frowned upon. Propriety can screw itself.
If you love dragons, this series might be for you. But don’t expect an epic fantasy… this can be a bit of a slow read at times (yet I flew through both in a single day). It really is a study of dragons, the different species and their biology. But I think it is great. Also I’d love to swim with a Dragon Turtle…