13 May, 2013

A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan [Paul, Birkenhead Library]


Yet another splendid reworking of dragons. A bit like early, obsessive Robin Hobb, or even more so like Naomi Novik with its slightly fastidious, formal narrator. It also has its own unique steampunkish take. Alt-futuristic then, yet shaped as an old-fangled memoir, with a lurid 'industrial' revolution only alluded to in the story. This could have felt crass, pluggy of future books, only it didn't. Rather it added to the scope of a world not quite ours, the sense of great moments to come. It will be interesting to see how Brenann unfolds the series.

I admired the way 'Victorian' sensibilities of class, gender and race are worked in through the narrator Lady Trent. Instead of giving us some feisty woman, with an anachronistic sense of outrage, we get something more delicate - Trent is victim, yes, yet also has a certain angular snootiness of her own. This ambiguity is not something to get enraged about, as some have, but a reflection of Brennan's deliberate skill: she's given us a character (and a culture, and a story) that charms greatly and yet jolts too. Pushing us away only to pull us in deeper, neh? One might even expect the young Lady Trent will, you know, develop.

In fact, I'm sure it could be mentioned how the retrospective narration adds in a whole layer of cleverness to the point of view - but who cares about that when there's sparklings! Are they not the smallest coolest dragons ever?!

Title: A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent
Author: Marie Brennan
Published: 2013
Publisher: Tor

 - Paul, Birkenhead Library

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