Isabella is obsessed with dragons. Her tomboyish antics and unwavering determination lead to a life full of them.
At the age of seven, when most good little girls stuff rose petals into a jar, Isabella collects little miniature dragons called Sparklings and preserves them in vinegar. She loves books about avian anatomy and when she discovers a book called "A Natural History of Dragons" her life changes forever.
The author's love of books, science and dragons shines brightly through this novel (unfortunately so does the author's love of parentheses. If you can ignore this tick, it's worth the bother. I promise).
Isabella lives in a world where dragons are real but aren't a suitable interest for fine young ladies, thank you very much. Her stubbornness and obsessive interest lead her to break the mold and to pursue her dream regardless of what might be thought proper.
The atmosphere is a blend of Downton Abbey, Pern and A Series of Unfortunate Events. The eclectic mixture works and it's easy to imagine dragon boffinry and petticoats being discussed at a high society dinner in Scirling.
Todd Lockwood's beautiful illustrations are peppered throughout the book and are a real treat to dragon enthusiasts. And as Isabella's journey takes her to Vystrana in the role of an illustrator, they support the story beautifully, too.
A Natural History of Dragons treats the common fantasy trope of dragons in a unique way - and that's quite an achievement in itself. You find yourself wishing that it would be possible to attend Lady Trent's lectures and listen to her stories in person.
Isabella comes across as a strange mixture of one of Anne McCaffrey's strong female characters and the clumsy Bella from Twilight. One of the most engaging elements of the fictitious author is her determination to succeed in a field that, in her world, is strictly off limits to women.