Sunday, February 3, 2013


Tor US, $25.99
   Yesterday I read Marie Brennan's 'A Natural History of Dragons', which is released on Tuesday. As you can see, it's a beautiful volume, or is it just me who's obsessed with dragons? The cover illustration, and those throughout, are by Todd Lockwood.
   While I really enjoyed the premise of the story (intellectually-curious girl in Victorian-type society pursues her dream of studying dragons), the book did not live up to my expectations. The story of Isabella's travels concerned local people, customs, and politics far more than the dragons she had travelled to study. There were, however, some tantalising hints at the climax of avenues for possible further writing - and I see some suggestions online that there may be a sequel(s). It's not one I'd particularly recommend - only for either the dragon-story-completists or those with only a peripheral interest in dragons and an interest in feminism in fantasy. It's well-written in a Victorian style, and let down solely by the weak plot.
Penguin, £6.99
Temeraire cover art, Todd Lockwood
   'A Natural History of Dragons' did have the one benefit of making me think more about the dragons I have loved in books - and there are many of those! My favourite dragon concept is probably that used by Ursula Le Guin in the classic Earthsea cycle. Here dragons are huge, powerful, wise, ancient, and cunning - making it all the more tragic when some have their minds destroyed, turning them into nothing more than huge flying animals. Naomi Novik's concept in the Temeraire series is somewhat more light-hearted. The dragon Temeraire himself is curious, intelligent, loyal, and brave, and the characters of the other dragons are as varied as the personalities of their commanders and riders. 
A-Through-L, by Ana Juan
   Honourable mentions go to the merciless Smaug in 'The Hobbit', Catherynne Valente's beautiful dragon/library cross named A-Through-L in 'The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making', the last remaining examples of their species in Robin Hobb's new series the Rain Wild Chronicles, the transmogrified Eustace in C.S. Lewis' 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader', and the still-mysterious young dragons in A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. 
Berkley Prime Crime, $7.99
   My reading this morning on a very pleasant day off was 'Bookplate Special' the third in the Booktown Mysteries series by Lorna Barrett from Berkley Prime Crime.  For those of you outside the US who are unfamiliar with Berkley Prime Crime, they are a publisher specialising in niche crime mysteries such as the Tea Shop Mysteries, the Embroidery Mysteries, the Pet Rescue Mysteries, and lots more, as well as more contemporary titles from authors such as P.J. Tracy and Walter Mosley. I have read that the niche mysteries fitting into Berkley's 'Cosy Mysteries' genre are its most popular, and these are exactly the ones I'm reading at the moment. They're fantastically fun in their light approach to a murder mystery - the perfect solution for a squeamish soul like myself. 
   My next reads will by John le Carré's 'The Spy Who Came in from the Cold' for my bookclub, 'Out of the Easy' by Ruta Sepetys, and as a treat, possibly the next in the Booktown series - 'Chapter and Hearse' and 'Sentenced to Death'.

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