The second adventure (A Natural History of Dragons, 2013) for the doughty Isabella Camherst, a dragon-obsessed young lady of Scirland determined to pursue her research in an age when educating girls in science and philosophy is frowned upon.
Previously, Isabella accompanied naturalist and explorer Lord Hilford to chilly, mountainous Vystrana in search of rock-wyrms, during which time she lost her husband and subsequently gave birth to a son. Now, Hilford is organizing an expedition to the tropical continent of Eriga, where several new species of dragon await study. Rejecting stay-at-home motherhood, Isabella eagerly agrees to join the expedition. Too old and frail to travel himself, Hilford will be represented by his assistant, Thomas Wilker, who, as a commoner, faces obstacles similar to those Isabella confronts as a woman. Natalie, Hilford’s granddaughter, causes additional complications; refusing to be married off by her father, Natalie takes refuge with Isabella, who arranges to smuggle the girl along on the expedition. But Eriga, so they find, presents a whole new set of problems. Bayembe, their destination, is threatened by its warlike neighbor, Ikwunde, with only the jungle swamps of Mouleen, known as the Green Hell, between. So before her dragon research can proceed, scholarly yet iron-willed Isabella must negotiate male hostility and prejudice, political infighting, the commercial and imperial ambitions of the Scirlings, heat, disease, arrogant big-game hunters and the cultural imperatives of the Erigan people. And during her adventures in the Green Hell—the book’s finest section—Isabella will find sociology as important as natural history and the key to preventing a brutal war. This, the second of Isabella’s retrospective memoirs, is as uncompromisingly honest and forthright as the first, narrated in Brennan’s usual crisp, vivid style, with a heroine at once admirable, formidable and captivating.
Reader, lose no time in making Isabella’s acquaintance.