A very different dragon tale

'A Natural History of Dragons' by Marie Brennan
'A Natural History of Dragons' by Marie Brennan
Courtesy of publisher

Every week, The Thread checks in with booksellers around the country about their favorite books of the moment. This week, we spoke to Greta Helmel from Storied Owl Books in St. Paul.

“A Natural History of Dragons” is, as the title suggests, a book about dragons.

“But it isn’t your typical dragon book,” said bookseller Greta Helmel. “There’s no dragon riding, there’s no real magic to speak of. It’s actually written in the style of a Victorian-era memoir.”

With the memoir form, Lady Isabella Trent “tells of her adventures and the discoveries that led her to become the world’s most revered dragon naturalist,” Helmel explained. “She sort of is this dragon scientist, which is a really, really unique spin on dragons and fantasy in general, because I had never seen something like this when I first picked it up.”

“It’s got so much sass and sarcasm, because she’s this old lady who is very amused and honest about how naïve and reckless she was as this young, budding scientist.”

There’s plenty of commentary on the uptight society that stands in her way as Lady Trent pursued her research. “As you might expect, she has to fight to be recognized and be taken seriously as a naturalist, being a woman.”

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Even if the book has a healthy dose of fictional creatures, the scientific elements shine.

“I just think it’s wonderful, whether you’re an aspiring scientist or not, to read about a young woman who is pitching headfirst into her passion for science and natural history, and going on these awesome expeditions to these remarkable places.”

The book is part of a series, which follows Lady Trent’s life and research. In addition to the stunning stories, the books are also illustrated with sketches from her research notebooks.

“It makes you want to go out on your own adventures,” Helmel said.