In a surprise to nobody, we have the book that is already in my running for favorite book of the year: A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan. I haven't even read it yet. But I've seen the artwork. I've read the excerpts. I may actually be in love.
Not a day goes by that the post does not bring me at least one letter from a young person (or sometimes one not so young) who wishes to follow in my footsteps and become a dragon naturalist. Nowadays, of course, the field is quite respectable, with university courses and intellectual societies putting out fat volumes titled Proceedings of some meeting or other. Those interested in respectable things, however, attend my lectures. The ones who write to me invariably want to hear about my adventures: my escape from captivity in the swamps of Mouleen, or my role in the great Battle of Keonga, or (most frequently) my flight to the inhospitable heights of the Mrtyahaima peaks, the only place on earth where the secrets of the ancient world could be unlocked.
Even the most dedicated of letter-writers could not hope to answer all these queries personally. I have therefore accepted the offer from Messrs. Carrigdon & Rudge to publish a series of memoirs, chronicling the more interesting portions of my life. By and large these shall focus on those expeditions which led to the discovery for which I have become so famous, but there shall also be occasional digressions into matters more entertaining, personal, or even (yes) salacious. One benefit of being an old woman now, and moreover one who has been called a "national treasure," is that there are very few who can tell me what I may and may not write.
Beyond this point, therefore, lie foetid swamps, society gossip, disfiguring diseases, familial conflicts, hostile foreigners, and a plenitude of mud. You, dear reader, continue on at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart -- no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon's presence, even for the briefest of moments -- even at the risk of one's life -- is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. If my humble words convey even a fraction of that wonder, I will rest content.
In this first volume, I will relate to you how my career as a lady adventurer and dragon naturalist began, commencing at the creation of my childhood fascination with all things winged, and for the bulk of its length describing my first foreign expedition, to study the rock-wyrms of Vystrana. Common gossip has made the bare facts well-known, but I warn you, dear reader, that all was not as you have heard.
Isabella, Lady Trent
11 Iyar, 1895
Doesn't it sound absolutely fantastic?
Or maybe that summary isn't good enough for you.
That's okay. I have ARTWORK.
Desert Drake; Wolf Drake. Click to enlarge.
Credit to Todd Lockwood.
Tor sent me a whole bunch of other artwork as well, but these were my favorites. (The rest are just as beautiful, though.)
Oh? Am I not selling you enough?
Then perhaps you should READ some of the book.
We filed through into a large room enclosed by a dome of glass panels that let in the afternoon sunlight. We stood on a walkway that circled the room’s perimeter and overlooked a deep, sand-floored pit divided by heavy grates into three large pie-slice enclosures.
Within those enclosures were three dragons.
Forgetting myself entirely, I rushed to the rail. In the pit below me, a creature with scales of a faded topaz gold turned its long snout upward to look back at me. From behind my left shoulder, I heard a muffled exclamation, and then someone having a fainting spell. Some of the more adventurous gentlemen came to the railing and murmured amongst themselves, but I had no eyes for them -- only for the dragon in the pit.
A heavy clanking sounded as it turned its head away from me, and I saw that a heavy collar bound its neck, connecting to a thick chain that ended at the wall. The gratings between the sections of the pit, I noticed, were doubled; in between each pair there was a gap, so the dragons could not snap at one another through the bars.
With slow, fascinated steps, I made my way around the room. The enclosure to the right held a muddy green lump, likewise chained, that did not look up as I passed. The third dragon was a spindly thing, white-scaled and pink-eyed: an albino.
Mr. Swargin waited at the rail by the entrance. Sparing him a glance, I saw that he watched everyone with careful eyes as they circulated about the room. He had warned us, at the outset of the tour, not to throw anything or make noises at the beasts; I suspected that was a particular concern here.
The golden dragon had retired to the farthest corner of its enclosure to gnaw on a large bone mostly stripped of meat. I studied it carefully, noting certain features of its anatomy, comparing its size against what appeared to be a cow femur. “Mr. Swargin,” I said, my eyes still on the dragon, “these aren’t juveniles, are they? They’re runts.”
“I beg your pardon?” the naturalist responded, turning to me.
“I might be wrong -- I’ve only Edgeworth to go by, really, and he’s sadly lacking in illustrations -- but my understanding was that species of true dragon do not develop the full ruff behind their heads until adulthood. I could not get a good view of the green one the next cage over -- is that a Moulish swamp-wyrm? -- but these cannot be full-grown adults, and considering the difficulties of keeping dragons in a menagerie, it seems to me that it might be simpler to collect runt specimens, rather than to deal with the eventual maturation of juveniles. Of course, maturation takes a long time, so one could --”
At that point, I realized what I was doing, and shut my mouth with a snap. Far too late, I fear; someone had already overheard.
Okay, look, I'm already bloody in love with this book. You guys should enter to win so that you, too, can bloody love this book.
 copies of A Natural History of Dragons up for grabs
 winners in the U.S. or Canada only
ends February 25
How To Win:
[mandatory] fill out the form below
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