Friday, February 8, 2013

Excerpt from Marie Brennan's A Natural History of Dragons

I am super excited to be part of the blog tour for Marie Brennan's latest, A Natural History of Dragons! Monday I'll have a guest post from Marie and I'll also have a review for you later. Today I've got an excerpt to get you started! But first, a bit about the book:

You, dear reader, continue 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. . . .

All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.

Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.

Marie Brennan introduces an enchanting new world in A Natural History of Dragons.

And now for that excerpt:

Yes, we shot a dragon.

I find it fascinating that so many people take exception to this. Not simply in light of my later attitudes on the matter; no, the objections began long before then, as soon as the book detailing our research in Vystrana was published. People exclaimed over our “monstrous” actions, destroying a dragon simply so that we might understand how it worked.

These same people do not seem to care in the least that at the height of the Great Sparkling Inquiry, I had no less than six hundred and fourteen specimens in my shed -- very few of them dead from natural causes. Entomologists trap insects in their killing jars and then pin their corpses to cards, and no one utters a single squeak of protest. For that matter, let a gentleman hunt a tiger for its skin, and everyone applauds his courage. But to shoot a dragon for science? That, for some reason, is cruel.

Mind you, these objections come exclusively from men and women in Scirland and similar countries, most of them (I imagine) extolling the sanctity of dragons from the sanctuary of their comfortable studies, far from any actual beast of the breed. Indeed, few of those letter-writers seem to have seen a single dragon in their lives. They certainly have not spent days among Vystrani shepherds, for whom dragons are neither sacred nor even likeable, but rather troublesome predators who all too often make off with the shepherds’ livelihood in their jaws. The men of Drustanev did not hesitate to shoot dragons, I assure you. We might even have waited for one of them to do the deed, at which point my letter-writers might have been better satisfied with our virtue. But Vystrani shepherds try very hard to avoid dragons when possible, and we were impatient to get on with our work. So the gentlemen of our party studied the map, shouldered their guns, and went out to find their prey.

And I went with them. It was not at all like my first journey out from Drustanev; this time I was fully-dressed and properly shod, and the piercing mountain sun illuminated our path. This second expedition did much to improve my feelings toward the region: by my standards the air was still bitterly cold for the season, but the brilliance and life of my surroundings could not be denied. We saw eagles and thrushes, rabbits and deer, and even one bear lumbering down the far side of the valley. When I stepped apart from the men to take care of a certain biological matter, I startled a lynx, which stared at me with flat, unfriendly eyes before melting away into the trees.

A Natural History of Dragons is out now from Tor.

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