OMG why did I never hear of this book before?
The format is the memoir of a 90 year old woman who studied dragons all her life. This way she can write little asides to the audience such as “I was only 19, I didn’t know any better” to cover some really unpleasant imperialist-colonial relations, or “they expected a woman to be a silly fluff head, so I sillied at them until I could sneak out and do what I really wanted – I did that sort of thing less and less as I grew older.”
In a not-earth place which is suspiciously similar to Regency not-England, 5 year old Isabella want to know How Things Work. In particular, why do birds have wishbones? So she steal- uh, borrows her year old brother’s pen-knife, finds a dead dove, and takes it apart to study it. Oh dear, even in rural England that’s Not Done. Isabella went on to catch Sparkles, which seem to be a cross between dragons & insects? She catalogues the carefully – very professional for a child. Then she does something totally improper, very dangerous, and gets caught. Mama makes her burn all of her collections- oh, dear.
Isabella spends 2 years being a Fine Young Lady – it takes about 2 paragraphs in the book – and then she has her Season. Her Papa gives her a list of six eligible men who have fine libraries – a reward for her hard work at Ladying. She meets one by accident at the Royal Zoo’s dragon enclosure, and accidentally runs off at the mouth displaying her knowledge: how will she ever get married when people know she is intelligent? (Surprise: They get married. Tell me you didn’t see it coming as soon as they meet.)
Then the young couple (this and that) and goes off to not-Europe to sketch dragons in the wild. Adventure ensues. Someone dies.
I am so happy I don’t have to wait a year for the next book.