Considering the Study of Dragons: A Book Review

Considering the Study of Dragons: A Book Review

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent

Written by Marie Brennan

In July JordanCon is hosting Marie Brennan as the author Guest of Honor for 2021.  For those who are not familiar with her work, she’s currently best known as the author of the Memoirs of Lady Trent, a six book series with multiple short stories set in the world.  Brennan has written other novels and over sixty short stories.  Her newest novel, Driftwood, is a collection of short stories set within a frame story that came out in 2020. Her series The Onyx Court was released as audible books just this year. They mash historical events in London with faerie enchantment. Find out more about our next guest of honor by visiting her website.

In anticipation of her visit to JordanCon, I finally moved her books to the top of my “to read/listen” pile.  The good side of waiting so long is that I was able to rush through the whole Lady Trent series in less than two weeks. The downside is that I just meet Isabella, and it seems like her journey is finished for now. I don’t have more from this world to anticipate reading.  As of now.  No telling what might happen in the future with the Camhersts.

Before Brennan visits JordanCon in July, I hope to entice more of our family to become acquainted with her work. Over the next two months, I’ll be reviewing the first three Memoirs of Lady Trent books. Let us begin with A Natural History of Dragons, first published in 2013.

The Todd Lockwood cover showing an anatomical study of a walking dragon sets the tone the story delivers. The covers Lockwood created for the entire series are a feast for the eyes. I knew of the series for years due to the covers always catching my eye. A delightful surprise was the interior illustrations and maps. This is a story that cries for a map to anchor the reader. The maps help reader understand the world and the places of interest.

Anthiope by Rhys Davies @2012

Anthiope by Rhys Davies ©2012

Before discussing the story, I must address the audiobook, which is how I first experienced Lady Trent’s voice. The wonderful Kate Reading does her best impression of the Dowager Countess of Grantham to convey the voice of Lady Trent. Reading’s performances are routinely delightful, but the upper crust edge she gives Isabella makes the character come alive in my mind. The audiobook takes a touch over 10 hours to complete.  With Reading’s voice the story flows smoothly until the book ends, leaving me, at least, going “No, I want more!” Thankfully, more is available in the remaining books of the series.

Let’s consider some non-spoiler matters:

In the vein of most memoirs, the story is told from the point of view of Isabella, Lady Trent, addressing readers as she summarizes the highlights of her life and the major episodes that made her famous. The book doesn’t break the 4th wall, but she does instruct her readers to go find more information in publications available in their world that are not in ours. Book one covers her early life and her first major journey into becoming a dragon naturalist. The preface hints at many more adventures, which readers don’t understand fully until much later in the series. The tone and setting share many similarities with stories set in the English Regency era or a Jane Austen novel. The elder Lady Trent does not spare herself or her society in highlighting how foolish many aspects of her life were in retrospect. This book has action and drama but is not driven by action scenes. It is driven by Isabella’s love of discovery and research. Her passion for the subject is infectious and draws the readers in as all make discoveries together.

If you do not want any spoilers, stop reading this article now. Go pick up a copy of the story in your preferred format and location. Come back once you are done.

A Sparkling. Todd Lockwood @2012

A Sparkling. Todd Lockwood ©2012

Drustanev and envirans. Rhys Davies @2012

Drustanev and environs. Rhys Davies ©2012

Now for a franker, spoiler-filled discussion of details from the book:

The worldbuilding – I commend Brennan’s choices in her worldbuilding. The world is mostly Earth, with the geography rearranged, new names, and of course a whole hierarchy of dragons in the animal kingdom. And dragon-like beings, but we only learn about sparklings and wolf-drakes for now. These changes allow western audiences, at least, to be more focused on the cool factor of the dragons, and less about the “well that’s different” when it comes to the world. Many things are familiar to readers, with some serial numbers filed off and some changes made. Lady Trent comes from Scirland, which is equivalent to England. The bulk of the story takes place in Vystranna, which is roughly similar to Imperial Russia. One of the major differences from many fantasy books is that both cultures follow a faith loosely based on Jewish traditions, though different branches of the faith, which creates some tension. There is classism and sexism in abundance—unconscious and conscious. The characters grow but are often not aware of their bias until their views are shoved into their faces.

One advantage of the memoir style of storytelling is the ability to time skip and for self-reflection.  Brennan uses these strengths to her advantage by allowing Isabella to focus on the narrative of her story. She hints at other matters, but only shows the relevant situations.  Another strength is the way Brennan addresses depression in the story, it feels real. The coping mechanisms Isabella uses are highly relatable to me.

The downside of the memoir style is that many of the other characters feel less than fully developed, which can happen in any storytelling format. Yet beyond Jacob Camherst, few of the other characters come alive as Isabella does in this first installment. Most characters are interesting and have things that set them apart, but I’m not engaged by them in the same way as Isabella.

The story unfolds in four parts, with the first two being the most focused on Isabella’s early life and her interest in dragons, but almost no dragons actually appear. Part one is her childhood adventures and the trouble they cause, along with a Regency-style romance on fast-forward, early married life, and the study of sparklings. Readers meet Jacob Camherst, Thomas Wilker, and Maxwell Oscott, the Earl of Hilford. Each man is important for the narrative of the story, but each in distinctive ways.

Part two begins their expedition to Vystrana to study dragons. Communication difficulties and the lack of a local guide at first hamper the expedition. Readers learn more about Thomas Wilker, Lord Hilford’s assistant. Mr. Wilker is a man born to working-class parents from Niddey who Isabella looks down upon. Conflicts between him and Isabella generate tension in the small party, but they are small background irritation.  It’s hard to study dragons when you can’t find dragons to study. Culture clashes and conflicting priorities set the stage for the last third of the story. In part three, Isabella and the readers are finally able to study a Vystrani rock-wyrm in full detail (added by more interior art by Lockwood). Readers are also introduced to the ancient Draconean civilization, which once dominated the Anthiopen landmass. What seems like a side trip at first, sets off a chain of events that leads to the action-packed conclusion in part four.

While this may be a spoiler review, I don’t want to give away the ending. I’ll just say that tears were shed even while justice was served.


Deana Whitney


Seven Stripe – Not A Stole – Scarf

Scarf and supplies

Scarf and supplies

By Amelie Downing

No man may wear the Amyrlin’s stole.  Fine.  This isn’t a stole.  It’s a scarf.  I came up with this pattern as a quarantine “thinking of you” gift for a friend.  I liked it so much I made one for myself.

Here is what you will need to make one:

  • US size 8 needles on an 30” chord
  • About 65 yards of medium weight yarn in each color. I used Loops & Threads Impeccable and have yarn left over on all 7 skeins after making 4 scarves.
    • Brown (18920 Soft Taupe)
    • Grey (01757 Classic Gray)
    • White (1005 White)
    • Red (1532 Claret)
    • Yellow (01616 Gold)
    • Green (1242 Deep Forest)
    • Blue (35011 Lapis)
  • Suggested but optional – stitch markers

Start by casting on 250 stitches in brown.  They will bunch up and probably twist a bit on the chord, but that is OK.   I put as many stitches on the needles as I could fit.  You can place markers to help keep count while casting on, but you don’t need a specific count and will want to remove them once you start kitting.  This is the length of the scarf so don’t be stingy.   But since there is no repeating pattern to the stitches, you can make your scarf with as many or as few stitches as you want.   If you want more length and can find longer needles, I say go for it.

Start by casting on as many as you wish.

Start by casting on as many as you wish.

The pattern is 6 rows repeated once per color.

  1. Knit
  2. Purl
  3. Knit
  4. Knit
  5. Purl
  6. Knit

You’ll end up with two strips curling in opposite directions – one facing the right side, the other the wrong side.  The purl bumps will be on the wrong (back) side at the color change.

Color change line

Color change line.


Color change line

Color change line reverse view.

Work from the bottom up in color order

  • Brown
  • Grey
  • White
  • Red
  • Yellow
  • Green
  • Blue
Color two change.

Color two change.

2 color change.

2 color change, reverse view.

3 color ring.

Three colors, the scarf is starting to flatten.

At first there will be gaps between the color strips.  As they come off the needles and the overall shape of the scarf flattens, the curls will constrict together.

5 colors with ends.

Halfway done with loose end.


6 colors

Almost done with 6 colors.

After completing the pattern in blue, bind off knitwise.

I averaged about one color a night while watching TV and knocked this out in about a week.  Yes, that probably means I have been watching too much TV while social isolating, but I take productive where I can find it these days.  That leaves weaving in the ends.  As you can see, I had a break in the white yarn and had bonus ends to weave in.  But no blocking is required.  The end result…

Two Views

Make with scarf / stole and JordanCon tiara


New Member Guide 2019

Hello First Timers!  The New Member Services team has searched the internet and picked the brains of previous attendees to gather all the information a newbie might need and put it into one handy dandy guide. We have included some of the highlights here.

Don’t worry, hard copies of the full guide will be available at the registration desk or you can download one HERE.

This blog is broken down into three sections; Terms, Noteworthy Events & Locations, and Helpful Hints, Guidelines, and Words of Wisdom.

Special Thanks to Leslie Annis for the awesome tips from her Newbie Survival Guide.

Terms:  For many of our new members, this not just their first JordanCon, but their first Con in general. In that light, we’ll start out by talking about some terms you may hear or see:

Tracks – A track is the name given to a specific room or rooms generally being used for similarly themed panels.

Panels – A panel is a staff or guest led discussion about a particular topic.

CosPlay – A portmanteau of the words Costume and Play. It is a mix of dressing up as a character and role-playing as that character to some degree.

GoH – Short-hand for Guest of Honor. We have an Author and Artist Guest of Honor each year.

Ribbons – For a variety of reasons, you may be gifted a ribbon that can be adhered to your badge. These are little trophies that can be collected as you wander around the Con, and you should always keep an eye out for new ways to earn ribbons!

Team Jordan – The term used to describe the group of people who made this all possible: Harriet McDougal, Maria Simons, and Alan Romanczuk.

Noteworthy Events and Locations: Download the official JordanCon App for all this information and more!

Speedfriending – If you’re new to JordanCon, you may not know too many people. If you’d like to change that, this is the place for you! Don’t be fooled, this isn’t just for new members! Many of our Con veterans, including volunteers and other staff, attend this event every year so we can meet each and every one of our members!

The ConSuite – Please visit our volunteer-driven ConSuite! This is a great place to rest and recharge. Grab a drink, grab some food (including gluten-free and vegetarian options!), and chat with some new friends! Located in Room 301, open Friday 4pm-8pm, Saturday 8am-8pm, and Sunday 8am-1pm.

Accessibility Quiet Room – There’s going to be a lot going on, and that can be overwhelming for some people. We’ve set aside some space for people who need to unwind, and just need to recharge their social batteries. The Accessibility Quiet Room will be located in the Dekalb room Friday 4pm-5pm, and Saturday 1pm-3:30pm.

Courtsey of

The Art Show – Come see the work of our talented artists on display! Some of the work on display will even be up for auction, and some may even be available as prints! You also can vote for your favorite pieces. This is one of the best ways to let the artist know you appreciate their hard work (well, besides purchasing their art)

Dealers’ Hall – Here is where you’ll find a variety of exciting merchandise. In the past, we’ve had leatherworkers, costume companies, collectibles, and more!

JordanCon Charity Auction – The items here are rare or unique items, donated by our members and guests. This is a great way to grab something special for your collection, while also helping a good cause! This year’s cause is very close to us, proceeds will be donated to Hospice of Mercy in honor of our beloved Steve Godecke. Located in Maplewood B. First door on the left as you go down the Track Room Hallway. Our auction will run from 9 AM until 7 PM on Saturday.

Workshops – The workshops will take place in the Gardenia room. When you check in at registration, make sure to check out all the workshops we’re offering this year, and sign up early! Fees may apply, be sure to inquire at registration!

Seanchan Hold’em Poker Tournament – Ok… maybe we just rebranded Texas Hold’em, but it doesn’t matter because it’s still a blast! This event runs on Friday night, and proceeds go to charity! $20 buy-in.

Costume Contest – There is never a shortage of Cosplayers and Costumers at JordanCon. Some just enjoy dressing up and portraying their favorite characters, but some actually enter into a competition for us all to enjoy! Stop by and check out our incredibly talented group show off their hard work and dedication!

Shadow and Light – Our Darkest Timeline Themed Saturday night dance! Everyone is welcome. Attendees may dress up, not dress up, dress to match the theme, or even come in cosplay! Located in Dunwoody A, B, and C. Saturday Night from 8:30pm-11:30pm.

Helpful Hints, Guidelines, and Words of Wisdom

The 3, 2, 1 Rule – For every 24 hours, try to get a minimum of 3 hours of sleep, 2 meals, and 1 shower. · Drink plenty of water.

Wash your hands. Please. You don’t want to get Con Crud, which is our fun little name for the plague that befalls those unlucky souls who don’t follow this tip. People come from all over to go to the Con, and they bring with them their own special regional illnesses. You don’t want to leave JordanCon and then get sick, your boss will be very mad and blame all of us and that’s just not fair.

· VOLUNTEER – I can’t stress this enough, you should volunteer. This is absolutely the best way to get to know other people at the con and get to know your way around. Once you start, you won’t be able to stop, it’s so much fun being a part of the process! Haven’t signed up yet? Here is the link:

Dress Comfortably – it sure is fun to dress up! Just remember that you’re going to be walking around and on your feet for the entire day. So, wear comfortable shoes whenever you’re able. Keep in mind, you’re going to be inside most of the day, and the weather may be warm outside… but inside? That’s another story. Easy to remove outer layers are a good call here, so you can transition easily if you get too cold or too hot!

Write it down – Remembering details in all the hustle and bustle can be difficult. Write things down! Start a note on your phone or use this handy folder we’ve provided and store notes! You don’t want to forget your friend’s room number, or where the ConSuite is!

Are you a hugger? That’s awesome! Some of us aren’t… so just make sure you ask before you go around grappling everyone! It’s not that we don’t love you, but some people just aren’t as comfortable with this even with people they do know well.

So that is the quick version of the 2019 New Member Guide. Be sure to pick up the full guide at the registration desk or download it today.

JordanCon Fit Challenges

Join the JordanCon Fit Family and keep staying active throughout the weekend (and beyond!)

Let’s start with a Con Weekend Step Challenge.

Follow the steps below to link up with us so you can participate in our challenges.

Step 1

Create a Strava account and join the JordanCon Fit club.

Make sure your privacy is set to public, or your steps won’t be counted.


Step 2

Connect your fitness devices/trackers, if you have any.


If you don’t have a device, you can also download the app on your phone


Step 3

Join JordanCon’s Challenge Group

The first time you join a challenge, we will need to accept you- after that first time, you will be able to join all future challenges without having to wait for approval.

Mad Tea Party

Fancy a cuppa? Big hats encouraged, love of tea is a must – join us for the first ever JordanCon Mad Tea Party! Sign up now for this special event, scheduled for Friday, April 26 at 11:30 a.m.

That’s right.. shenanigans start even BEFORE opening ceremonies this year. You in? #pinkiesup #jcon2019 #wereallmadhere

*Note: You’ll need to sign in to see this page and purchase a ticket to the Mad Tea Party!

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