Slow burn historical travel tale that eventually explodes into gory horror.
This novel is the story of Jaffy Brown, a sailor and naturalist in Victorian London. A number of exciting incidents including shipwreck, attack by wild animals and whaling are described in an involving and detailed first person narration.
Despite being packed with incident, the story is slow paced. Even the earliest parts of the book, describing Jaffy's childhood are unhurried, the ship-board passages are almost static. The characters themselves draw the reader's attention to this : "Skip..said..."We've gone into dragon time."...It was true, something had changed, as if we'd sailed into a different air."(p179)
This slow development only makes the eventual crisis more shocking.
The fictional search for Komodo Dragons, quite plausible, is fascinating. It makes an interesting contrast with David Attenborough's real life account of his search for the Dragons, a short 100 years or so later. Strange to think that Jaffy's Dragon could well have survived, ancient and huge, to see Attenborough and his film crew.
"Jamrach's Menagerie" is a well written and invoving book, although readers should be aware it is, inevitably, a difficult and grisly read at times. The short afterword describing which elements of the story are based on real life incidents is surprising.