Review: A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

January 14, 2015 3 stars, Book Review 19 ★★★

Review: A Natural History of Dragons by Marie BrennanA Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan
Series: Memoir by Lady Trent #1
Published by Macmillan Audio, Tor Books on February 5, 2013
Genres: Adult SFF, Fantasy
Pages: 334
Length: 10 Hours 16 minutes
Narrator: Kate Reading
Source: Purchased
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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.


A Natural History of Dragons was quite the unexpected read. Being the start of a fictional set of memoirs of Lady Isabella Trent. The title of this book is actually the title of another book featured heavily in her memoirs of being what inspires Isabella’s lifelong love of dragons. Upon starting this book I was immediately captivated by Isabella’s story and her life.

A young whipper snapper grows into a most peculiar lady

While the memoir starts off narrated by an aged Isabella in the twilight of her years, the story then quickly jumps back to her as a child and moves forward from there. We get to see her grow up, develop her love for dragons and try to settle herself to the fact that she isn’t a man and will likely never be able to pursue the things that she’d like to. Until she meets a man that she thinks could be her friend but ends as her husband and indulges her in ways that I take it aren’t normally done with women of her time. Hence how she is able to go on an expedition out of country to research dragons.

Very improper if you please!

From the sounds of it I thought I would be in for some high adventuring. But the tone of Isabella’s character definitely isn’t the kind of adventuring tone I was expecting. Don’t get me wrong its still exciting what with the traveling, the seeing of and being attacked by dragons, and some mysteries to be solved, oh and some very liberal baptismal cleansing of demons. *snickers* But there isn’t a jovial tone. Because of Isabella’s personality the adventures have a rather proper and somber tone even if the Lady is quite the improper lady of her time. Because of this I actually found the first third of the book to be more exciting then the part when the expedition sets out for the country of Vystrani where they will be researching dragons. There were parts of this expedition that had such a lull that indeed I set the book aside for a few months before I picked it back up again and pushed through the remainder in a few days.

Listening versus reading

I personally started this book on audio and finished the second half in print. The audio narration was superb and I highly recommend it if you are an audio book reader. The only reason I switched to print was because I read faster then I’m able to listen to audios and I was already struggling to get through the lulls in the book that I knew if I didn’t switch I might not have finished.

The memoirs are far from over

I’m fairly confident that there are many more expeditions and mild mannered adventures in store for readers via Isabella’s memoirs. I do hope that I’m able to adjust to the tone of the stories better in the next installment because I did find the story and world so familiar and yet unique at the same time. Isabella’s native country of Scirland reminds me very much of Victorian England and yet she is creating an entire new world. I am definitely happy I was able to finish this book and will be gladly reading the next very soon!

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Tabitha (Pabkins)

When I'm in the zone I can flip book pages faster than the eye can see - screaming "More Input!" I'm a book, yarn, & art supply hoarding goblin who loves to draw, make toys and craft all sorts of creepy cute things. My current habit is to listen to audio books while I'm arting it up!
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19 Responses to “Review: A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan”

  1. Danya @ Fine Print

    Yeah, I agree about the tone of Isabella’s narration. I definitely thought it would be more of a “I may be a woman but I ain’t no lady” style romp, so I was a bit disappointed when it turned out to be more proper. But now that I know that I think I’ll enjoy the sequels more! Tropic of Serpents is on my list and apparently Isabella gets a certain young lady as an apprentice in that one, so I’m very excited about that.
    Danya @ Fine Print recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday: Vol. 27My Profile

  2. Lynn

    I’m really enjoying this series. The second is definitely a different feel – although some readers were disappointed to not have more dragon action. I really liked the second and to a certain extent preferred it to the first.
    I would be terrible with audio – there’s no way my mind wouldn’t wander!
    Lynn 😀
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  3. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I’m loving this series. I know some readers are most interested in the dragons, but I love how these book are about so much more, whether they’re snippets of Isabella’s life or the culture of whatever faraway place her expedition is visiting. It does read and feel like the memoirs of an accomplished lady, reminiscing about her many great achievements.
    Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum recently posted…Tough Traveling – MessiahsMy Profile

  4. La La in the Library

    Are there detailed illustrations in this book? I have this on my “gifts for mom” list my son has because for some reason I thought there were a lot of illustrations in it. Yes, I agree, when thinking about dragons I automatically think high adventure, too. Thanks for dropping by my blog. 🙂
    La La in the Library recently posted…WHATEVER WEDNESDAYMy Profile

  5. Valerie

    I’m glad you really liked it! It really reminds me of How to Train Your Dragon because it’s about researching dragons and this just sounds so cool! It sounds so much like a nonfiction book hahaha but I know it’s not
    Valerie recently posted…Stacking the Shelves #18My Profile