Friday, April 5, 2013

Book Review: A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

Title:  A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent
Author:  Marie Brennan
Genre:  Fantasy
Pages:  336

Rating:  A-

Synopsis from  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.
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So A Natural History of Dragons was nothing like I expected, and not in a bad way.  I was expecting something more on the fantastic side, with lots of dragons and creatures.  But the dragons played a very minor role.  The story was mostly a memoir about Isabella Camherst, her marriage, and what led her to become a dragon naturalist.  It's implied that there will be at least one or two sequels to this memoir since it only covered the first nineteen years of Isabella's life.  Plus, in the book, Isabella discussed "future volumes" of her memoirs, and I'm hoping Brennan really does write more because I enjoyed this first one.

Overall the book had good dialogue and an interesting story.  It does get slow at points when it gets bogged down with scientific details.  The story isn't very action motivated at all, at least not until the end.  Then all the action seems to happen at once.  It took me a little longer to get through this book than others, but it was worth trudging through the slow parts.

One of the reasons I really liked the story was because Isabella was a very different heroine.  She's bookish, not sentimental, and very straightforward.  Her husband, Jacob, is the perfect match for her, and I fell in love with him myself.  The other characters are good too, with enough character development to keep them from being two-dimensional, but Jacob and Isabella have the most depth and realism.  A-


  1. Reading the title, even I expected the book to be something fantastical, dragons-ey. But this sounds fascinating too. I can't quite imagine what a dragon naturalist would do, though I'd certainly like to read and find out!

  2. I agree with your review. I read the book and enjoyed it despite the fact there wasn't more about the dragons

  3. I keep hearing about this book, and since I love dragons but not scientific discussion, I can't decide whether to explore it or not!

  4. I've read a few good reviews for this so really want to read it.
    Lynn :D


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