Review: A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent #1) by Marie Brennan

Lady Isabella Trent is the world’s leading dragon naturalist, but obtaining that distinction was no easy feat.

Her journey to leading dragon scientist begins at a young age which is where this novel begins in the land of Scirland.

What began as a hobby soon grew into a full blown passion.  She began collecting Sparklings at a young age and ever since she saw her father’s book, A Natural History of Dragons, in his study her desire to know more about dragons has only grown.

Though not everyone is enthusiastic about her hobby. Her parents discouraged her in hopes that she will find a suitable husband.

Isabella enters in to what she calls her ‘grey years’ where she gives up everything dragon related. One fateful day, her brother takes her to a menagerie where she sees three dragons in real life.

Once again she is awestruck by the beauty of the dragons and can barely contain herself when another spectator asks a question. It’s here at the menagerie that she meets Jacob Camherst who shares her love of dragons.

Eventually they marry and soon after their marriage, Jacob is asked to be part of a dragon expedition. Isabella refuses to be left behind on what she feels will be a once in a life time experience.

Reluctantly Jacob agrees to take her along. When they arrive in the distant mountainous region of Vystrana, they soon realize that their expedition was more dangerous than originally thought when a dragon swoops from above injuring one in their party.

After they arrive in the village of Drustanev, their work begins. They soon discover that the dragon attack wasn’t an isolated incident. The rock-wyrm dragons are typically peaceful and don’t attack the villagers but for some reason they are being provoked.

Immediately the group sees a need to research the habits of the rock-wyrm dragons and discover what is happening and why. With danger swooping right out of the skies, Isabella and Jacob are in for a fire breathing good time!

Let’s start with that made me want to read this book….number one, the stunning cover. This is probably the best cover I’ve seen in a long time! It captures the turn of the century naturalist movement and fantasy dragons perfectly! I LOVE it!

So needless to say, the cover is eye catching. The next thing that made me want to read this was it sounded like (as one reviewer promised on Goodreads), that it was an Amelia Peabody meets How to Train Your Dragon combo.

I would say that’s a pretty accurate description of the novel now that I’ve read it. I love turn of the century novels with a strong female lead, so this sounded right up my alley.

This book started off a little bumpy for me. There were a lot of ‘asides’ in the early chapters that made the flow choppy for me. That did decrease as the novel went on but I still found it distracting especially in the beginning.

The setting of the novel also seems a little useless. I realized that she was trying to create a made-up land where dragons were common place but for me, the land and the society/culture of the people were so much like Victorian England that I found myself wondering why wasn’t the novel just set in Victorian England?

I would expect the fictional land to add something to the overall story and play more of a role, but in this book it simply seemed like a bland backdrop to the story. I think the novel would have been just as good or better had the novel been set in England and had dragons be part of the real world.

A lot of people complained about the lack of dragons in a book whose title promises dragons. I thought there were enough dragons to keep the reader interested. Besides the title of this book and the title of the book in the story that influenced Isabella are one in the same (confusing I know but try to follow me here). For me the title of the actual book was more of a reference to the novel that influenced Isabella’s career rather than a book promising to be about dragons….if that makes sense.

I’m a little neutral about the characters. Isabella and Jacob were nothing overly special or unique. Isabella was the strong minded, witty heroine and Jacob the accommodating husband, nothing more or less for me. There wasn’t any one thing that made me stand up and take notice of them.

All that said, the story was a good read. It wasn’t overly engrossing, at least for me, but it was entertaining, charming, and with an easy to follow plot. I liked it, I can’t say that I LOVED it but it was definitely worth a read and I would continue reading the series because it was unique and I like the idea of the overall story.

The mystery and the quest to answer the issue about dragons attacking humans was enough to hold my interest. Within the plot and the research aspects of the novel, Brennan’s background as an anthropologist really shined! I am partial to science and I loved that it played a large role in the novel itself, and the author clearly knew what she was talking about and her influence and passion was felt on every page.

I am excited to read the rest of the books in the series, as now that I am familiar with the writing style and characters, I am curious to see where Lady Trent’s research will take her next!

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent (Memoir by Lady Trent #1)

  • Hardcover, 336 pages
  • Published February 5th 2013 by Tom Doherty Associates
  • ISBN 0765331969 (ISBN13: 9780765331960)
  • Review copy provided by: Personal collection

This book counts toward: NA

  • Hosted by: NA
  • Books for Challenge Completed: NA

Recommendation: 3 out of 5

Genre: Fantasy, Victorian Lit

Memorable lines/quotes: 

A lie is most plausible when the teller believes it

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4 Comments

  1. I freakin loved this book you know tho it’s nice to see a more nuanced review of it!

    Reply
    • Ya I had heard o many good things so maybe I had high expectations…???? I do have the second book in the series so I am also going to read that an see. I liked the book enough to continue the series so I guess that’s a good sign 🙂

      Reply

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