Customer Reviews for

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent

Average Rating 4.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

More Darwin than Dragons

Stop right now. If you're looking for Pern or Temeraire, then this book is not going to scratch that itch. The dragons in Lady Isabella Trent's world are natural creatures, and they are treated as such by both the character and the author.

If, however, you enjoy snar...
Stop right now. If you're looking for Pern or Temeraire, then this book is not going to scratch that itch. The dragons in Lady Isabella Trent's world are natural creatures, and they are treated as such by both the character and the author.

If, however, you enjoy snarky old ladies commenting on the adventures (mis- and otherwise) of their youth, if you get a kick out of cryptozoology, if you love nature documentaries, anthropology, and mannered romances of the 19th century, if you wish you could have gone along on Darwin's voyage of the Beagle, if you think Wallace was shafted on the whole evolution issue due to class prejudice and structural inequality... then this book with thrill and delight you.

It's right there in the title. A _Natural History_ of Dragons. Brennan doesn't disappoint on that front. She builds a convincing secondary world -- a good choice, as it frees her from the constraints of fitting her dragons in around the cracks of actual history and biological classification--where exists an entire... hm... I think it would be Family in taxonomic terms... of reptilian creatures, some of which fit a set of characteristics marking them as dragons.

She shows us this world through the eyes of Lady Isabella Trent, and Lady Isabella shows us _her_ world through her memoirs documenting her first forays into naturalism.

This double-voiced narrative is perhaps the strongest part of this book (alongside the excellent portrayal of scientific study and the challenges of fieldwork). Brennan draws the reader into the gap between younger Isabella's adventures and older Isabella's wisdom and regrets, and there is just as much emotional weight in what Isabella doesn't tell us as there is in what she does say.

This weight comes to bear most prominently in the portrayal of the relationship between Isabella and her husband, Jacob. I love the fieldwork elements and Isabella's voice, but I think the complexity and depth of emotion explored in this non-standard romance is the heart of the book as much as Isabella's curiosity and passion for studying dragons is.

The only 'flaw' I can really call out is more a flaw of Isabella's personality than it is mis-step by Brennan. Isabella can be extremely clinical, and she approaches people and relationships much the same as she does dragons (but without the same passion). This impersonal, analytical perspective pervades the book, and it means I sometimes didn't form much of an attachment to secondary characters as I would have liked. There are several characters I think I _would_ care more about if I could see them through someone else's eyes, but Isabella's emotional detachment and lack of interest in the interiority of the people around her meant that I never really got the chance to care for them (with the exception of her husband).

Overall, a strong book, a brilliant and engaging character, fun with dragons, and SCIENCE!

Also, check out that cover! I want _all_ the Todd Lockwood art.

posted by 15451989 on April 14, 2013

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

This book

I am a fan of dragons and fantasy so i thought i would give it a try it was a little slow but it was still very well writen

posted by Anonymous on July 11, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2013

    More Darwin than Dragons

    Stop right now. If you're looking for Pern or Temeraire, then this book is not going to scratch that itch. The dragons in Lady Isabella Trent's world are natural creatures, and they are treated as such by both the character and the author.

    If, however, you enjoy snarky old ladies commenting on the adventures (mis- and otherwise) of their youth, if you get a kick out of cryptozoology, if you love nature documentaries, anthropology, and mannered romances of the 19th century, if you wish you could have gone along on Darwin's voyage of the Beagle, if you think Wallace was shafted on the whole evolution issue due to class prejudice and structural inequality... then this book with thrill and delight you.

    It's right there in the title. A _Natural History_ of Dragons. Brennan doesn't disappoint on that front. She builds a convincing secondary world -- a good choice, as it frees her from the constraints of fitting her dragons in around the cracks of actual history and biological classification--where exists an entire... hm... I think it would be Family in taxonomic terms... of reptilian creatures, some of which fit a set of characteristics marking them as dragons.

    She shows us this world through the eyes of Lady Isabella Trent, and Lady Isabella shows us _her_ world through her memoirs documenting her first forays into naturalism.

    This double-voiced narrative is perhaps the strongest part of this book (alongside the excellent portrayal of scientific study and the challenges of fieldwork). Brennan draws the reader into the gap between younger Isabella's adventures and older Isabella's wisdom and regrets, and there is just as much emotional weight in what Isabella doesn't tell us as there is in what she does say.

    This weight comes to bear most prominently in the portrayal of the relationship between Isabella and her husband, Jacob. I love the fieldwork elements and Isabella's voice, but I think the complexity and depth of emotion explored in this non-standard romance is the heart of the book as much as Isabella's curiosity and passion for studying dragons is.

    The only 'flaw' I can really call out is more a flaw of Isabella's personality than it is mis-step by Brennan. Isabella can be extremely clinical, and she approaches people and relationships much the same as she does dragons (but without the same passion). This impersonal, analytical perspective pervades the book, and it means I sometimes didn't form much of an attachment to secondary characters as I would have liked. There are several characters I think I _would_ care more about if I could see them through someone else's eyes, but Isabella's emotional detachment and lack of interest in the interiority of the people around her meant that I never really got the chance to care for them (with the exception of her husband).

    Overall, a strong book, a brilliant and engaging character, fun with dragons, and SCIENCE!

    Also, check out that cover! I want _all_ the Todd Lockwood art.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 22, 2013

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book, the memoir aspect, the story





    I thoroughly enjoyed this book, the memoir aspect, the storyline, the illustrations (though few but very well done) and the way the whole entire book was put together made this a very intriguing book to read through.




    What Brennan has created here is a story that will captivate and keep you entranced all the way through till the action packed ending.




    I loved the fact that although this book is fiction it's written in the way of a memoir, the life of Isabella a rambunctious and wilful child who discovered her first Dragon at a young age which then started her obsession with discovering the workings  (both inner and outer) of the species.
    Starting with her early childhood and working her way through to her early twenties her fascination with Dragons never diminishes and sets her off on an expedition to Drustanev to assist in researching them.
    And whilst I did have some trouble in pronouncing a lot of the names and places ( a section at the back of the book dealing with the pronounciations would have been helpful), the world building that occurs throughout with these imaginary places takes you to faraway places a journey that will enchant you.
    The illustrations were gorgeous and as I said at the start of my review I definitely would have loved more, they help the imagination more in picturing the Dragons and having an idea of just what the author is describing.




    The chapters were another interesting addition to the book, the way that at the start of each  there is a description of sorts on what will occur in the following chapter, I found this was a part of the book I was looking forward too, knowing what's coming but not getting exact detail either.




    I hope that this is going to be the first book in a series, I can imagine that Isabella has a huge amount of adventures that she still has to share, I will definitely pick up any further books that may be released of the memoirs of this headstrong and sometimes opinionated heroine.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2013

    Does not disappoint

    This book is a lot of fun to read. The author takes a preposterous premise of living dragons and makes a completely wonderful story with action, adventure and romance. I have been waiting a month to read it and now feel frustrated because more stories of Lady Trent should be coming. Waiting Again!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 30, 2013

    This a unique take on dragons as living creatures. It's reads ho

    This a unique take on dragons as living creatures. It's reads how I imagine naturalists from the 1800s wrote about their adventures and studies of the natural world they were exploring esp. expeditions into Africa or S. America. I also appreciate how the author brings out the limits that society placed upon women of that time and how frustrating it was for a woman whose interests were broader than those limits

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2013

    This book

    I am a fan of dragons and fantasy so i thought i would give it a try it was a little slow but it was still very well writen

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2013

    Great first

    I heard about this on youtube and decided to give it a shot. I am not usually one for dragons but thought the victorian memoir aspect would be enjoyable. I loved all parts and encourage you to give it a try even if you are not big into fantasy. I hope there will be more books

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 15, 2013

    This novel is like a hot cup of tea on a cold, dreary day. It's

    This novel is like a hot cup of tea on a cold, dreary day. It's not a shot of espresso to wake you up in the morning, not a cup of chamomile to lull you to sleep at night. It's both exciting and relaxing, showing off Brennan's major research chops and adeptness with voice.

    A Natural History of Dragons has a strong vein of proto-feminism and a realistic romance founded on intellectual pursuits and genuine affection developed over time.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2013

    Brilliant!

    One of the best heroines in years AND DRAGONS. I want dozens of sequels!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2013

    Ok

    Very well written, but the character is so selfish in every way that I could not really enjoy the book. I know we are supposeyd to find her intriguingly quirky and a wonderfully strong willed female character, but I find her to be utterly self-centered and inappropriate for her time and place.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 29, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Here's the thing about A Natural History of Dragons: it's a youn

    Here's the thing about A Natural History of Dragons: it's a young adult crossover; it can be classified as either adult fantasy or young adult fantasy and it would fit right in. Honestly, it's what I think the new adult genre could be: a story where somebody has come of age and knows who they are and is now struggling with what to do with that.

    And it was good.

    There's a few little things, of course, that matter in the long run. The book, divided into several mini-Books, let its pacing slow considerably after book two, and that is in part to the focus on non-dragon related activities. (I do wish that dragons had been featured more in the book, but I loved how they were handled when they were there.)

    It's also told in a biographical style, meaning it has the tone of an older woman reflecting on her younger stuff -- lots of heavy foreshadowing on what will occur, mentions of other adventures, and reflections on the fact that she made some stupid decisions. A lot of people don't like that kind of style, but I found that it worked rather well for this story.

    And that leads me to the most important point:

    I, Nicole, am in love with Isabella Trent.

    Not the romantic kind of love, of course, but the kind of love that you find in a kindred spirit; it's as if the character was written for me. With the exception of her being much more scientific than I am, I understood her and loved her and her story. Her excitement was mine, her discoveries mine, her pain, her love.

    Needless to say, I love this book because of her character. Her own obsession with dragons, of course, is tied inherently to my own, but I loved everything about her: her humour, her intelligence, and how she refused to be trapped within the box of her time. Even her taste in husband - who I also adored - was impeccable.

    I liked the setting as well -- the alternate world to ours suited me quite well, though I know there have been complaints about renaming everything. Why not just do it AU-style, like His Majesty's Dragon? But I understood it well enough, so I didn't mind. This, of course, could also have to do with my blind love for Isabella; I highly suggest reading The Book Smuggler's review of this on Kirkus for a more objective opinion.

    But as far as I'm concerned - oh, I loved it, and yes, I will be reading it - or at least the first two-thirds! - again.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2013

    Wonderful

    A well written start to what I imagine is going to be great adventure series. Please keep writng and I will keep reading!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 12, 2013

    My thoughts: I've been interested in dragon stories since I was

    My thoughts: I've been interested in dragon stories since I was a kid & my mum would pretend we were looking for dragons in the woods. As soon as I saw the cover for this book, I knew it was something I wanted to read, and the back-cover description (above) convinced me for sure. I'm delighted to say I was not disappointed. Marie Brennan has written the book as the memoirs of Isabella, Lady Trent, and I thought that gave it a unique, distinct voice. It starts with Isabella as a young girl, explaining how she became interested in dragons, and some of her childhood scrapes relating to them. She grows up over the first half of the story, then embarks on the first expedition of what will turn into a career.
    The historical feel of the story is interesting - it feels like 1800s England, maybe - a place where women  stay in the home, taking care of their husbands, and definitely don't go galavanting across the continent chasing something as shockingly dangerous as a dragon. I love the adventures Isabella has growing up. They seemed very realistic, and I like the way it was told, with grown-Isabella almost shaking her head at her younger self as she recounts what happened. I felt like I was right there with her wishing for a way that she would be able to pursue her interest in dragons.


    The second half of the story takes place when Isabella is recently married - along with a few others, she goes on an expedition abroad to the mountains in search of dragons to study. While the travellers adjust to life in a rural foreign village, and try to find the dragons they have come to see, they are also trying to solve the mystery of what has become of the man who is meant to be their host. I liked how the various strands of the plot mixed together. Nothing seemed rushed, or unbelievable but it definitely wasn't boring - I found myself thinking "just another chapter" as I tried to put the book away to get some sleep!
    As well as the lovely cover, there are other illustrations inside which helped bring the story to life - Isabella sketches, and it was fun to see what the dragons looked like. My favourite is when Isabella and her companions are examining a dead dragon, trying to work out things like how it flies.
    A lovely foray into the world of the dragon naturalist, Marie Brennan's 'A Natural History of Dragons', the memoirs of Lady Trent, is a delightful combination of fantasy and historical, with an interesting narration style.
    I can't wait to read the sequel! I give this book 9 stars.
     [e-arc provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review. Review originally posted by me at The Book Bundle.]

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2014

    Fabulous!

    Brennan has clearly done her research into the history of women in science. While Isabella, Lady Trent lives in a AU world shifted orthogonally from ours, she is also very clearly a nineteenth century British Lady Scientist in the tradition of Mary Anning, Mary Kirby, Hertha Ayrton or Margaret Huggins (well the last was Irish but I can't resist listing an astronomer). It was an era when a woman could not be a scientist without a doting, indulgent father and/or husband. Our fictional Lady Trent is fortunate to have both. She is so REAL and alive, and it's just simply thrilling to have how hard women have had to fight to become scientists brought to life for a general audience.

    How far we have come is painted in living breathing colors: Isabella is a young girl stiffled to live in a grey world, denying everything she is, until she is fortunate enough to have a loving father that stears her towards potential husbands that may allow her to follow her passion for Natural History - in particular the study of Dragons. She is not a modern girl placed in the ninteenth century, she understands and in most ways accepts the limitations society places on her, she feels distress at chaffing at its bindings - but her joy at doing the science she loves outweighs all the dissapproval. I would completely believe I was reading the biography of Mary Anning had her dragons been alive instead of only bones in the ground (and had Anning been upper class). This is a lovely book and a fabulous adventure story that I would recommend for all.

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  • Posted April 18, 2014

    So glad I founds this! What marvelous fun! I love the main char

    So glad I founds this!
    What marvelous fun! I love the main character. She is a pip starting as a little girl.
    Her adventures, both young and older, are wonderful.
    I look forward to reading more of her memoirs.

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    Posted April 21, 2014

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    Posted April 16, 2014

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    Posted February 28, 2013

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