Review: A Natural History of Dragons

A Natural History of Dragons – Marie Brennan


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 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.


Characters – 6

Lady Isabella Trent could easily be an unlikable character, but I really came to enjoy the witty attitude. She was really nonchalant about some of her behaviour and refused to apologise for anything because she is an older woman reminiscing and why should she? I think it was a wonderful way for the narrator to retell her story while adding in a personality that hints at the character development through the rest of the series. It made me want to look forward to what I was seeing going forward.

However, where this novel suffers is through the rest of the characters. They are not as developed and you really don’t get a strong sense of voice or personality from them. I did enjoy them, and came to really like the relationship between Lady Isabella and Jacob, but I also didn’t feel sad for the characters when bad stuff happened to them, and this was due to the lack of realistic character building in them.

Atmosphere – 5

This book had enough atmosphere where needed, but didn’t really build a large amount of tension and suspense. It was very matter of fact and things seemed to just ‘happen’. I didn’t mind and it made other aspects better, but the sense of atmosphere was just middling.

Writing – 6

I thought the narrative voice was really strong and enjoyed the general writing and style to the novel. I love how the thought process of the character was shown, and the use of description throughout. The writing was simple and easy, which made this a really easy read, but it is also poetic or amazingly memorable. It is a good solid novel with some generally fun characters and ideas, but it is definitely not groundbreaking.

Plot – 6

I can’t really fault the plot. I thought the pacing of it was well done, something happened in every chapter and section and I think this was handled really well. Additionally, the plot was easy to follow, but with enough interesting things to keep me entertained throughout. It didn’t seem to overwhelm or become convoluted.

Intrigue – 7

This is what really helped the novel along. There are a few different conspiracies and areas of intrigue within the novel that leave you wondering what is going to happen next, or trying to guess/work out exactly what is going on along with the characters on the expedition. From learning more about the Dragons and their motivations, to uncovering dangerous plots within this exotic location, it was really enjoyable to be swept along and I did keep coming back instantly to find out what would happen next.

Logic – 7

There were no points in this novel that I really thought ‘nope’, but it is a fantastical alternative history that is based in a world of dragons. Nothing seemed out of place in the world created and I think that the story did a good job here.

Enjoyment – 7

My overall enjoyment of this was high. I wanted to keep going back to it and find out what would happen; similarly, I found myself smiling or laughing at certain things along with Lady Isabella and I know that if I could find someone just like her, I would definitely want to be friends. On the other hand, I don’t think I’d be shouting about this novel to everyone I know and making them read it, so while I was very pleasantly surprised my enjoyment was not a 10.

I listened to this on audiobook and overall it was a pleasant and easygoing experience. I am kind of sad that I didn’t read it through my physical copy as there are illustrations and drawings throughout; however, the audiobook has a great narrator and I think that experiences as really good as well. I would suggest that you use a combination of both, if you’re able

CAWPILE Rating – 6.29

3 Stars