Review: A Natural History of Dragons

Book: A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan
Publisher: Tor Books, 2014
Genre: Fantasy, Kick-Ass-Women
Source + Date Read
: Library + Finished May 2014
Recommend: You all have no idea how much I love this. Of course I recommend it look at the hearts I gave it!
Book Pro’s: I loved the travelogue format of the novel.
Book Con’s: For the love of spoilers, I can’t say what the con is. But it’s a con alright.
Favourite Line“More shouts, and then my father was there, staring down at me in horror: the minor pagan god, appalled at what his worshiper had done.”

Summary: 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.
More Information: GoodReads

I know I start off a lot of my reviews with the usual drama-I’m-so-busy-disclaimer, but put up with me a bit OK? I’ve been quite absent these past few weeks and that’s because I’ve been a twat and procrastinated to the last month to get all of my 10,000 word papers due and study for my exam on the dreaded June 11th (shudders). But, this past Saturday a family friend picked me up and decided I needed a break and we went all around the country, it was beautiful! So sunny and lush! I got back home, much to be sadness around 6 and just didn’t feel like doing work. So I picked this book up at the library (after I wandered around the city aimlessly trying to ignore the fact I was still here!) and went home. And read the whole thing. In 5 hours. I got a massive headache and my eyes were twitching like crazy, but this book was worth it. It was worth every bit of it.

Like I mentioned earlier, the parts I loved about it I’ve read in other reviews as something that’s negative. The format is set up like a Victorian era travelogue, as women were encouraged to do during that time (they weren’t allowed to be considered real scientists you see). Now, part of being an anthropology student is reading an inordinate amount of old fashioned stuff like that. So I was quite pleased when Brennan took a horribly racist, sexist and bringgenre such as this and made it actually pleasing to read. The format is well suited to understanding the main character’s struggles and her rage against the patriarchal normativity of that time.

I quite enjoyed the characters, every single one of them had something valuable to contribute, characters that I wasn’t too fond of. I’ll admit that around 3/4 into the book I figured everything out, however, do not let this deter you because the author throws in some serious sucker punches that catches readers off guard. The writer does an excellent job at the world building, as the book’s world is a reflection of our very own Earth yet drastically different and somehow just a bit more magical and wonderful (which is the purpose of fantasy in my opinion).

Furthermore, Tor Books did an amazing job with the presentation of the novel. The cover is absolutely drool worthy, seriously, it’s so amazing I want a poster of it. Secondly, the book includes illustrations, brilliant, beautiful, amazing illustrations that t do not detract from the text of the piece, but rather aid in our conception of the world. No lumpy dragons in your imagination! The illustrations are 2 parts fierce and a million parts fantastic.

I’ll stop fangirling now, but you get the point right? Read the book.



About Claire (BWB)

It's Claire (aka Quirky) from Bitches With Books, an online book blog that serves up a healthy dose of book reviews, lists + literary madness.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, SFF and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Review: A Natural History of Dragons

  1. Pingback: Review: The Voyage of the Basilisk (A Memoir by Lady Trent #3) | Bitches With Books

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  10. I got this from Netgalley ages ago, and I’m so glad it’s our bookgroup BotM because I REALLY need to read it o.o’

    The fact that you read the ENTIRE thing in one go speaks volumes. I remember being sent some press info about the book actually, and there was a document with some GORGEOUS illustrations. I think it was all the ones in the book, as you’ve noted, plus maybe some concept art? I remember that alone was enough to get me interested 🙂 Plus dragons!

  11. *adds to Goodreads* You know, when I saw that cover I thought it was non-fiction for some reason? Haha. But it sounds so much better than I expected, so thanks for sharing your review 😀

  12. Grace says:

    Buying this next time I’m at the bookstore.

  13. A magical and wonderful Earth? Which rocket did you say goes there, again? 😉

  14. DoingDewey says:

    Good luck with all the up-coming school work! This book sounds really awesome, especially the illustrations.

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