A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

I read A Natural History of Dragons, and this is my review of that.

The book
This is the first in a trilogy about a woman named Isabella Trent who lives in a world where dragons are real and she becomes obsessed with them when she’s growing up. She lives in a world where women are supposed to be meek and like the finer arts and behave themselves, and listen to their husbands or fathers. Isabella clearly doesn’t conform to this and when she does get married she manages to convince her very kind and understanding husband to taking her on a scientific exploration looking into dragons. This obviously causes some uproar, but who cares, Isabella goes to see the dragons. They go north to a little town where Rock wyrms (a type of dragons) are terrorizing a town. And Isabella and her companions try to figure out why.

I liked it. It was a fun romp, and it was entertaining. I liked Isabella. She really didn’t fit into this world she lived in and she was so interested in dragons and biology that if she wasn’t allowed to study them she basically wilted. And I thought that was really cool. Because it was such a sweet story of not fitting in and trying your best to please your parents, even if it makes you waste away inside.

I thought it was interesting to see how Jacob, Isabella’s husband, sort of dealt with her. Because he is obviously from the same world as her, and he’s caught by the same trappings as her. Obviously he is a dude so he doesn’t really understand how being a woman restricts Isabella’s life, at least not completely. I think he knows he’s privileged, but he doesn’t understand to which extent. He is however a very, I guess progressive, man for his world. He finds a way to involve Isabella, and while he has this old fashioned idea that he’s supposed to protect her, he brings her along and he utilizes her talents for drawing. He does believe in her, and he cares about her and he wants her to be happy, which I thought was really sweet.

I thought the writing was beautiful and lovely. It was very poetic. I also loved the drawings that were added. The alibi for bringing a woman on the expedition is that she’s a skilled artist and can draw the dragons, and the book has Isabella’s sketches in it, which was really cool. The dragons were really beautiful.

The dragons… I love dragons. And I thought these dragons were beautiful, and sweet. I loved that the people in this world knew very little about them and decided they needed to know more. I liked how honest it was about how they did their scientific explorations. I loved how the dragons were sweet and beautiful and how thoughtful they were. How they had all these intellectual thoughts and feelings and social structures.

One minor drawback. There was just a lot going on. It’s not a very long book, but there are a lot of things going on, and a lot of different characters. And I felt like it didn’t go into any sort of depth. I feel like maybe she could have dropped one crazy plot thread and gone into some more depth and that would have made the book a little better. Because it’s the first book in a trilogy, there’s a lot of world building and character building. So it got a bit shallow. I hope that the second book might be better since the world and characters have both been introduced. So I’ll still read the other two books, it just could have been better.


I thought it was funny, it was fun, it was interestingly written. It’s sort of a journal/scientific text. It’s about an interesting, clever woman who takes no shit. And also dragons.