Lady Trent is a world renowned expert on dragons, whose scientific study helped the world understand these remarkable beasts. Her memoir tells the tale of how she went from a bookish, dragon-obsessed girl to a young woman, bound by the rules of Scirland society yet defying everyone to travel to the mountains of Vystrana.

“Dragons, smugglers, ruins – is there any danger you won’t go running to meet?”

Written in the style of a memoir, A Natural History of Dragons is set in a world similar to Victorian England and its legacy of scientific exploration. It’s not quite steampunk, perhaps in the very early days before everything is steam powered, it could have easily been in our world but with dragons. Of course, it’s a time when ladies are supposed to act ladylike and not traipse off to heathen lands on expeditions.

The memoir style allows Lady Trent to look back on some of her thoughts and actions with hindsight. Perhaps we can’t expect a 19 year old woman from a high society background to be completely free from naivety or ignorance, and the older narrator can point out where she has since come to think otherwise. She references her other works, reminding us that the world exists outside the pages of this book.

“Ponies!” I dismissed these with a snort. “Can ponies fly, or breathe particles of ice upon those who vex them? I think not. Ponies, indeed.”

It’s odd, the narrative voice is one I thought I wouldn’t have warmed to, but by the end I was invested in her character and moved by her honesty. She cares about dragons but she has the sense to put people first; good people at least. I loved the relationship between her and her surly ladies’ maid, Dragmira. She might be the farthest she can get from the staff at home but she ends up exactly what she needs. A Scirling maid surely wouldn’t have put up with her running after dragons and strange men.

It’s not your average dragon story. I’d recommend to fans of Gail Carriger as well as historical fiction readers that don’t mind a bit of make believe.

A Natural History of Dragons is published by Titan Books and is now available in paperback. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Also reviewed @ The Ranting Dragon

Shelve next to: Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.