Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Series Review: Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan (Natural History of Dragons)

I have been trying to figure out a way to share all these books I read with you but still include other non-review posts on the blog.  One method I have come up with was to share the reviews for an entire series (or pair) of books in one post.  I will do my absolute best to keep spoilers out of these posts in case you plan to read the books, but there is a slight chance that even the synopsis of a book can give away the result of the previous book. So if you don't want to know anything at all about the later books in a series that might giveaway something in the first book STOP READING NOW!

I think this is my first completed series this year, and what a great series to kick off the year.  I had seen The Natural History of Dragons in the bookstore several years ago but was hesitant to pick it up but for some reason it kept attracting my attention this last year.  The final book in this 5 book series was released last year so I figured it was time for a binge read of the series.  I bought all the print books (which I suggest because there are some great pencil sketches throughout the books) but I had also borrowed the audio books from the library and the narrator, Kate Reading is AMAZING! If you get the chance definitely listen to these books!

So anyway on with my reviews . . . 

 Synopsis: "Marie Brennan begins a thrilling new fantasy series in A Natural History of Dragons, combining adventure with the inquisitive spirit of the Victorian Age.

You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart—no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon's presence, even for the briefest of moments—even at the risk of one's life—is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. . . .

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."

My Review: Why didn't anyone tell me to read this book sooner?! Wow, I absolutely loved this book and can't wait to read the rest of the series. I highly recommend the audio book, the narration is fantastic! Kate Reading really captured the not only the voice of Isabella but also the tone of the story as a whole. The story is obviously intellectual but it is approachable and told in a conversational way that is entertaining. The illustrations in the print book were also a great addition and while I would have loved to see more field work type illustrations, I really enjoyed that extra touch to draw you into the story. I could go on and on, especially about the events towards the end of the book but don't want to give any spoilers. I will definitely be consuming this series!

My Rating: I absolutely fell in love with this book, the writing style, the honest and critical tone, the narration, the subject, it all really comes together in this book for me.  Without a doubt a Four Paw and a Stump Wag book for me!


Synopsis: "The thrilling adventure of Lady Trent continues in Marie Brennan's The Tropic of Serpents . . . 

Attentive readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoir, A Natural History of Dragons, are already familiar with how a bookish and determined young woman named Isabella first set out on the historic course that would one day lead her to becoming the world’s premier dragon naturalist. Now, in this remarkably candid second volume, Lady Trent looks back at the next stage of her illustrious (and occasionally scandalous) career.

Three years after her fateful journeys through the forbidding mountains of Vystrana, Mrs. Camherst defies family and convention to embark on an expedition to the war-torn continent of Eriga, home of such exotic draconian species as the grass-dwelling snakes of the savannah, arboreal tree snakes, and, most elusive of all, the legendary swamp-wyrms of the tropics.

The expedition is not an easy one. Accompanied by both an old associate and a runaway heiress, Isabella must brave oppressive heat, merciless fevers, palace intrigues, gossip, and other hazards in order to satisfy her boundless fascination with all things draconian, even if it means venturing deep into the forbidden jungle known as the Green Hell . . . where her courage, resourcefulness, and scientific curiosity will be tested as never before."

My Review: This series certainly captured my attention and I am loving it. While I do own the print copies, and suggest that you at least see the beautiful illustrations included, I highly recommend the audio book narrated by Kate Reading! Again, as with the first book, the voice and tone of the book were captured beautifully in the audio book. I feel like I have come to know Isabella Camherst and while I don't agree with all of her decisions I do love her intelligence and determination throughout this book. I also love the way that she can admit when she was wrong and own up to her own lacking in fumbling through various situations. I did find this book in the series to be a little bit anti-climatic as the first book even though there is clearly a lot going on, I think it might be the slightly detached, analytical way of looking at it hindsight and more in a scientific way, which does go right along with the tone of the book but I still felt like it was slightly lacking in comparison, but still a very interesting read and one I did enjoy.

My Rating: While I wasn't quite as into this book as I was the previous book, it was still fantastic, and I really appreciate how the story developed with additional scientific discoveries and also the addition of political messes.  I give this one a rating of Four Paws.


Synopsis: "Devoted readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoirs, A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents, may believe themselves already acquainted with the particulars of her historic voyage aboard the Royal Survey Ship Basilisk, but the true story of that illuminating, harrowing, and scandalous journey has never been revealed—until now. Six years after her perilous exploits in Eriga, Isabella embarks on her most ambitious expedition yet: a two-year trip around the world to study all manner of dragons in every place they might be found. From feathered serpents sunning themselves in the ruins of a fallen civilization to the mighty sea serpents of the tropics, these creatures are a source of both endless fascination and frequent peril. Accompanying her is not only her young son, Jake, but a chivalrous foreign archaeologist whose interests converge with Isabella’s in ways both professional and personal.

Science is, of course, the primary objective of the voyage, but Isabella’s life is rarely so simple. She must cope with storms, shipwrecks, intrigue, and warfare, even as she makes a discovery that offers a revolutionary new insight into the ancient history of dragons."

My Review: As soon as I finished the second book in this series, I dove right into this book. There is a bit of a break in timeline between these two books, and it is nice to have that little bit of breathing room. I once again chose to listen to the audio book with Kate Reading narrating and I really think it just adds so much to the book. I did find this one to be a bit more enjoyable to read, you get to hear Isabella starting to develop more theories and hear/read her reasoning those theories out. This is also much more adventurous with a long sea voyage, a variety of locations, characters and dragons, as well as political climates and peoples. I love the way that Isabella is written so frank and clearly up front about bumbling through and stumbling upon discoveries, it makes the story so much more believable. While this is a truly fascinating series, I feel like I might take a tiny bit of a break before jumping into the final two books, I don't want to be deadened to the writing and story after reading too much at once, which I feel is possible with a series like this that has a little more distance between the characters and events.

My Rating: Another great installment, though at times it veered a little far from the original dragon research, it did manage to bring all the tangents back around into it.  I give this one a rating of Four Paws.


Synopsis: "After risking the neck of her loved ones and herself during her perilous sea voyage aboard The Basilisk, and the discoveries made at Keonga, Isabella, Lady Trent, returns to Scirland with the aim of publishing her research. And yet, given the level of secret knowledge she now posses, she is reduced to waiting to reveal her new academic discovery until royal decrees can be lifted and a fraught political situation avoided. In her idle frustration, Isabella vents her spleen upon the shoddy research published by lesser men with swollen heads in local journals. Enjoy the following collection of letters, found in a trunk of mislaid scholarly documents left behind when she removed to Linshire for the season." 

My Review: I have really enjoyed the Lady Trent series and I when I discovered this little extra addition to the series, I just had to read it. It isn't really a novella but just an extra little tidbit that isn't entirely necessary to the series but a fun extra read. It was fun to read the back and forth between Isabella and a supposed scholar with regards to a new find. Her voice comes through so strongly in her intelligent and while not entirely condescending but definitely informed letters and argument through the publication.

My Rating: While this isn't directly involved with the research of dragons it does give quite an idea of how Isabella has to really work for all of her research and overcome being a female in the male dominated world.  I give it a rating of Four Paws.


Synopsis: "The thrilling new book in the acclaimed fantasy series from Marie Brennan, as the glamorous Lady Trent takes her adventurous explorations to the deserts of Akhia.

Even those who take no interest in the field of dragon naturalism have heard of Lady Trent's expedition to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia. Her discoveries there are the stuff of romantic legend, catapulting her from scholarly obscurity to worldwide fame. The details of her personal life during that time are hardly less private, having provided fodder for gossips in several countries.

As is so often the case in the career of this illustrious woman, the public story is far from complete. In this, the fourth volume of her memoirs, Lady Trent relates how she acquired her position with the Royal Scirling Army; how foreign saboteurs imperiled both her work and her well-being; and how her determined pursuit of knowledge took her into the deepest reaches of the Labyrinth of Drakes, where the chance action of a dragon set the stage for her greatest achievement yet. " 

My Review: I have absolutely been loving this series and even though I have it in print I have much preferred the audio book version as narrated by Kate Reading, which I have been borrowing from the library. Because of that I had to wait about halfway through the book since I ran out of time, but honestly it didn't diminish my enjoyment at all, I was able to pick right back up. Once again our dragon obsessed narrator, Isabella finds herself stumbling into political quandaries, dangerous situations and of course making huge strides in the world of dragon studies. I love the way these books are written as memoirs but not in a pompous self righteous manner, but in a completely honest, some times dumb luck, accounting of events. I am thrilled with the direction of both the study and adventure direction the story has been taken but also the personal development in this book too. There will not be any waiting for the final book at the library, that will be a must purchase and read now book!

My Rating: The excitement is certainly ratcheted up in this book, with great strides in discovery, danger, politics, and even a bit of romance.  I really enjoyed this book and give it a rating of Four Paws and a Stump Wag!'


Synopsis: "The conclusion to the thrilling memoirs of Lady Isabella Trent and her legacy of dragon evolutionary research and anthropological adventures.

After nearly five decades (and, indeed, the same number of volumes), one might think they were well-acquainted with the Lady Isabella Trent--dragon naturalist, scandalous explorer, and perhaps as infamous for her company and feats of daring as she is famous for her discoveries and additions to the scientific field.

And yet--after her initial adventure in the mountains of Vystrana, and her exploits in the depths of war-torn Eriga, to the high seas aboard The Basilisk, and then to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia--the Lady Trent has captivated hearts along with fierce minds. This concluding volume will finally reveal the truths behind her most notorious adventure--scaling the tallest peak in the world, buried behind the territory of Scirland's enemies--and what she discovered there, within the Sanctuary of Wings."

My Review: This is probably one of my all time favorite final book in a series! I loved this exciting and dramatic conclusion to the Lady Trent series. I was wondering prior to starting it, where exactly the story would wind up, what would be the crowning achievement for Isabella and how that interwove with Suhail's as well. I can honestly say this was not exactly what I expected but it was so exciting. Again, I listened to the audio version because I just love Kate Reading's portrayal of Isabella, and I was completely captured the entire story. I love how even though this is clearly fiction and set in a fictional world and time, it is so closely modeled after our own and the style of narration is so informative, it really comes to life and is almost believable. It also makes me wish that I had sought a more exciting and adventurous (and rewarding) career in science. This is definitely a highly recommended series and totally worth reading to its conclusion.

My Rating: This book threw a twist at me that I never saw coming and certainly a fantastic adventure.  With everything that is going on, it still managed to wrap up this series so beautifully, something that so many authors struggle with but Brennan managed so perfectly! I can't help but give this one a rating of Four Paws and a Stump Wag (if only dogs and cats had more than 4 paws!)!


Full Series Review: Wow! I never expected to fall as in love with this series as I did, but it was entirely earned.  If you love dragons, or fantasy or science or even historical fiction (because even with the fantasy elements it reads a lot like a historical fiction set in the victorian age), you will probably enjoy this series.  All the elements really came together to create something fantastic.  I will definitely be ranking this among my all time favorite series! So I cannot give it any less than a Four Paw and a Stump Wag rating.  Even when things lagged a bit in the middle, it was all for a purpose, the tangents in the end were needed to complete the story as a whole.  It was so well structured and written, and again the narrator capturing the perfect tone and voice really just solidified the story as a whole!  


  1. I’ve been admiring these covers as you read them but didn’t look into them. They sound so unique! Who would have thought to throw dragons and the Victorian age together? I’ll have to check these out and I’ll definitely take your recommendation and listen to the audio version.

    1. They are unique and not at all what I expected and honestly so much better than I expected them to be, I loved them! I am looking forward to seeing what you think when you get around to them.