A Natural History of Dragons (#1)

Next: The Tropic of Serpents (#2)

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.


“Brennan’s world-building is wonderfully subtle, rendering a familiar land alien with casual details. Fans of fantasy, science, and history will adore this rich and absorbing tale of discovery.”

Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“Though dragons may not exist in our own world’s history, it is certain that the struggles of women like Trent do, and Brennan captures both with equal elegance in this first volume in the memoirs of Lady Trent.”

Shelf Awareness, Starred Review

“Told in the style of a Victorian memoir, courageous, intelligent and determined Isabella’s account is colorful, vigorous and absorbing. A sort of Victorian why-what-whodunit embellished by Brennan’s singular upgrade of a fantasy bromide and revitalizingly different viewpoint.”


“Downton Abbey, but with dragons! [...] A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS is a mellow and agreeable memoir, an absorbing and entertaining novel, and I want more.”


“A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS is a tale historical fiction lovers and fantasy fans alike will adore. Isabella is a heroine readers will root for, and fans of Naomi Novik and Mary Robinette Kowal will especially enjoy this book.”

RT Book Reviews

“What’s truly great about this novel is the seamless merging of fantasy themes and incredibly realistic scientific and social details. Come for the dragon adventure — because there’s a lot of it. But stay for characters whose stories feel as real as Marie Curie’s.”


“Isabella is a triumph, her voice a pitch-perfect blend of Jane Austen and travel writer Freya Stark. Brennan juggles the two layers with aplomb, using the older Isabella’s wise, wry detachment to reflect on the period’s snobbery and jingoism without sacrificing the main story’s intrigue and fun. Excellent stuff.”


“Whether it’s a recollection of a youthful Isabella disguising herself as a boy so she can sneak along on a hunting party near her father’s estate, or Lady Trent’s first examination of a dragon corpse in the mountains of Vystrana […] you can’t help but get caught up in the discoveries she’s making.”

Dallas News

“A blend of Elizabeth Peters’ formidable Amelia Peabody and a decidedly less-cuddly version of How to Train Your Dragon.”

The Book Smugglers, via Kirkus

“It’s a saga, Reader, that I’ll happily follow, containing enough madcap adventure (Draconian ruins! Secret smuggling cabals! Mysterious dragon burial grounds!) to satisfy the armchair explorer and enough research to ground its engaging alternate history.”

Strange Horizons

‘”While the story is ostensibly a fantasy, it has the heart of a science fiction novel, in the spirit of exploration and scientific endeavor.”

Geek Exchange

“If you are looking for a grown-up version of How to Train Your Dragon, with some Jane Austen mixed in, I would definitely suggest picking up A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS . It is an extraordinarily well-written and tremendously gripping tale filled with mystery, humor, discovery, and originality.”

The Ranting Dragon

“Isabella is no shrinking violet, and her rather madcap adventures grow from the natural curiosity of a child to mould her into the Darwin of dragons. Ms. Brennan masterfully and evocatively tells this memoir-style tale of one girl’s love of dragons, and her willingness to sacrifice everything to study them.”


“The author’s love of books, science and dragons shines brightly through this novel […] The atmosphere is a blend of Downton Abbey, Pern and A Series of Unfortunate Events. The eclectic mixture works and it’s easy to imagine dragon boffinry and petticoats being discussed at a high society dinner in Scirling.”

Seattle PI

“Lady Isabella Trent is a wonderfully charming female-lead who is willing to break from the gender roles of the era and do as her heart desires, study dragons.”

Fantasy Faction

“A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS felt like it was written specifically for me. It’s got a swashbuckling adventure, a young lady of quality as the main character, with dresses and tea and dragons. It has the sense of a mid-nineteenth century travel memoir but set in a secondary world fantasy.”

SF Signal

“The world-building is magnificent. The dragons are a delight, both majestic and dangerous.”

All About Romance (Novels)

“Not only did Brennan tickle my fantasy bone, but she also tickled my intellectual one, and I appreciated that immensely. Brennan set a wonderful groundwork for an absolutely charming series.”

Bookworm Blues

“The tone is spot on […] its style was distinctive and told a dragon story from a refreshing new angle. The main character was easy to relate to […] and I’m looking forward to see how her adventures continue.”


“A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS is a lovely, quirky book which reads like a proper memoir.”

Nocturnal Book Reviews

“[W]hat makes A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS so riveting is Isabella’s quest not just to better understand dragons, no matter the cost, but to understand the metaphorical dragon in herself. I found the book completely engrossing.”

Fantasy Book Critic

“In terms of the world-building, this book is just lovely […] I did merrily enjoy reading it, and will definitely be back for more.”

Book Yurt

“Whimsical language, funny remarks by the narrator, and a love for science and dragons that touches the reader as much as the heroine […] Recommended to people who liked Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell or the Parasol Protectorate. And dragons, of course.”

SFF Book Review

“I’ve enjoyed all of Brennan’s previous novels to one degree or another but I think this is the one I am most likely to remember twenty years from now.”

Fantasy Reviews

“After reading this book, I found I couldn’t wait to read more about Lady Trent and her escapades around the world of dragons. It is a truly inspiring read.”

SF Site

“With a wealth of detail and striking visuals, there is so much more that could be, and should be!, explored in this fantastic alternate history envisioned by Marie Brennan.”

Ageless Pages

“Brennan had me at the very start with this wry, rebellious, sardonic voice.”

Fantasy Literature

“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 […] 2 parts fierce and a million parts fantastic.”

Bitches with Books

“The ending is properly shocking […] I look forward to reading about her further adventures.”

Sci-Fi Fan Letter

“Oh, if we but could just take a quick trip to the world and be on an expedition – I would love it […] if you like dragons, this is thus a must-read book.”


“What struck me most about A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS is the impeccable execution of Marie Brennan’s concept […] The characters and plot developments and dialogues are pitch-perfect […] A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS is simply delightful […] the novel is just so well-executed and clever that I always had fun reading it.”

Far Beyond Reality

“DRAGONS is a fantastic novel that should appeal to any readers of Victorian-esque fantasy. It has all the character and cultural charm of those shows where propriety and manners are of the utmost importance. But DRAGONS is also about following your dreams, regardless of your lot in life.”

Elitist Book Reviews

“Brennan’s writing is polished, her pacing slow but smooth, and her ideas sharp and intelligent […] a fantasy novel that really stands out from others.”


“This is an ambitious novel; one that is utterly unlike any other dragon-focused book I’ve read, and of the most part, A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS succeeds in all it attempts to do something new and fun with the genre.”

Ageless Pages

“The book is well written, characters are fully developed, and Lady Trent is a likable enough main character […] If you like uncomplicated fantasy served up in normal novel-length sizes (unlike the hefty tomes of so many fantasy series), A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS may be a good addition to your reading shelf. Give it a try.”


“A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS is always engaging and entirely charming, and abounds with moments of tension, humour and emotion. Isabella may just be my new hero, and the Memoirs of Lady Trent my new favourite series.”

The Half-Strung Harp

“[Marie Brennan] brings a naturalness and clarity to her writing in this utterly charming book […] It’s a delightful book […] and an absorbing introduction to this world of dragons and Lady Isabella Trent. I can’t wait for the next book.”

Clandestine Critic

“[A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS] follows mostly the sedate and restful pace of a fantasy of manners. Restful does not mean boring; I was addicted to Isabella’s tale and Brennan’s impeccable writing.”

The Fantasy Inn

“Highly recommended.”

Peter V. Brett, the New York Times bestselling author of The Demon Cycle series

“Her Ladyship is a determined and canny woman in search of dragons–I wholeheartedly approve!”

Melanie Rawn, Bestselling author of TOUCHSTONE

“A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS [by Marie BRENNAN] is a superb book. Loved it. Tightly written, great world building, well plotted, and a very interesting & believable main character. And of course, DRAGONS!!! Highly recommended.”

Christopher Paolini, author of the Inheritance Cycle

Awards & Accolades


#8 Locus Magazine bestseller in hardcover


#8 Bookscan hardcover fantasy list


Booklist: “Notable Books Reading List”


GoodReads Choice Awards Semifinalist: “Best Fantasy”


SF Signal: “Favorite SF/F/H Consumed In 2013”