A Natural History of Dragons: Just a little tiny way bit overhyped

My ability to make smart book decisions this month is really suffering. Both books I have read so far, including A Natural History of Dragons, I chose because of reviews from people that I follow who liked them. Something must be wrong with me. Or maybe I’m just figuring out the other readers that I know I have similar tastes with. Either way.. on to the review:

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2 of 5 stars

A Natural History of Dragons is Isabella Camherst’s story of trying to fulfill her dream of studying dragons in a Victorian-type era where women are expected to do socially acceptable woman things like host parties, gossip, wear frilly dresses, etc.. you get the picture. Studying anything scholarly is completely unacceptable for a woman, and from a young age Isabella steals books from her father’s library as her guilty pleasure. She finds ways to secretly study dragons, creates excuses to visit museums, etc. so that no one ever knows her true passion.. or so she thinks… but her father knew the whole time.

This book really had a lot going for it:

  1. FANTASY is always a winner for me.. and this one has a unique take on the genre.
  2. It’s about a stubborn woman trying to make her place in a man’s profession. Always interesting.
  3. Dragons. Duh.
  4. It’s on NPR’s book list… and NPR supports Chris Thile of Nickel Creek pretty hard, so how can they not be right about every other thing ever?!! I basically trust all of their decisions.

The first half of this story had a few intriguing tales of how Isabella got herself in trouble growing up, how she met and married her husband, and then how she manipulated a situation to be included on an excursion to actually publicly study dragons. She’s charming and gutsy, and I mostly liked her. I was entertained but still couldn’t tell where everything was really going.

And then it just fell flat. For someone who is trying not to be defined by the social boundaries for women, Isabella was way too concerned with not getting dirty and being “proper” during their excursion to Vystrana. It was really quite annoying. She also turned really prudish all of the sudden. Her attitude toward the servants that were housing them during their visit was uppity. And she started thinking that she was right about everything having to do with dragons – every comment that a man made contradicting  her, she had some smart ass remark and got mad. I mean… I know she wants to be treated like a man.. but she’s still new to what they’ve been doing for much longer than she has. I just did not like her anymore by the end of the book.

It seemed that the author was overly concerned with being on a feminism soap box by the end of the book. Don’t get me wrong… I’m not against feminist books but subtlety is more my thing. Soap boxes should be handled delicately. You can’t forget to still tell a good story, ya know?

Honestly, I’m not mad I read this book. I did like the beginning, but the last half just really turned me off. I’m a little torn if I’m going to continue the series once the next book is released or not.

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2 thoughts on “A Natural History of Dragons: Just a little tiny way bit overhyped

  1. Interesting! I’d also heard such good things about this book. I took it out of the library last year, then ran out of time before I got a chance to read it. Based on your review, I’m not sure that it would really appeal to me. Dragons? Yes. But the social aspects sound like they’d get annoying after a while.

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