As you might be able to tell by the title, this is a review of a series. I'll do my best not to spoil things; if spoilerage becomes necessary, I'll be sure to mark it off for those of you who don't want things spoiled.
So, to start: OMG. This. Series.
I'm in love.
The first book in the series is A Natural History of Dragons, and even the title makes my heart flutter a little. I thought at first it might just be an informational text about dragons, but it turned out to be so much more. So much amazingly more.
I'm seriously not even kidding, you guys. This series is AMAZING.
Strong narrative voice throughout, gorgeous detail, in-depth world development, and the subject matter is more or less clean. While the narrator deals with some pretty serious topics (ranging from maturity to marriage to sexuality to morality) none of it is posed in such a way as to attack one side or another.
The main character (the Lady Trent whose memoirs these are) is relatable, humorous, and more than willing to laugh at herself, despite her scientific and logical inclinations. More than once she refers to her own methods as "deranged practicality," and I'm inclined to agree with her.
Begin Minor Spoilers:
The series answers the question I'm sure we've all asked at one point or another: "What would the world be like if dragons really existed?" While all the nations and languages are renamed, familiar cultures and people groups can be identified with relative ease. (Example: The main character hails from a land called "Skirland," which is more or less Victorian England at its best.)
In addition, if you get the actual book (as opposed to the audiobook, which is how I found this series) you're treated to copies of Lady Trent's illustrations of the dragons and locations she visits throughout the series. Artist Todd Lockwood has done a FANTASTIC job on these, and the series in on my wishlist to own in real paper (though I love the job Kate Reading does in narrating the audiobooks, which I now own).
End Minor Spoilers
Young readers should be warned that there is some mature content, in that the narrator does not shy away from topics such as death, grief, and relational intimacy, and some of the characters curse occasionally. That said, I believe the things that can be learned about relationships, maturity, and scholarship outweigh the potential harm of these relatively mild inconveniences.
All said, I would recommend upper teens as the youngest independent reading age (younger ages with an older/more mature reading partner to discuss topics with afterward, as the main character is between 19 and 40 through the series and younger audiences may have difficulty relating to her). There's a lot to be learned from these books, and I plan to enjoy them many, many more times in the future.