I’m a big fan of this series, and could read about the exploits of Isabella – Lady Trent – all day long, and fans of the series won’t be disappointed by this instalment.
Lady Trent’s discoveries in Akhia 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. But, 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 Scirling Royal Army; how foreign saboteurs imperilled 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.
Reading a novel in this series now feels very much like revisiting an old friend. I love Isabella’s character, and I’ve enjoyed seeing her develop over the course of the series. From her initial forays in the study of dragons and natural history as a young woman, she has grown in both knowledge and character, her experiences having taught her a great deal. While some still dismiss her and her work because of her gender, she has risen to a position of pre-eminence in her field, and I’ve loved seeing the occasionally naïve young woman that she was develop into a proud, confidant, and determined individual who is not afraid to pursue her dreams no matter what others might say about her. She’s never been overly concerned with society’s views of her behaviour, and this fourth instalment is no exception – there are some really pleasing developments in this instalment that I think fans will be delighted with.
Each novel has seen Isabella travelling around the world in her pursuit of dragons and knowledge. In the Labyrinth of Drakes sees Isabella travelling to the desert nation of Akhia, a very different environment to those she has encountered in the previous novels in the series. Once again, she finds herself battling sexism and local politics, and as always, there are those who look to upset her research through whatever means necessary. There’s never a dull day in Isabella’s life, but as always, she gets on with the job at hand. I enjoyed seeing more of her brother, Andrew, in this novel, as well as seeing her catch up with an old friend.
Marie Brennan has a background in archaeology, anthropology, and folklore, and while I’ve caught hints of this in the previous novels, never has it been so apparent as in this novel. I felt that this novel gave a nod to Egypt. This is perhaps an obvious comparison given the desert territory that Isabella finds herself in, but the archaeological discoveries she and her team make were reminiscent of the excavation of Egypt’s tombs and temples. There’s even a nod to the Rosetta Stone. While Isabella’s research is primarily concerned with dragons there have, throughout, been references to an ancient society, and it felt that this came more to the fore with the discoveries in this novel. That’s not to say that it overshadows the dragons in this novel – and being honest, it’s the dragons that I’m here for! – but it is fascinating, and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next instalment, Within the Sanctuary of Wings.
You can see my reviews of the earlier books in the series through the following links: