Book Review

Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie Brennan

Lady Trent is 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, from her initial adventure in the mountains of Vystrana to her exploits in the depths of war-torn Eriga to the 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 – braving the highest mountains in the world, buried behind the territory of Scirland’s enemies – and what she discovered there, within the Sanctuary of Wings.

Within the Sanctuary of Wings is the final book in the Memoirs of Lady Trent.  There is a sixth book set in this universe and featuring Isabella’s – Lady Trent’s – granddaughter, but this is the last to feature the exploits of Isabella herself.  And what a series it’s been!  I have thoroughly enjoyed this alternative Victorian society combined with a little Indiana Jones-esque adventure, archaeology, and, of course, dragons!  I don’t want to say too much about the plot of this novel – it’s is the fifth book in the series, and much of what happens draws upon events of the previous four books. What I will say is that Isabella makes a pivotal discovery in this novel – it’s exciting and entirely unexpected, and I absolutely loved it.  Needless to say, you need to start at the beginning with this series.  Brennan alludes to the events of the earlier novels, but you really need to understand the history and what Isabella has already been through to get the most out of it.

I’ve loved seeing Isabella develop over the course of the series.  I’ve always been a fan of her character, but it’s been fantastic to see her grow from a relatively naïve young woman to a competent naturalist, scientist, and adventurer.  She has faced a lot of criticism, experienced notoriety, and been the subject of gossip through no fault of her own, and yet she has risen above it all to achieve great things.  Throughout, she has been brave and perhaps a touch foolish at times, but she’s such a wonderfully inspiring character that I couldn’t help but like her.  Her gender has caused her the expected problems in this traditional world, but she has not let that stop her, rising above it and encouraging other women to study and develop their own knowledge in their chosen fields. 

Throughout the series, the world-building has been fantastic, and I loved seeing Isabella in a range of environments from jungle to desert to the mountains of this novel.  The series borrows much from our own world, with Scirland – Isabella’s home nation – feeling similar to an older version of our own.  Dragons – as flesh and blood creatures, rather than carrying any magical attributes – are woven in seamlessly and add such an exciting note to the narrative. Throughout Isabella’s adventures, the politics of undertaking research in foreign nations has been considered.  It’s brilliantly thought out, and Brennan has written the series in such a way as to share the necessary information with the reader without having pages and pages of dry history to read through. It’s woven into the story so well that you pick up what you need to know without really realising it. 

I can’t recommend this series enough.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it, and while I’m a little sad at having concluded my journeys with Isabella, I’m looking forward to meeting her granddaughter in Turning Darkness into Light and seeing what mischief she can cause.  I’m also looking forward to seeing how this society has developed in the intervening years, particularly in light of the discovery Isabella makes in this novel.

The Memoirs of Lady Trent:

  1. A Natural History of Dragons
  2. The Tropic of Serpents
  3. The Voyage of the Basilisk
  4. In the Labyrinth of Drakes
  5. Within the Sanctuary of Wings


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