Review: In the Labyrinth of Drakes

In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan

Series: The Memoirs of Lady Trent
Genre: Fantasy
Maturity Level: 2
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Even those who take no interest in the field of dragon naturalism have heard of Lady Trent’s expedition to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia. Her discoveries there 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.

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 Royal Scirling Army; how foreign saboteurs imperiled 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.

This is the best Lady Trent memoir yet! It’s not often that a series gets better and better as it goes, but in this series each book has been better than the last. Brennan finally finds her stride in this one, having put together exactly the book I wanted to read.

The primary advantage this book had to previous books in the series was that it immediately jumped into the interesting parts. Previous books, especially the first, spent extensive time in background building. And while Isabella’s background is important, it is rather dull, especially in a book billed to be about dragons. This book spent one short chapter explaining how and why Isabella is going to whatever country it is this time. Then it was on to the dragons!

A well-written romance also gave this book an additional charm. While Isabella’s first relationship with her husband was heart-warming, it was nothing like the heart-fluttering “courtship” of this book. God, but I am a sucker for steamy scenes such as “he couldn’t stop looking at me” or “I very much wanted to see him”. Be still my propriety-loving heart.

I also appreciated that this book read much less like an adventure novel than the previous two books, reverting more in tone to the first book of the series. While there are certainly some sensational elements, the majority of the book reads much more like a scientific expedition than an Indiana Jones-style adventure. Which, don’t get me wrong, I loved, but this was more appropriate to the nature of the series I think.

On a similar note, Brennan has perfected Isabella’s rebellious Victorian voice. Unflaggingly practical, unintentionally hilarious, and brash as the desert sun is hot, I have come to love Lady Trent.

The feminist nature of the series came to a head in this novel. All along Isabella has chafed against Victorian expectations for women, but this is the first time the reader sees her explicitly stating the disservice done to her sex. Issues of class and ethnic prejudices are present too, but never in a way to make the reader uncomfortable. (Unless you think women belong in the kitchen, in which case it WILL make you uncomfortable because you should be.)

Last but not least, it was so rewarding to finally find out how Isabella comes to be known as Lady Trent. Her personal story is all but settled, and now all that’s left is to determine how she will meet the professional acclaim she has so long deserved.

I highly recommend this series to lovers of dragons, though I recommend starting at the beginning (or at least with book 2). The Natural Historian take on the genre is so fresh and compelling, even half a decade later. I know you will fall in love with Lady Trent the way I have.

7 thoughts on “Review: In the Labyrinth of Drakes

  1. Great review! I really need to catch up on this series! Have you seen that there is a sixth book coming out soon?! Turning Darkness into Light picks up with Isabella’s granddaughter….

    Liked by 1 person

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