In the Labyrinth of Drakes (The Memoirs of Lady Trent #4)

By Marie Brennan

Rating: 4 stars

The penultimate volume of Lady Trent’s memoirs sees Isabella (now Dame Isabella) and Tom in the (grudging) employ of the military to try and breed dragons to create a sustainable supply of dragon bone to build airships with, following the events of the last book. As usual, politics interferes with Isabella’s perfectly natural desire to just get on and do Science. But this time, the danger is more personal than before but the potential rewards are so much greater.

I loved this book as much as the rest of them. I love the character and determination of Isabella and the strong bonds of friendship between her and Tom Wilker, and how far they’ve come since the first book. It was also nice to see Suhail (from the last book) back for this one and the complex relationship between him and Isabella deepened and changed in interesting ways.

This book, moreso than others in the series, really put Isabella’s frustration at the limitations imposed on her for her sex to the fore. Between the patronisation from the military officers she has to deal with and the deeply patriarchal faux-Arabian culture that they’re visiting, it seems constant. This is wearing for the reader, but this makes me, as a male reader, very aware that women even now probably face something very much like this (albeit maybe not so blatant) all the time, which just makes me angry and want to shout at the world to stop it. So if it makes one previously oblivious man empathise then the whole series is worth it!

But the books are much more than just feminist awareness-raising. As I said before, Isabella is a wonderful character, as is Tom. The setting is great, although having different names for the days and months makes it harder to get a mental image of the seasons and so forth (just saying it’s April is a shorthand that conjures up images of the time of year and the season in a very minimal way; we don’t have this shortcut for the months as named here).

This volume also starts to gather together a lot of threads that have been building from the start. The Draconeans, the preservation of dragon bone, the rumbling of war across continents have all been simmering in the background. I get the impression that the final book is going to bring them all together, and I look forward to seeing where Isabella’s journey takes her in the end.

Book details

ISBN: 9781783297764
Publisher: Titan Books
Year of publication: 2016

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