Turning Darkness Into Light

By Marie Brennan

Rating: 4 stars

I’m always a little wary of sequels to books that don’t necessarily seem to need them, but I loved this. Audrey Camhurst is Isabella’s granddaughter and is struggling to overcome her famous family name and make her own mark on the world of philology, so she jumps at the chance to translate some recently uncovered ancient Draconean texts. Of course, it’s not as straightforward as that, and soon she, and her fellow scholar Kudshayn, are drawn into a conspiracy that could incite war.

We’ve jumped forward in time by a couple of generations, (maybe now the equivalent of our inter-war period?) and the technology and social mores have moved accordingly. There are now motor cars and telephones, and people willing to address each other by their first names!

The book is written in an epistolary format, with diary entries, newspaper articles and letters from a variety of different people, although Audrey is our main PoV, with the Draconean Kudshayn the secondary. What they find as they translate the tablets is the founding myth of the ancient Draconean people, and seeing how this shapes the thinking of these two individuals, especially the priest-scholar Kudshayn is fascinating, given that what he learns impacts on his faith.

The characters are all great. I had a soft spot for Cora, Audrey’s assistant, as being someone we would recognise as being on the spectrum. Even Audrey’s one-time beau, Aaron Mornett has depth, and both Audrey and Kudshayn are painted in some depth. Audrey is driven by her famous family. Unlike her sister, she doesn’t want to be involved with Society, she wants to be an academic, in a field which her family have basically created out of whole cloth. She especially worships her grandmother, although she doesn’t always take the right moral from her adventures. What Would Grandmama Do is often on her lips.

The keystone of the plot really lies along the lines of attempts to resist the changing of the world, and the ways in which “moderate” bigots can be as dangerous, if not moreso, than the sort who shout their opinions to the world. Very much a lesson for our time. But also a reminder that there will always be people willing to stand up to the bigots and show how we can, together, turn darkness into light.

Book details

ISBN: 9781789092516
Publisher: Titan Books
Year of publication: 2019

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