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In the Labyrinth of Drakes:
A Memoir by Lady Trent
by Marie Brennan
TOR; $25.99, 350pp
Published: April 2016

This is the fourth volume of the wonderful memoirs from the intrepid and no-nonsense Lady Isabella Trent who travels her world learning about the many species of dragons. The setting is a pseudo Victorian era, where woman are not much thought of as adventurers, explorers and discoverers of the strange and unusual; in this particular novel the author explores the nature of dragon breeding and what delineates the species.

Lady Trent, still Dame Isabella Camherst at the outset of this tale, goes to Akhia, a pseudo Middle Eastern land of caliphates and desert tribes and sand dunes. Isabella and her co-scientist companion Tom Wilker set off to Akhia to research dragon breeding. The government of Scirling (their homeland) wants to keep up with the Yelangese who now have a fleet of caeligers—airships made light by the use of dragon bone. Lady Trent takes on the expedition with misgivings because though there is so much to learn about dragon breeding, nests, hatchlings, etc. the funding this time is from the military.

This is still a wonderful adventure, because once settled into their research in Qurrat we finally meet her soldier brother Andrew who has been stationed there; and delightfully, we once again meet Suhail with whom Lady Trent had a grand adventure in the last book The Voyage of the Basilisk set in the Broken Sea.

Suhail and Lady Trent become reacquainted and she discovers that he is the brother of the ruling sheikh. However, Suhail and his brother do not get along very well. And this is particularly exacerbated by Suhail renewing his friendship with her—a Scirling widow, no less—which puts the brothers so much at odds he is banished from his brother’s presence. Nevertheless, the three of them, Lady Trent, Suhail and Tom decide their first excursion is to take a harrowing trip into the Jefi desert to seek out dragon mating flights and the possible location of nests.

I loved it that Suhail and Isabella, with tentative, tiny steps, finally come together and, to still any complaints/outrage about a single, widowed woman working and living with unattached, unmarried males---Isabella and Suhail marry. Rather quickly, mind you, but they do. After their experience in the Jefi, in the heat of summer they decide to go out a second time. This trip will take them into the Labyrinth of Drakes to find nests and hope to watch a hatching of dragons.

What they find there, besides hatchlings, is an amazing untouched ruin built into the walls of a canyon where they find a nest of eggs to observe. It was built by the mysterious Draconeans who lived thousands of years earlier and who almost certainly were able to breed and train dragons.

During the span of this tale, the Draconean language is being translated from a stela which like our Rosetta stone has two languages chiseled on it, one a language currently in use. What Lady Trent, Suhail, Andrew and Tom discover changes everything and clarifies so much about dragons and dragon breeding. The setting in the ruins and their discovery is very intense but from it, there is hope for taming and breeding dragons now.

I enjoy these tales so much. The characters are fresh and vivid—especially Lady Trent and I am so glad that she and Suhail have gotten together as a couple as they were very attracted to each other though circumspect in the previous novel. They are circumspect here as well, but at least they have come together and married.

Seriously, if you love tales about humans and dragons—these are so rich and satisfying and to my mind, delightfully inventive. And again, the manuscript is peppered with the delightful illustrations by Todd Lockwood and the type face this time is an old rose color. ~~ Sue Martin

For reviews of the first three books click on the title. #1 A Natural History of Dragons, #2 The Tropic of Serpents and #3 Voyage of the Basilisk

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