Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Within the Sanctuary of Wings

The conclusion to the thrilling memoirs of Lady Isabella Trent and her legacy of dragon evolutionary research and anthropological adventures.

After nearly five decades (and, indeed, the same number of volumes), one might think they were well-acquainted with the Lady Isabella Trent--dragon naturalist, scandalous explorer, and 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--after her initial adventure in the mountains of Vystrana, and her exploits in the depths of war-torn Eriga, to the high 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--scaling the tallest peak in the world, buried behind the territory of Scirland's enemies--and what she discovered there, within the Sanctuary of Wings.

After years of awaiting the conclusion to one of my favorite series, it has finally come. The Lady Trent series is now complete. 

I have been so torn over losing the character Isabella that I've gone back and forth between looking forward to the final book, Within the Sanctuary of Wings, and wishing Marie Brennan would write just a little bit slower and stop being so damn productive... 

Either way, Within the Sanctuary of Wings was the release to beat this year, and sadly, it fell far from expectations.

I can't discuss the ineptitude of the novel without going into specific details so:


Certain background info is crucial to a story, a scientist and her team can't go charging across the world without sufficient reason or evidence to draw them into the subzero climate Isabella and the others faced, but the beginning of the book contained too much detail. It was slow going, bordering on boring, like the author (and in this sense I mean Isabella as she is the persona writing her memoirs) knew this was her final installation and her audience would read the 'exciting' conclusion no matter what. She already has her fan base, no need to keep them hooked.

As a huge fan of Lady Trent and the fantastic story of her life, I should have been much more captivated by anything she had to tell me. In this case, her story became much less research and feminist based to more political. 

I think a lot of this had to do with the fact that Tom and Suhail are missing from the story. When she becomes separated from them, the story avoids all personal attachments--for the obvious reason of attempting to keep her wits about her while her loved ones could have, at worst have perished, at best, thought her dead and were grieving--and in this state of mind, her journal became stoic. She stated the facts, got through the ordeal, and came out the other side weary and homesick.

Kind of like the way I felt upon finishing the novel. 

All of this wouldn't have been so terribly disappointing, it is still such a well written and imaginative account, had it not been for the big reveal that sent my head spinning in all the wrong directions.

Draconeans? In the final book? Where does that leave us? 

In the very final novel we're told the Draconeans are real, actually still alive, and not just still alive, they can farm and speak and do all things human and I just can't find a place for that in my head. Suddenly, the Lady Trent books have gone from a beautiful account of the mysterious species of dragons around the world, to a high fantasy novel with talking dragon humanoids in a world built around the singular existence of humans.

I wasn't excited by the reveal, I was confused and felt a bit betrayed. A new element was added to the books only to end the series completely and rob us of the chance to immerse ourselves in this new world.

I suppose that was my main issue, I felt betrayed and somewhat lied to?

I don't know. I don't think the discovery of real and alive Draconeans was a necessary addition to the series. Dealing with Isabella having to learn their language, survive her ordeal, and then become the political go-between for Draconeans and the outside world, it left no room for the research based findings I loved so much about the books. There was no research, just shock and coping and working towards an alliance that I have zero belief would actually keep the species safe from the extreme religious types that would do all within their power to finish the destruction of an abomination to their deity.

I can't say the book was bad, it is still a fascinating idea in an imaginative world--Marie Brennan is fantastic at creating a detailed and believable world with all the quirky behaviors and belief systems one would never expect traveling the globe--it's just that as a final conclusion to a book series, this didn't make the cut.

About the Author

Marie Brennan holds an undergraduate degree in archaeology and folklore from Harvard, and completed graduate coursework in cultural anthropology and folklore at Indiana University in Bloomington. She now misapplies her professors’ hard work by using it as inspiration for her fantasy novels and short stories.
At present she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she spends her time playing piano, studying shorin-ryu karate, dabbling in amateur photography, and playing a variety of role-playing games. 

Her first novel was published in 2004. Since then she has sold a dozen books and more than forty short stories. 

Connect with Marie Brennan
Twitter @Swantower
View Marie Brennan's Photographic Works