Tuesday, July 25, 2017

In the Labyrinth of Drakes, by Marie Brennan

Today I'm looking at the fourth book in the Lady Trent memoirs and, as of writing, the most current, In the Labyrinth of Drakes. In this book Isabella Camhurst heads with her longtime colleague Tom to manage a Scirling-run dragon breeding program in Akhia.With the secret of preserved dragon bone out, countries are now in a race to acquire sufficient supplies of a material that promises to revolutionize warfare. However, many are also aware that they could acquire a significant short-term gain by slaughtering dragons wholesale, but leave them worse off in the long run with a shortage of dragons. To this end the Scirling Army is trying to breed and domesticate desert drakes so they might have a regular supply of dragonbone. Since Isabella and Tom are Scirling's authorities on dragons, they're the most logical choice to direct this breeding program but it promises to be many years of difficult and possibly fruitless research.

The dragons are of course only part of the story, the titular Labyrinth of Drakes also plays a significant role and is one of the more famous events of Lady Trent's career, as we find out. Akhia is the location of some of the best-preserved ruins of the globe-spanning Draconian civilization. Isabella meets up again with the archaeologist Suhail, a native Akhian, and together they make an absolutely unprecedented discovery.

What concerns me the most in this book is how...incomplete things feel. According to my sources on the internet, this series is scheduled to end with the fifth book, bringing the adventures of Lady Trent to an end. But I feel like there are a great many questions that have yet to be resolved, especially with the Draconian civilization. I will admit it would be very realistic for Brennan to leave some things still unknown. That is, after all, how science works in real life and all the mysteries of the universe never get solved in any one person's lifetime. But there are a lot of things about the Draconians that make me extremely curious. On top of that we did finally get the Rosetta Stone which Isabella discovered in Tropic of Serpents into the hands of Suhail the archaeologist and polyglot who may actually be able to crack the hither-to unknown Draconian script.

So, honestly, my concerns are about how rushed the next, final book may end up being if the Draconian plot is going to be revealed. As I'm by training a historian, and the author herself is an anthropologist, I would have liked and expected far more about this mysterious background civilization which has been a constant theme, as well as dragons, throughout the series. I'm just worried that Brennan hasn't given herself enough space to resolve everything satisfactorily. Even without the Draconian storyline I think there might not be enough space to finish Isabella's story without making it feel rather rushed.

Otherwise, there's not much to write home about. I feel almost like this series is starting to suffer fatigue because it's, ''Isabella goes to foreign location to study dragons. Encounters challenges. Overcomes challenges. Becomes even more famous.'' Not to say that I don't enjoy watching that. Isabella is definitely an interesting character and I quite like following her around. But aside from changes in scenery and tweaks to specifically what challenges Isabella has to overcome, there doesn't seem to be much difference.

Hopefully Brennan can tie everything together satisfactorily in the final book, which is supposed to come out in back in the spring of this year. But until then I'll remain a little reserved about how this series will end.

- Kalpar

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