Stevie‘s review of The Tropic of Serpents: A Memoir by Lady Trent (A Natural History of Dragons Book 2) by Marie Brennan
Fantasy Natural History published by Tor Books 04 Mar 14
This is possibly one of those books where reading the first in the series beforehand might be helpful. It’s been a while since I originally read Lady Trent’s original memoir, and there were a few points early on where my memory could have done with refreshing. On the other hand, these books are written as if the reader were familiar with later events in the heroine’s life from having read other (often inaccurate) sources, and not being an inhabitant of Scirland, I don’t have that luxury. One could of course consult the website of author Marie Brannan for advice, but some might consider such behaviour cheating, especially if one is, to coin a phrase from followers of Mr Holmes’ adventures, a Watsonian.
Accompanied by Mr. Wilker, who took part in the previous expedition, and by the daughter of their aristocratic sponsor, Isabella sets out to study the species of dragons in a very different part of the world to that in which her first expedition took place. In the process she flouts the norms of both her home country and the places she visits, gets caught up in intrigue, dangers posed by natural phenomena and wars between neighbouring states (sometimes funded by the governments of foreign colonial powers) while discovering just who her real friends and allies might be.
This is one of those books that is much better appreciated in print, if only for the full-page illustrations. I have the hardback version, to accompany the similar edition of the first in the series, and I expect to collect the rest in the same format. Written by someone who loves their subject and has thought long and hard about how to develop the various strands of alternate history, biology and anthropology so that readers both recognise similarities with our own history and see the way things might have happened differently were we to live in a world with dragons, The Tropic of Serpents is a novel to cherish. If you need any further encouragement, just read the extracts that are available online.
The thrilling adventure of Lady Trent continues in Marie Brennan’s The Tropic of Serpents . . .
Attentive readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoir, A Natural History of Dragons, are already familiar with how a bookish and determined young woman named Isabella first set out on the historic course that would one day lead her to becoming the world’s premier dragon naturalist. Now, in this remarkably candid second volume, Lady Trent looks back at the next stage of her illustrious (and occasionally scandalous) career.
Three years after her fateful journeys through the forbidding mountains of Vystrana, Mrs. Camherst defies family and convention to embark on an expedition to the war-torn continent of Eriga, home of such exotic draconian species as the grass-dwelling snakes of the savannah, arboreal tree snakes, and, most elusive of all, the legendary swamp-wyrms of the tropics.
The expedition is not an easy one. Accompanied by both an old associate and a runaway heiress, Isabella must brave oppressive heat, merciless fevers, palace intrigues, gossip, and other hazards in order to satisfy her boundless fascination with all things draconian, even if it means venturing deep into the forbidden jungle known as the Green Hell . . . where her courage, resourcefulness, and scientific curiosity will be tested as never before.
Read an excerpt.