So it’s no secret that I loved A Natural History of Dragons and the other four books in the Isabella Trent series. If you click on my review you can see all my Top Ten Lists and the accolates I awarded to those books. Light, charming and unique with a wonderful and independent protagonist. Imagine my excitement to discover that Marie Brennan had released a whole new installment set in the same world…
Plot summary for Turning Darkness Into Light:
As the renowned granddaughter of Isabella Camherst (Lady Trent, of the riveting and daring Draconic adventure memoirs) Audrey Camherst has always known she, too, would want to make her scholarly mark upon a chosen field of study.
When Lord Gleinheigh recruits Audrey to decipher a series of ancient tablets holding the secrets of the ancient Draconean civilization, she has no idea that her research will plunge her into an intricate conspiracy, one meant to incite rebellion and invoke war. Alongside dearest childhood friend and fellow archeologist Kudshayn, must find proof of the conspiracy before it’s too late.
Star rating for Turning Darkness Into Light: * * * * (four stars)
So. The original series follows Isabella Camhurst (a.k.a. Lady Trent), a natural historian who only wishes to study dragons but instead ends up involved in political intrigues, making starting discoveries and essentially changing the world of academia forever. The novels are told as though they are Lady Trent writing her own memoirs – it’s charming and lovely, and a really creative way of telling a story. Lady Trent herself is now somewhat older (although not old, reading between the lines) and she’s looking back fondly over her globe-trotting history.
And now we have Audrey Camhurst, the granddaughter. Turning Darkness Into Light strikes the perfect balance between the previous books and the new; they’re similiar but not the same, and I’m grateful for that.
What’s the same?
- For starters, and most importantly, the tone is the same. The prose is still charming and eloquent, and thinking about it makes me smile. The story still seems to suit the creamy beige cover with the beautifully sketched dragons.
- Lady Trent isn’t dead! Nobody is dead! I was really concerned that Turning Darkness Into Light would be set so far in the future that Isabella would have passed away. This would have nigh-on traumatised me. Luckily, she’s still pottering away in the background, alive and well. Not even that elderly, by all accounts.
- She’s actually referenced a perfect amount. She doesn’t keep butting into the story to provide forced links to the previous story. We see a few letters from her and she is discussed every so often (she is one of the most famous women of her age), but she doesn’t pop up more than is necessary. I’m glad that the link is there, but you’re not beaten over the head with it.
- Dragons! Well, Draconeons. Audrey’s field of expertise is different, but the topic at hand hasn’t changed. I originally picked up these books for a fresh take on dragons, so it’s a relief to know that we’re still dealing with winged species. Sort of.
What has changed?
- Audrey Camhurst. I’d figured that she would be an almost perfect replica of Isabella, but she isn’t. We’re two generations later now, and the perceptions towards women have changed (partially because of Lady Trent) and Audrey’s personality demonstrates that. She’s evidently a different person and I appreciate that
- The story isn’t told by way of a fictional memoir anymore. Instead, it’s a combination of Audrey’s diary, a few letters and extracts from the Draconean archives.
- There’s no actual dragons in the story. Audrey’s expertise lies in the field of translation and she is hired to translate a cache of newly-found Draconean artefacts, which it is believed may hold the key to unearthing the race’s origins.
Does it work?
Yes? Probably? I did like it and I enjoyed the time I spent reading it, but I’m not sure I wasn’t just appreciating my return to the world.
The translation side of things didn’t really do it for me. They would translate a section, and then we’d get the translation (a few pages long) and then her Draconeon colleague would write to the Archives about it. I really struggled to trudge through those bits. It tells the story of their religion and the beliefs of their ancestors, but it’s written in very formal prose and, honestly, I didn’t care. I ended up skipping those parts and it affected the story not a jot.
Audrey is pleasant enough. Her struggles at ‘living up to’ her grandmother’s name are very well done and I appreciated that she was attempting to carve out her own niche instead of blindly attempting to do more of the same. I could have done without the romance, however. The original series uses romance as a sub-sub-sub-plot over the course of five books, whereas it’s already immediately evident in this book who the romantic interest is. And he’s an arse.
I liked Turning Darkness Into Light overall, but it might have had less appeal for somebody who hadn’t read A Natural History of Dragons and the subsequent four books.