Posted on May 27, 2017
20. ‘Within the Sanctuary of Wings’ by Marie Brennan
I’m not usually one to follow book series. I tend to be either late to the party or just not that bothered, but Marie Brennan’s Lady Trent series captured me from page one and has kept me hooked ever since.
Within the Sanctuary of Wings is the fifth and final instalment in this series (I have also reviewed the previous four: A Natural History of Dragons, The Tropic of Serpents, Voyage of the Basilisk and In the Labyrinth of Drakes), and I think this book an absolutely fitting end.
In the last book, our heroine Isabella earned her title – Lady Trent – and she is now a widely regarded authority on dragon naturalism. (Although not regarded enough that the esteemed Philosophers’ Colloquium will overlook her gender and grant her entry – much to her irritation.) In this novel she sets out on her most important adventure to date, to one of the most perilous regions of this world: the Mrtyahaima mountain range, where she has heard that the corpse of a dragon unlike any known species has been preserved in the ice. The journey is perilous, and she is accompanied by her husband, Suhail; her long-time colleague, Tom Wilker; a Yelangese guide, Thu Phim; and military man Lieutenant Chendley. Of course, as with all of Lady Trent’s adventures, things are destined not to go entirely to plan.
I was expecting, more or less, a similar adventure to the ones we’ve had before: Isabella studies a new species of dragon whilst getting into political scrapes and, ultimately, ending up doing something completely mental but quite badass. And the story does follow that structure, but it takes it to a totally new level, whilst also resolving some of the longstanding mysteries that have run throughout the series from book one. Within the Sanctuary of Wings gives you more of the story and the style you know and love, but turned up to eleven.
There was a point in the story (you’ll know it when you get there) when I thought, “Is this too far? Has this tipped from the sublime to the ridiculous?” But Brennan’s writing style and lead character are so charming that I found I went with it. Isabella is just as intrepid and curious as ever, and seeing the world through her eyes is irresistible. As for the plot, Brennan is excellent at confronting seemingly ludicrous ideas quite logically – there’s a scientific explanation for everything – so it’s actually quite easy to suspend disbelief and embrace the story. That’s certainly what I did with this book, and the upshot was that I found it impossible to put down.
I think this book is wonderful, and if you’ve enjoyed the others then you must read this one. I’m very sad to see Isabella’s story end, but I think that in Within the Sanctuary of Wings Brennan gives us a satisfying conclusion to a totally unique series.
“Well, if we’re going to get ourselves killed, we might as well get started.”
Have you read this book or are you planning to? I’d love to know your thoughts!
Want to read this? You can buy the book here.