#TheTropicOfSerpents by Marie Brennan mini review
The second entry in the memoirs of Lady Trent, these books are set in a Victorian era where dragons aren't from the realms of fantasy but firm fact, though little is actually known about them from a scientific perspective.
Rather than a straight fictional story, these books are written by Lady Trent in hindsight about her emerging scientific career within a Victorian Britain-esque society, where women's roles are traditional, and the family unto which one is born has so much significance on the life you lead and how you lead it. Once again, Trent breaks convention with another journey into the field to satisfy her ever irritating itch that is her curiosity for Dragons.
Trent has already broken these social conventions before in her journeys to Vystrana in the first book, to study Rock Wyrms. This time, she elicits yet more scandal in leaving for the Moulish swamps, more commonly known as the Green Hell, in Eriga, a nation rifled with politics, war and unfamiliar societies and cultures. This time, she aims to investigate the mysterious Swamp-Wyrms coupled with her chemical exploits into the preservation of dragon bone, a substance so uniquely perfect within it's host of a living dragon, yet useless after death.
Before she even arrives, Isabella who has not yet become the Lady Trent, is subject to dealing with public and family opinion of her widowed self travelling with fellow scholar Tom, as well as newcomer Natalie, who decides to leave her family and the task of finding a suitable husband in favour of accompanying Isabella on her journey. Ms Trent is also forced to abandon her newborn son to undergo her investigations, all of which see her gaining traction within the gossip columns of the press.
Once arrived, Trent is then tasked with navigating the social intricacies of the nation in charge, but also of the Moulish tribes that exist inside the Green Hell who are to be her team's hosts through her studies. She must successfully manage a variety of foreign and unusual social customs in order to gain acceptance and the ability to carry out her studies.
Trent agrees much too early on to carry out the acquisition of Dragon Eggs or even knowing if it can be done. She knows not of how this will be viewed by the Moulish tribes she is relying on to keep her safe (or at least, alive) within the Green Hell. Traversing this region is deadly enough, yet our team must contend with creatures, critters, diseases, dragons and most complicated and arguably deadly of them all - fellow humans.
Trent is always observing, and the descriptions in this book are just a vibrantly intricate as of those in the first, detailing the stuffy, insect infested surroundings with great effect, but also with a great level of affection. It's hard not to believe you're not actually reading a work by the great Lady Trent herself.
There are also plenty of death defying, action packed sequences to get your teeth into, keeping the adrenaline pumping during the course of her adventures, including one ingenious use of Dragon bone Trent must employ to help with a rather daring escape.
The studying of the Dragons they do manage to undertake is incredibly interesting, which, as the concept that drew me to these books in the first place, is a good thing! The biological, geographical, social, political, environmental and scientific observations are all exquisitely detailed and lovingly crafted, adding a wealth of realism! But let's be honest, we're here for dragons! And the biology of these ones is different enough from their cousins in the first book that you really really for Ms Trent to gain the opportunity for further study.
Marie Brennan has made another sterling effort with the difficult second album, which feels realistic and believable and composed with a level of affection that makes it a real page turner for anyone interested in a new take on travel writing, fantasy fiction and of course; Dragons!