Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie Brennan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the final book in a thoroughly enjoyable series, and as such the revelations come thick and fast. The world of Isabella Trent is a sometimes thinly disguised Victorian England (with dragons--not as fantastic magical creatures, but as a real-world species subject to scientific scrutiny), with all the racism, sexism and colonialism of the day. The author does engage with this to an extent--Lady Trent is sponsoring a suffragette, for instance--but this obviously isn't a book about an alternate-history Victorian Revolution. It's about dragons, and science, and the scientific method, wrapped up in a character with a charming, memorable voice.
The bombshell reveal in this book prevents me from discussing the plot as much as I'd like. Suffice to say that Isabella is told about the discovery of a possible new species of dragon in the Mrtyahaima Mountains (a stand-in for the Himalayas), and in her usual single-minded way, she organizes an expedition to go there and check it out. (You know the author has a firm grasp of her character when said character acknowledges herself to be, as described by her husband, "the most practical and deranged woman he has ever met.") The story of what she finds there--and how she brings it to the world's attention--is a wonderful capper to this series.
The character and voice of Isabella and the compulsively readable prose carry the day. As a reader, I felt the author was in control of her characters and world at all times (which does not always happen in a multi-book series). Isabella is a scientist and a scholar, and it was a delight to see her lend her considerable intellect to solving the many problems she faced. The only noticeable problem was the sagging pace in the middle, an unfortunate side effect of the plot. Still, this book wraps everything up quite well, and both it and the series as a whole is recommended.
View all my reviews