Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan

The Tropic of Serpents is the second installment of dragon expert Lady Isabella Trent’s memoirs. Back in March I read her first book ANatural History of Dragons where she outlined the beginnings of her interest in dragons, her fledgling studies and her first expedition to see dragons in real life. 

In this second book, Isabella is the centre of scandals in society. As she plans her next journey she seems to infuriate everyone, from her family to the academics that refuse to take her seriously because she is a woman. True to form, headstrong Isabella follows her heart and leaves her young son behind as she sets off to learn more about the creatures of her abject fascination. 

The place she is destined for is full of political unrest, so the dangers she and her companions are faced with amount to more than the wild creatures that dwell in the swamp. 

Compared to the first book, I thought the second was a bit less about dragons and more about the war-torn continent, the customs of the natives and the politics that threaten Isabella and her beloved dragons. Of course there are dragons involved, but there seemed to be less passion in the descriptions than in the first book which was what drew me to the series in the first place.

On the plus side, I did like Isabella’s relationship with her companion Natalie. In regards to feminism, Isabella is a strong contender in the girl power stakes in the first book as she overcomes prejudice and exclusion to pursue her dreams. In the second book she still has that fire and need to prove herself but Natalie really comes into her own as she also pursues her interests, despite her father’s protests. 

Although I did enjoy this book, I felt it lacked a little of the spark and magic from the start. I think there is still so much more I want to see from Isabella and so much more about dragons she (and her readers) can learn. In light of this, I’m actually quite excited for the next book as Isabella is yet to become Lady Trent and there are so many other far flung places in the intricate world Marie Brennan has created for her to study and explore. 

I hope I haven’t sounded too negative as this is worth a read if you have read the first book and would be a fine stand alone for anthropology readers or fans of dragons!

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