If I could be any female book character, I’d be Lady Trent. I really do think that. No, there is no magic in this universe, but Lady Trent is living the kind of life I wish I could have.
She’s getting to explore foreign lands, interact with dragons, play politics, save lives, and produce social change. Who wouldn’t want to be this type of passionate multifaceted crusader. Equally so, I’d love to write like Lady Trent/ Marie Brennan. Her writing provides insight into the star character in exciting, indirect ways.
In this second installment of the Memoirs of Lady Trent, the currently named Lady Camherst is planning her next great adventure. We learn that she has published the research done on her first trip, but has done so under her late husbands name to honor his memory. Additionally, she has had a son named Jacob. We don’t get to see much of young Jake in this storyline, but I’m sure we will learn more of him in the future. Presently, he simply provides us with another angle from which to examine Lady Camherst’s personality.
This next adventure sees Lady Camherst off in a distant swampy land with only the beloved Tom from the previous installment and a young woman named Natalie who is fleeing family pressures. It reminds me of the adventures of the pragmatic Robinson Crusoe. The crew spends their time in this new empire hunting swamp dragons and they have to learn to deal with more societal taboos, politics of multiple interconnected peoples, and tackle the difficult questions about dragon bone preservation. The last being very unlike Crusoe.
Generally speaking this story is not quite as fun as the first. However, it is very necessary for Lady Camherst’s growth as a woman. If the first book were undergrad, we have now entered graduate school. Lady Camherst has to learn to think independently, be critical and take a literal leap of faith. I think the purpose of this second book is best explained by Lady Trent.
“These memoirs are not only an accounting of my life; they are an accounting *for* it.”
I think what she means here is that events that took place early on in her life (i.e. books one and two) drive her decisions later on. In book two Lady Camherst makes a very important decision. She chooses dragons before all else. Politics need give way to dragons. Her life needs give way to dragons. And screw the patriarchy dragons matter more than her d**n reputation.
I won’t lie I was kind of hoping that Tom would develop into the mysterious Mr. Trent, but so far that at least doesn’t seem so and that is probably for the best. Tom is a great trusted colleague that provides Lady Camherst with the means for travel because she does in fact have to function within the patriarchy. That being said, it really is Lady Camherst who begins to run the show.
Without giving much away, I do have to at least give a major shoutout yet again to Marie Brennan’s anthropological degree. The cultures developed in this book echo from those of the ancient mediterranean as well as Africa, but they are rich, complex and entirely new. I was concerned after the first book that we would see more of the same cultures repeated again and again, but instead Brennan is able to develop two cultures simultaneously that are even more detailed than the ones from before. Skillfully Lady Camherst is still able to utilize her knowledge from book one while traversing these new cultures with their own customs and superstitions.
I do have to say though that Tropic of Serpents has made me realize that this series may not be for everyone. I love it because it speaks to my loves of science, dragons, anthropology, and women’s rights. But, if you are looking for a dragon riding, magic wielding, classic knighthood quest, this isn’t really the book for you. Some may not appreciate or be thrilled by the subtle skills these books take and that’s okay. I understand. However, give these a try and see if you can hold out. Based on synopses, book four may take an intriguing turn. Spoilers, Sweetie.
I give this book a 4.5/5. It’s not as thrilling as the first because we have gotten used to Brennan’s style, but it is a wonderful adventure nonetheless.
Main Character: 5/5
Side Characters: 4/5
World Development: 5/5
Procrastination and Giggles,
The Red Queen
P.S. Lady Trent really understands life. “There is nothing in the world more enticing than that which you have been told you may not have”