Book Review: The Wild Dead, Carrie Vaughn

Book Review: The Wild Dead, Bannerless Saga Book 2, Carrie Vaughn

 

The Wild Dead, Carrie Vaughn

Mystery: The Wild Dead, Bannerless Saga, Book 2, Carrie Vaughn

Like the first book in this series (Bannerless), The Wild Dead is a mystery set in a dystopian future. The people of the Coast Road live by strict rules. Households must live within their means but also contribute to the good of their communities. Quotas cannot be exceeded so that the land is not overworked, but enough must be grown or gathered to share with others. When a household proves they can live within the parameters set and support another person they are given a banner. A banner signifies permission to become pregnant and have a baby. Households that do not have a banner are not allowed to have children, and there is no stigma greater in the Coast Road than trying to have a bannerless child.

 

Enid, the investigator we first met in Bannerless, has been sent to the estuary to mediate a property dispute. A house dating from before “the Fall” is unlikely to survive another storm without significant repairs, and the owner wants his neighbors to help restore the property. Enid and her new partner Teeg have come to check out the property and determine whether the owner’s adamance is warranted. While they are there, though, a body is discovered on the tidal flats. A young woman has been murdered…and soon they realize that the woman is not from the Coast Road at all but rather is from the “wild” people who are not part of their society.

 

These facts do not tell the investigators who killed the woman, but they raise their own set of questions. Do the investigators have an actual responsibility to investigate the murder of someone who is not part of their community? Is the murder of an outsider actually even a crime? How far is Enid willing to go to solve this murder…especially when everyone, including Teeg, thinks she should just walk away and leave it be?

 

Carrie Vaughn has worked hard building the world of the Coast Road, a world that has been shaped dramatically by the collapse of the world we readers know. The Coast Road enjoys some of the remnants of civilization: electricity is sustainably generated, food is grown in moderation, trade occurs up and down the Coast Road. But the cost is high: women receive implants preventing pregnancy upon their first menstruation and those implants can only be removed when a banner is awarded. The Coast Road society is fully sustainable, but far from free. Bannerless children are forcibly removed from their families and given to families who have banners but have not been able to conceive. And the stigma for even trying to conceive a bannerless child continues for a lifetime.

 

The “wild” people live with much more freedom, but they also live on the edge of starvation. No one says who or when they can have children, but they struggle to meet basic needs for those children. The Coast Road chooses security over freedom. The wild people choose freedom over security. When the two societies intersect, both are challenged to evaluate their choices.

 

As a reader who enjoys both science fiction and mysteries, this novel is a delightful cross-genre story. Enid is a dogged investigator who is committed to finding the truth. She is willing to do the difficult work of pursuing the truth outside of her comfort zone, even outside of her society, seeking justice for the dead woman even though she is from another culture. Carrie Vaughn has created a fascinating world in her Bannerless Saga, and The Wild Dead is an outstanding continuation of that saga. I hope there are more to come.

 

The Wild Dead, Carrie Vaughn

 

Book Review: The Wild Dead, Carrie Vaughn

Book Review: Bannerless, Carrie Vaughn

Book Review: Bannerless, Bannerless Saga Book 1, Carrie Vaughn

Bannerlass, Carrie Vaughn

Fiction: Bannerless, Carrie Vaughn

In the dystopian future, being “bannerless” could mean any number of things. Many of them are not good. On the least pejorative side of the meaning, one simply has not yet earned the right to receive a banner. Banners are given when one has earned the right to have a child. Young households, households that have not yet proven they are self-sustaining and able to follow the rules of society, are bannerless until they prove themselves. However, one can also become bannerless by violating society’s rules. Becoming pregnant without a banner can result in an entire household becoming bannerless for years. Other violations can also remove the possibility of a household receiving a banner. Possibly worst of all, if a person is born without a banner, that stigma attaches to him or her for a lifetime–although it was clearly not the baby’s fault. Being bannerless is a difficult burden to bear.

 

Bannerless tells the story of an investigation into a death. A bannerless man died under questionable circumstances. It might have been an accident. It might have been something else. Enid and Tomas are called in to find out.

 

When they arrive in Pasadan, they find a town in disarray. The council is dominated by a bully. Questions arise about other possible violations. The only thing everyone seems to agree on is that no one really liked the dead man, and he did not like anyone else. In the midst of this drama, Enid finds a more personal drama at hand: her former lover is now living in Pasadan.

 

Carrie Vaughn walks a fine line with aplomb. Bannerless is a police procedural set in a complex future world. She manages to keep the plot moving while building this world, setting up the foundations and the rules of the Coast Road communities at the same time as she uncovers the clues and reveals the denouement gradually. Enid is a dogged investigator, able to set aside both her complex history with former lover Dak and a personal tragedy that occurs near the end of the investigation in order to find the truth. When she reveals it, the full implications of becoming Bannerless will be revealed to both the characters and the readers.

 

Bannerless is a fascinating book with a complex world and a compelling protagonist. I am glad Carrie Vaughn is continuing to explore this world in her work, and I look forward to reading her next novel.

Bannerlass, Carrie Vaughn

Book Review: Bannerless, Carrie Vaughn

Book Review: Dogstar Rising, Parker Bilal

Book Review: Dogstar Rising, Parker Bilal

Dogstar Rising, Parker Bilal

Mystery: Dogstar Rising, Parker Bilal

Detective Makana has decided to help the son of an old friend. The son is in love with a girl whose father needs some investigative work done. This inauspicious beginning leads Makana to a small travel agency and possibly to the answer for a question he did not know he was asking.

 

Dogstar Rising is the second Makana mystery by Parker Bilal, and it is brilliant. Again set mostly in Cairo, Makana is both dogged and brilliant. Refusing to be put off the case by crooked officials, physical intimidation, bribes, or threats, Makana insists on pursuing the truth. When a young woman in the travel agency is killed right in front of him, Makana will stop at nothing to find justice for her.

 

Makana finds himself pursuing multiple mysteries during the course of this book. The death of the young woman, which may or may not be related to the investigation of the travel agency. The gruesome murders of several children in a slum area of the city. A mysterious priest with a shrouded past. A monastery with a scandalous secret. And the possibility that his own daughter survived the car crash that he thought had taken her life ten years before. And not to give away any spoilers, but the skill with which the author draws these sundry plots together is quite impressive. Makana is part Sherlock Holmes, but much more is simply unstoppable, following lead after lead even when it looks like they might take him directly to his own death.

 

The book is set in the summer of 2001. This becomes very meaningful in the last scene of the novel, which takes place in a cafe on September 11. Reading the reactions of these (mostly) Egyptians, I was reminded of the fact that 9/11 was an attack on the entire world. Sometimes our American sensibilities are so focused on America that we don’t acknowledge that most people around the world, including in the Middle East, were aghast and horrified by the attacks that day. These may have been fictional characters in this novel, but the reactions are very much what I have heard from other sources and from friends around the world. True, there were people who celebrated. There were many more who wept.

 

In two books this has become a favorite series of mine. Fortunately for me, there are several more in the series already in print, so I don’t have to wait for the next one to come out. I just have to get over to the library for it!

 

Dogstar Rising, Parker Bilal

Book Review: Dogstar Rising, Parker Bilal

Book Review: The Golden Scales, Parker Bilal

Book Review: The Golden Scales, Parker Bilal

The Golden Scales

Mystery: The Golden Scales, Parker Bilal

Seventeen years earlier, a young British mother visited Cairo in search of the father of her toddler daughter. Failing to find him, she returns to her hotel room. A delivery arrives for her: an envelope full of cash…and heroin. The woman loves her daughter, but the temptation of the drugs is too much for her. When she awakens, her daughter is missing, lost somewhere in the streets of Cairo.

 

Inspector Makana has lived in Cairo for seven years after fleeing Islamists in his native Sudan. He gets by financially as a private investigator, although the income is poor and sporadic at best. Then a man shows up in his home and takes him to the apartment of perhaps the wealthiest man in Egypt. A star soccer player is missing, the star of the team he owns, and he wants Makana to find him.

 

Despite the lengthy time difference between these crimes and the lack of any obvious connection, Makana comes to believe there is a connection between them. Discovering that connection might solve the crimes. It might also get him killed.

 

Parker Bilal is a pen name for author Jamal Mahjoub. Better known for his literary novels, Mahjoub uses the Bilal name for his Makana mystery novels. The Golden Scales is the first of the series, which now has at least six books. I am late to this party, but I am glad my library had the book on a display. Perhaps you can’t judge a book by its cover, but my local library (www.schlowlibrary.org) does know how to judge a good book. I am glad they put it on display, I am glad I checked it out, and I am looking forward to reading more of the series.

 

Makana is the sort of world-weary detective familiar to mystery fans. I am not sure if “Arab noir” is a genre, but if it isn’t then Makana could be the beginning of a trend. Makana may physically reside in Cairo, but Khartoum is never far from his thoughts. His wife and daughter were killed there. In Khartoum, before the Islamists took power, he was a respected homicide detective. In Cairo, he rents a raft (it does not really deserve the designation “houseboat”) and is constantly behind on his rent. His sense of right and wrong, though, demand that he do his best in every investigation and follow the leads wherever they take him.

 

Good mysteries give enough clues to let the reader solve the case along with the detective. Great mysteries still leave some twists at the end. This one gave enough clues in the body to let me solve much of the mystery, but also left a few twists to change direction on a couple of matters in the last few chapters. To my tastes, that makes for a perfect mystery novel.

 

I have never been to Cairo, but Bilal does a wonderful job of describing the city, from the jinn that wind through the empty lots (as a child in Colorado we called them “dust devils”) to the traffic that chokes the city with smog to the towering enclaves of the rich to the sprawling slums of the poor. Cairo has between 15 and 20 million residents, putting it into the top 20 largest cities in the world. That certainly gives it plenty of stories to keep any novelist busy.

 

Whether you are a fan of noir, a fan of mysteries, interested in a well-written story, or want to read evocative descriptions of an ancient/modern city, The Golden Scales is a great place to start. And since it is the first in an ongoing series, the fun does not have to stop there. I am definitely looking forward to moving on with this series.

 

The Golden Scales

Book Review: The Golden Scales, Parker Bilal

Book Review: The Tropic of Serpents, Marie Brennan

Book Review: The Tropic of Serpents, Book 2 of the Memoirs of Lady Trent, Marie Brennan

 

The Tropic of Serpents, Marie Brennan

Fantasy: The Tropic of Serpents, Marie Brennan

 

Isabella Camherst can face dragons. She has met with heads of state, with scientists from around the world. She survived the cold steppes and the machinations of local warlords, and as we learn in this volume she triumphed over the savannahs and swamps of Eriga. Early in this book, though, she faces her most formidable foe of all.

 

Her mother.

 

The Tropic of Serpents is the second volume of the memoirs of Lady Trent, a fantasy series set in a Victorian-type era where real men are men of breeding and education, and real women stay home and mind the household. Unless you are Lady Trent. Accompanied by a companion from her previous journey (a man, but not a man of breeding) and by a runaway heiress, Isabella sets forth to the continent of Eriga, home to lions and elephants and leopards and several kinds of dragons.

 

In Eriga she must navigate her way through palace intrigue, through political waters muddied by foreign influences (including those from her home country of Scirland), and eventually through the swamps of the “Green Hell,” the jungle home of a rare and surly type of dragon. She courts danger and scandal and finds plenty of both.

 

Marie Brennan’s delightful character must deal with converting skirts to trousers, being confined with other women during her menstruation, and other issues that are gender related. Brennan does a great job remaining true to the Victorian-era sensibilities, once with Isabella apologizing for the rough language of calling something a “godsend”; one shouldn’t use the Lord’s name in vain, although in fairness that is what the man said and neither the man nor Isabella are particularly religious. The book is at times whimsical, at times serious. Always, though, The Tropic of Serpents is a wonderful story about a very well-drawn character.

 

You might also enjoy:

Book Review: A Natural History of Dragons, Marie Brennan

Book Review: Voyage of the Basilisk, Book 3 of the Memoirs of Lady Trent, Marie Brennan

Book Review: European Travel for the Monstrous GentlewomanTheodora Goss

Book Review: The Invisible Library, Genevieve Cogman 

Book Review: The Mortal Word (Book 5 of The Invisible Library Series), Genevieve Cogman

 

 

The Tropic of Serpents, Marie Brennan

Book Review: The Tropic of Serpents, Book 2 of the Memoirs of Lady Trent, Marie Brennan

Book Review: Voyage of the Basilisk, Marie Brennan

Book Review: Voyage of the Basilisk, Book 3 of the Memoirs of Lady Trent, Marie Brennan

 

Voyage of the Basilisk, Marie Brennan

Fantasy: Voyage of the Basilisk, Marie Brennan

The Memoirs of Lady Trent is a fantasy series that grows more delightful the further you get into it. In Voyage of the Basilisk, the third of the series, Isabella Camherst sets sail to new seas and mysterious islands on board the royal survey ship Basilisk, and seeks to answer questions that were raised about affairs both scandalous and political.

 

She is accompanied on her voyage by her longtime colleague Tom Wilker–professional colleague only, it should be noted–and by her son Jacob and his governess Abby. Along the way she has occasion to study sea serpents in both the arctic and the tropics, and fire lizards on the volcanic islands they inhabit. She also runs afoul of various bureaucracies, as she is prone to do, and inadvertently courts scandal through her (professional and platonic) relationship with a foreign archaeologist. But, people will talk. Meanwhile, we learn more about dragons and their kin, we see her relationship with her son develop, and we learn more about the political intrigues that keep her fellow Scirlings busy and create opportunities for Mrs. Camherst to find trouble.

 

Throughout, we see the challenges Isabella faces due to her gender. Her society, a sort-of Victorian culture, devalues Tom Wilker because he does not come from a family of breeding and nobility. However, a male commoner still carries more weight among intellectuals than a female. Even when that female is from the nobility, and even after that female has proven herself through multiple trips of discovery and papers published. Isabella finds that her notoriety and scandal seem to attract more attention than her scholarly efforts, and despite the fact that the scandals are mere gossip and not based in actual misdeeds she is constantly faced with her alleged affairs being of more interest than her academic affairs. 

 

I was reminded of a recent photo of a scientist involved in a complex space endeavor. The photo went viral because the scientist was “cute,” rather than because she was brilliant. I suppose the value of a photo over that of an article will typically lie in the attractiveness of the subject, but it is a shame that the scientist’s contributions (which were invaluable) were somewhat muted by the focus on her appearance, and as she herself noted, the contributions of her team were largely ignored because of the emphasis on her. I have never noticed a male scientist’s photo going viral because he was “hot,” or really any more than a cursory description of appearance in any male scientist’s profile. That seems to be a burden for female scientists, to be judged by gender and appearance as well as for any contributions they are making to their fields.

 

Lady Trent’s memoirs are designed to put the record straight. The only affairs she engaged in were academic affairs of studying dragons, and affairs of state that she stumbled upon. Her relationships with men were collegial and professional, and if they were friendlier than is proper in staid Scirland that is only because of long association and tight quarters and not because of impropriety. The gossip that may have swirled about her is just that: gossip. It is not true, and it speaks more of the bearer than it does of her or any of her companions.

 

Just in case there were any doubts.

 

Voyage of the Basilisk continues the approach of first person memoir from a proper Victorian-esque lady. If at times there are long discourses on the nature of dragons, that is to be expected from the writings of a natural historian. Like its preceding novels, Voyage is breezy fun that invites the reader into a fascinating world of proper etiquette and sometimes quite improper dragons.

 

Book Review: European Travel for the Monstrous GentlewomanTheodora Goss

Book Review: The Invisible Library, Genevieve Cogman 

Book Review: The Mortal Word (Book 5 of The Invisible Library Series), Genevieve Cogman

Book Review: A Natural History of Dragons, Marie Brennan

 

Voyage of the Basilisk, Marie Brennan

Book Review: Voyage of the Basilisk, Marie Brennan

Book Review: Foundryside, Robert Jackson Bennett

Book Review: Foundryside, Robert Jackson Bennett

 

Foundryside, Robert Jackson Bennett

Fantasy: Foundryside, Robert Jackson Bennett

Foundryside is an epic fantasy set in a new world where technology operates magically through the use of written commands that change the way reality works for an object. Certain rules seem to control how this works: the commands must be written correctly and specifically, and they must be written either directly on the object they seek to influence or they must be written in very close proximity to it. They cannot be written on living beings.

 

Robert Jackson Bennett is no stranger to SFF, having written Hugo and Nebula award nominated books. Foundryside is the first book in a new series, the Founders trilogy, introducing complex new characters into a challenging new world. Bennett sets up a series of complex rules governing the use of magic in this world. He then proceeds to break almost every one of them.

 

How much fun is that?! My granddaughters love building towers of blocks. They love kicking them down even more. Bennett builds a world based on a specific set of rules, then uses the rest of the novel to ask, What if those rules could be broken?

 

Sancia Grado is a thief. She is very good. Maybe the best. When she is hired for a huge amount of money to steal a nondescript box out of an ordinary safe, the deal seems too good to be true. Despite her instructions, she opens the box and finds…a key.

 

A key. That, Talks.

 

With this discovery, we readers realize that Bennett is already breaking the rules of his own world. Sancia is magically enhanced, which allows her to hear the key. Except, humans cannot be magically enhanced. That’s supposed to be impossible. And tools cannot have personalities or talk or have memories. That’s also impossible. Sancia and the other characters recognize that these things are violations of the natural laws they’ve been taught cannot be changed. Figuring out how these laws are being broken, and why, is part of the fun of this novel.

 

Bennett brings together a community of intriguing, often flawed and hurting characters. Sancia is a former slave and a victim of cruel experimentation. She finds common cause with a “founderkin” (essentially nobility in this world) who was the sole survivor of a military catastrophe. Neither of them survived those experiences unharmed, nor do they or other characters escape damage in the course of this story. Not every character survives to the end of the novel. But every character experiences growth and/or change as a consequence of the events within the novel. That kind of character development sets this book apart from more ordinary stories in this or any genre.

 

Exciting plot. Great characters. Fascinating world, filled with rules that were clearly made to be broken, and which Bennett breaks with elan. Foundryside is an excellent book, and gives plenty of reasons to look forward to the next installment in this new series.

 

Foundryside, Robert Jackson Bennett

Book Review: Foundryside, Robert Jackson Bennett

Book Series Review: The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells

Book Series Review: The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells

 

All Systems Red Artificial Condition Rogue Protocol Exit Strategy

Science Fiction Series: The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells

Winner of Hugo, Nebula, Alex, and Locus Awards

 

Sometimes all a bot wants to do is watch its videos. You know, kick back, have some “me” time, alone, away from all humans, and just watch hour after hour of mindless entertainment. No small talk, no pretending interest in human things, no playing nice. Just binge watch hour after hour after hour of pointless videos with bad acting and poor dialog and forget the rest of the world.

 

That can be hard to do when you are a programmed serial killing bot trying to escape a partially forgotten–rather, erased–past.

 

SecBot, short for Security Bot, is an artificial construct. Part organic, part mechanical, designed to provide security to humans in hostile conditions. Prevent them from being killed by hostile life forms. Try to prevent them from killing each other. SecBot is not human, though it looks very similar to humans. It is fully programmable. It is not supposed to feel emotions (or at least be affected by them), it is not supposed to be able to override its programming, it is definitely not supposed to be able to choose its own path.

 

Oops.

 

Murderbot is a SecBot that was on a mining expedition when something happened. All of the humans were killed. The how is pretty straightforward: SecBot killed them. The “why” is a mystery. Most of those records were deleted. Only the organic, partially human, memories remain. They are confused, fragmented, lacking context and connection. But Murderbot does not want to kill humans unnecessarily, and it is sure that it was not supposed to kill all of the miners. So Murderbot overwrites its own programming to make sure that it is not forced to kill again. It names itself “Murderbot” so it always is reminded of that fact. And it desperately wants to find out how and why things went so bad on the mining planet.

All Systems Red

We meet Murderbot first in All Systems Red. It is on a new security mission, working for the company that it has always worked for, this time guarding a group of planetary explorers. Things start going wrong when a mapping anomaly fails to warn of a hostile native animal. Murderbot saves its people, but that is only the beginning of the challenges facing the group. When a second group of explorers is killed and a third, previously unknown, group appears, it takes every skill Murderbot has acquired both from programming and from its own off-book efforts to keep its people alive. In gratitude, the group’s leader buys Murderbot from the company and sets it free.

Artificial Condition

In Artificial Condition, Murderbot decides to revisit the mining planet where it killed the miners and try to answer the question, “Why?” Receiving help along the way from an ART bot (I’ll let the readers discover for themselves what ART stands for), Murderbot arrives at the planet and is hired as a security consultant for some young researchers trying to recover stolen data. What should have been a simple exchange proves to be anything but simple, and again Murderbot is forced to improvise to keep its clients alive. Completing this mission and getting its information about the events that led to the miners’ deaths creates a series of challenges, but fortunately Murderbot is assisted by the timely help of a SexBot, err, rather, Comfort Assistant Bot. No, not THAT kind of help! Murderbot is not into that.

Rogue Protocol

Murderbot has its answers, and in the process discovers that its clients from the first book are in need of more assistance. In Rogue Protocol, it decides to get some information for them that will hopefully end the corporation behind the planetary debacle. After sneaking aboard a ship bringing security consultants to assist with an investigation, Murderbot is discovered by Miki, a sentient PetBot fully loyal and obedient to one of the investigators. Miki agrees to keep Murderbot’s secret if Murderbot agrees to protect the investigators. When the security consultants prove to be on the side of the company being investigated and not on the side of the investigators who hired them, that job becomes significantly more difficult.

Exit Strategy

Finally, Exit Strategy sees Murderbot reunited with the team it first assisted in All Systems Red. Mensah, the team leader, has been captured by the corporation and is being held for ransom. Murderbot is not going to put up with this nonsense, and intends to rescue Mensah–even after discovering just how cool videos are on the large screen displays of hotel rooms!

 

Whatever you are doing, drop it. Get this series, start reading, move it to the top of your TBR pile and let it take over your life. Murderbot may not want to deal with humans, but trust me, we humans thoroughly enjoy dealing with Murderbot.

 

The entire series is smart, snarky fun. Murderbot is cynical, depressed, even torn between wanting to be more human and not wanting to be anything like those pathetic weak creatures it has to endure. With each novella well under 200 pages, I read through the entire series in just a couple of days. But don’t let the shortness nor the easy style fool you. These are brilliant books, full of truths about humanity that are packaged in the wisdom of a stressed rogue AI bot. The shelf full of awards should be its own indicator, but if not I will simply say it again: The Murderbot Diaries are brilliant.

 

All Systems Red Artificial Condition  Rogue Protocol Exit Strategy

Book Series Review: The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells

Book Review: Blood Type X, J.L. Delozier

Book Review: Blood Type X, Persephone Smith series, J.L. Delozier

Blood Type X, J.L. Delozier

Thriller: Blood Type X, J.L. Delozier

Dr. Persephone “Seph” Smith, FBI profiler, has a box of photos. The pictures are of William Blaine, the most wanted criminal in the world, responsible for the pathogen that killed nearly 50% of the world’s population. She caught him, once, but he escaped, and someone has now sent her a box of photos of him. The clues lead her and her partner first to France, then to the Basque region of Spain, once again on the trail of the evil genius.

 

Author and doctor J.L. Delozier has created a fierce and wonderful heroine in her trilogy of books about Seph Smith. We first met Smith in Storm Shelter, then saw her confront Blaine for the first time in Type and Cross. Now, her battle with Blaine sometimes takes second place to her battle with her own demons. Too many losses, too many bodies, have sent Smith to seek refuge in alcohol. It may numb the nightmares, but it does not remove either the pain that haunts her or the criminal that awaits her. Seph has a heightened sense of empathy. She is able to sense the emotions of others–which in a time of catastrophic death is an almost crippling challenge. This gives her an advantage in developing a profile of criminals, but can make it difficult living her daily life.

 

Delozier’s medical experience informs her writing without making it overly technical or dry. She never forgets her plot or her characters when dropping in details about the reactions to chemo drugs and other medical details. I will admit to wondering at one point whether she had either witnessed a taser or possibly experienced one herself (no doubt in the desire to get the details correct and not from any unfortunate interactions with the police).

 

Her descriptions of the settings are also vivid. Whether she has actually visited the areas in her books or has successfully used her research to picture the locations in her mind, she effectively lets the reader see France and Spain through her writing.

 

Delozier is a local author and one of the leaders of the Nittany Valley Writers Network (State College, Pennsylvania). She is also a friend of ours. That being said, we only review books we like–even when friends write them. We like this book.

 

A flawed but triumphant heroine. A brilliant and psychopathic enemy. The beauty of Europe. J.L. Delozier’s latest thriller has it all. Read all three of the books to get Seph Smith’s full story, and enjoy.

 

J.L. Delozier will be at State College’s 2019 PA Bookfest on Saturday, July 13, 2019. This week we are featuring authors who will be part of the bookfest, part of an annual tradition we started last year celebrating authors who are from our local area.

 

Also see:

Book Review: Type and Cross, Persephone Smith series, J.L. Delozier

Book Review: Storm Shelter, Persephone Smith seriesJ.L. Delozier

 

Blood Type X, J.L. Delozier

Book Review: Blood Type X, J.L. Delozier

Book Review: A Natural History of Dragons, Marie Brennan

Book Review: A Natural History of Dragons, Marie Brennan

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent (The Lady Trent Memoirs) by Marie Brennan

Fantasy: A Natural History of Dragons, Marie Brennan

Lady Trent is a naturalist, an expert in dragons. For a woman to accomplish this in a Victorian-type society is no small accomplishment. It is little wonder, then, that her autobiography would be so eagerly sought by publishers. A Natural History of Dragons is the first installment of her autobiography, one that tells the story of her early life, her marriage, and her first trip abroad to study dragons in their native habitats.

 

Marie Brennan thus begins a new fantasy series set in a Victorian-esque world where ladies wear dresses and do not do things like travel abroad to study dragons. Unless those ladies are Lady Trent. In this fun and well-written book, styled as a first-person autobiography of the protagonist, our heroine breaks the mold of feminine society to pursue her passion as a natural historian, studying dragons in the mountains of someplace like Russia (but not actually Russia).

 

Lady Trent is smart, brave, and quite willing to confront society, travel hardships, smugglers, and dragons head-on. She is self-aware, noticing her own shortcomings and occasional lack of compassion with regret. She loves her husband almost as much as she loves her dragons. In all, she is a delightful protagonist.

 

As fun as it is to see a woman tackling the conventions of Victorian society, it’s important to step back for a moment and realize that women and girls still struggle to break through stereotypes to pursue careers in the sciences and other STEM fields. Reading about the challenges faced by a woman who was expected to fulfill her role as wife and mother and lady-in-society should serve to remind us that society still has expectations of women that are governed more by gender perceptions than by logic. We can be grateful that a woman traveling to study animals in their native habitats is no longer scandalous. Let’s be even more grateful when a woman pursuing her career in science or math is no longer unusual.

 

Marie Brennan has written a fun novel about a bold protagonist who may be as brave as the dragons she studies. I look forward to getting into further Lady Trent novels, and learning more about dragons in the process.

 

If you like this book you may enjoy:

Book Review: Voyage of the Basilisk, Book 3 of the Memoirs of Lady Trent, Marie Brennan

Book Review: European Travel for the Monstrous GentlewomanTheodora Goss

Book Review: The Invisible Library, Genevieve Cogman 

Book Review: The Mortal Word (Book 5 of The Invisible Library Series), Genevieve Cogman

 

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent (The Lady Trent Memoirs) by Marie Brennan

Book Review: A Natural History of Dragons, Marie Brennan