My review for The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan.
Three years after her fateful journeys through the forbidding mountains of Vystrana, in which she lost her husband, the widowed Mrs. Camherst defies family and convention to embark on an expedition to the savage, war-torn continent of Eriga, home of such exotic draconian species as the grass-dwelling snakes of the savannah, arboreal tree snakes, and, most elusive of all, the legendary swamp-wyrms of the tropics.
The expedition is not an easy one. Accompanied by both an old associate and a runaway heiress, Isabella must brave oppressive heat, merciless fevers, palace intrigues, gossip, and other hazards in order to satisfy her boundless fascination with all things draconian, even if it means venturing deep into the forbidden jungle known as the Green Hell – where her courage, resourcefulness, and scientific curiosity will be tested as never before.
Published February 17th 2015 by Tor Books (first published March 4th 2014)
It’s been a while since I read the first in this series so I couldn’t remember just what I was in for or wasn’t. At times I wished the story itself would pick up and I really wanted to read more about dragons than anything else. All in all though this book ended really well, so if you’re feeling a little dissatisfied, hold on I think you’ll appreciate finishing it.
This book is not a bad book, it’s written well, simply put it’s just not your average story. Imagine dragons are real but they haven’t been well studied, if much at all. Now go back in time, let’s say like early 1900s, and imagine a woman scientist, naturalist whose life revolves around dragons. She’s a young woman, in her 20s, with a young son this time around. She’s very likable, an adventurer who doesn’t always make the best choices, and she’s dedicated to dragons, their well being, and her study of them. While she’s always pushing the boundaries she has to live within the restrictions of a world that doesn’t encourage women in science (she had to publish her work under her husband’s name) let alone trousers. This is a story about her adventures and studies so it’s not always exciting but IMHO it’s very interesting. Reading it I felt like I could very well be reading a real memoir, it was fun to imagine and helped me get through the slower parts of the story. And it’s not even that this is a slow story by any means, every chapter is full of a new development, I’m just pouting because I wanted more dragon time. That said the people of the Green Hell, the swamp of Mouleen, are themselves quite interesting. I think it’s fair to say this story has a long lead up to a great conclusion.
If you want to read about a world with dragons from a natural history perspective, that includes all aspects of such expeditions to study them, then you’ll really enjoy this. There’s a lot more than dragons going on here and they’re not the same dragons you read about in all the other fantasy stories you’ve come across. Again, think real world dragons. One of the best parts, I think, is that this is a world with dragons across the globe in all kinds of environments. There’s different species of dragons, not just the one kind like we’re used to hearing about. Most other stories treat dragons like there’s only ever one kind of dragon. That is not the case here.
I’ll be starting the next The Voyage of the Basilisk sooner than later because I’d like to stay in the vein of this kind of writing, this book ended with an excerpt from the next, and I already have it in my possession. 😀 Check my 2019 TBR for Voyage of the Basilisk and more!
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