Sun, sand and dragon eggs— famed dragon naturalist Lady Trent has traveled to the arid deserts of Akhia to learn the secret of the dragon breeding.

“Even once I learned to watch the stars, I often missed the drake’s initial approach for it glides down on silent wings, lest it frighten off its prey.”

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But as she attempts to study the desert drakes, trouble and adventure once again interrupt her pursuit of science.

Why is this on our bookshelf?

At a recent author event, Marie Brennan revealed that part of the inspiration for the series came when she was reading a Dungeons and Dragons book. This particular D&D compendium contained descriptions and beautiful illustrations of the life cycle of dragons, skeletal system and more.

I love learning that one amazing geeky thing inspired another amazing geeky thing.

Rating (5 stars)

By now, readers who’ve been following the series since A Natural History of Dragons are aware of the formula— each book features a new adventure, new scientific research and new exotic local. In that respect, In the Labyrinth of Drakes is no different.

But despite following the superficial similarity, this book builds on the achievements of the previous volumes rather than repeating itself. The story simply wouldn’t have worked without the first three books.

After The Voyage of Basilisk felt slightly below par for this astounding series, Labyrinth was a delight. The country of Akhia in this fictitious Victorian-esque fantasy world seemed inspired by Egypt and the ancient ruins it is so famous for. Author Marie Brennan’s background as an archeologist became apparent and lent a sense of authenticity to the story  where the high sea adventure in Voyage fell flat.

I love the science, adventure and dragons in the series, but until now I haven’t really discussed how the Lady Trent series addresses societal issues.

By casting a woman in the role of dragon naturalist, the series has always explored Lady Trent’s challenge in gaining acceptance of her scientific contributions and having them seen as valid as those of her male colleagues. Thankfully, rather than turning this into a maudlin struggle against sexism, Lady Trent has always cheerfully and determinedly faced that challenge. Four books into the series, it is nice to see her really succeed. Her hiring by the Scirling Royal Army, although reluctant, illustrates the growing acceptance of her scientific credentials and expertise in the field. This moment is the catalyst for the entire story.

It is also a credit to the series that this unconventional, yet still Victorian, gentlewomen, is shown trying to navigate the different cultural expectations of places she travels to rather than ignoring them. An adventurer she may be, but she still needs to respect custom and avoid taboo.

In the Labyrinth of Drakes may be the best Lady Trent memoir yet. Her voice perfected, personality shines through in every line. There is a real sense of how each book was important to her gaining her reputation as a world-famous dragon naturalist and yet there is still story left to tell.

It is the perfect penultimate entry— Labyrinth is satisfying in itself but builds anticipation for the final volume.