Brennan’s world of dragons and Scirlandish nobility and the Fish Out of Water trope is worth reading, but I don’t think I, personally will bother reading the second unless I get very bored. I think my biggest issue is (pseudo)Victorian fatigue.
Be warned, then: the collected volumes of this series will contain frozen mountains, foetid swamps, hostile foreigners, hostile fellow countrymen, the occasional hostile family member, bad decisions, misadventures in orienteering, diseases of an unromantic sort, and a plenitude of mud. (Page 9)
Instead of being horse mad, Isabella (the future Lady Trent) goes dragon mad. That’s something she and I had in common, but I don’t think child me would have been interested in preserving “sparkling” dragons, no matter how like insects they are perceived, in vinegar. Then again, I also wasn’t a bored child of nobility expected not to do anything except prepare for a suitable match, even if this line did resonate with me:
Suffice it to say that I forever after referred to them as “the grey years,” for attempting to force myself into the mold of a proper young woman, against my true inclinations, drained nearly all color from my life. (Page 40)
Brennan builds the world and Lady Isabella beautifully and clearly; the secondary characters are less neatly drawn but still distinct (and their patron, Lord Hilford, reminded me deeply of my statement to another woman that I can deal with chauvinists until you have to tack the word “pig” to the end of it; Hilford proves himself to be neither by the end of the book, just a man of his times). Lady Trent does occasionally step out to make asides about how unfair a woman’s lot is — and eventually begins to acknowledge how her upbringing has blinded her to the ‘lower classes’ (peasants, whichever).
I realize this novel is written in the style of a memoir but the meat of the story doesn’t start until after Lady Trent is married off to a husband who at least has the sense to respect her intellectual ability. They are invited to join a naturalist’s expedition to learn more about dragons and their behavior (or, rather, Lady Trent puts them in the position of getting that invitation). These dragons are in what is essentially Russia (or that’s how I read it, anyway), and Lady Trent learns a great deal more about life in a poor village than she ever wanted. She also learns a great deal about dragons, including that they’ve begun to attack people.
That mystery — why people have suddenly become draconic prey — drives the rest of the book, pretty much.
As for me, I thought the memoir conceit kept me a little too distant from events occurring on the page. Between that and my fatigue with societies where women’s roles are strictly constrained, I wanted to like this book and just didn’t.
This book completes my first single-line bingo! I don’t know that I’m going to manage that blackout…