Even those who take no interest in the field of dragon naturalism have heard of Lady Trent’s expedition to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia. Her discoveries there are the stuff of romantic legend, catapulting her from scholarly obscurity to worldwide fame. The details of her personal life during that time are hardly less private, having provided fodder for gossips in several countries.
As is so often the case in the career of this illustrious woman, the public story is far from complete. In this, the fourth volume of her memoirs, Lady Trent relates how she acquired her position with the Royal Scirling Army; how foreign saboteurs imperiled both her work and her well-being; and how her determined pursuit of knowledge took her into the deepest reaches of the Labyrinth of Drakes, where the chance action of a dragon set the stage for her greatest achievement yet.
This is one of those series that just keeps getting better and better as the books go on. For me, the series really kicked into high gear with book three, and this fourth volume is just as great as the third one in my opinion. Sure it doesn’t have the fun of a sea voyage, but the desert setting was quite refreshing. I love how Isabella travels to all parts of the world and we get to see different kinds of environments throughout the time we spend with her on her journeys.
There is a sense of anticipation in this book, as Isabella and her partner Tom are sent on an expedition to Akhia through their government. This is, after all, the homeland of her friend Suhail, an archaeologist studying the history of the ancient Draconean civilization, she met while on her last voyage. Because I’m a bit of a romance fan I have been rooting for the two of them to get together since the previous book. Will it happen in this one? Well, let’s not get into spoiler territory, shall we? But I will say that when they meet again, that spark was lit again and I love the way they work together. Both Isabella and Suhail are very passionate about their work and it’s fortunate that their work often intersects. There is a degree of uncertainty with Suhail in this book. Where he was confident in the previous one, and a bit of a charmer, he’s much more cautious here. In his own lands he feels more bound by his own cultural attitudes and expresses himself accordingly. This leaves Isabella sometimes unsure of their friendship and where they stand and there’s a wonderful bit of confusion between them before things are cleared up.
I continue to enjoy all the different cultures explored, learning about the differences and similarities between various peoples–this is the author’s anthropology background coming through here to create a rich and diverse world based on a version of our own. The desert setting in this one was fun. We get a bit of desert bandits, attempted kidnappings, daring rescues, and sandstorms. And of course there is the work. There is a bit of politicking going on in this one as their voyage is a governmental one and a joint effort between the two nations to discover more about the dragons and how they may be useful. Of course, Isabella’s main concern, as always, is discovering more about the dragon’s biology.
Overall, In the Labyrinth of Drakes is a great edition to the series and one of the highlights, in my opinion. The growth in the characters and the advancement of the overarching plot was great. Recommend this series for anyone who loves fantasy of manners, scientific exploration, adventure and romance. 5/5 stars.