Book Review: Turning Darkness Into Light by Marie Brennan



As the renowned granddaughter of Isabella Camherst (Lady Trent, of the riveting and daring Draconic adventure memoirs) Audrey Camherst has always known she, too, would want to make her scholarly mark upon a chosen field of study.

When Lord Gleinheigh recruits Audrey to decipher a series of ancient tablets holding the secrets of the ancient Draconean civilization, she has no idea that her research will plunge her into an intricate conspiracy, one meant to incite rebellion and invoke war. Alongside dearest childhood friend and fellow archeologist Kudshayn, must find proof of the conspiracy before it’s too late.

TURNING DARKNESS INTO LIGHT is a delightful fantasy of manners, the heir to the award-winning Natural History of Dragons series, a perfect stepping stone into an alternate Victorian-esque fantasy landscape.



I didn’t think it was possible for me to love a book more than I did any of the Lady Trent books, but this one may have topped those for me. Frankly, I loved everything about this book–from the style in which it’s written, to the characters, and the hopefulness of the story itself–these are all things that resonated with me as a reader.

Let me start out with the style. The story is revealed through a series of documents left by various characters–everything from letters, journal entries, written statements, and other documents such as translations of ancient Draconean scripts and the translation notes. These documents are put together in such a way that the story is told mostly in a linear fashion, but there are a few flashbacks which reveal some of the character’s backstories and give us more insight into their personalities and motivations. I loved this style of storytelling. If you’re looking for an epistolary novel, look no further, this is it. I enjoy that the story wasn’t only journal entries or only letters, but used various forms of documentation. I especially loved the translation notes, as the characters left replies to each other and bandied back and forth about certain topics, sometimes getting off-topic, which was really fun.

Audrey Camhurst is a delight and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with her as our main protagonist. She’s like her grandmother in many ways, but she’s also definitely her own person. She’s probably a little more forward, if only because she’s living in a world that has been altered by the generations that had come before her, paving the way for women in scientific fields. She doesn’t have to fight for her right to simply exist in the field quite as much as her grandmother did, but it’s still there a bit. But also, Audrey is fighting for other things, like the rights of the Draconeon people to be recognized as people with rights of their own instead of being feared and hated because of ignorance and deliberate smear campaigns against them. I love that we see so many sides of her in this story. She’s strong, yes, but also vulnerable and willing to admit when she makes mistakes (after being stubborn for a bit).

I loved her dynamics with the other characters in the book, especially those helping her with the translations. We have a Draconean character, Kudshayn, and he quickly became a favorite of mine. I loved reading his letters back to the sanctuary. It’s clear he has a great heart, which isn’t invulnerable to being broken. He’s such a ‘do the right thing’ type of character that he’s willing to sacrifice his own happiness, and that of his people, if it means revealing a truth. And then we have Lord Gleinheigh’s niece, who we don’t quite know what to make of at first, and maybe that’s because she has a lot of self-discovery to do of her own. All three of these characters have great arcs which weave and intersect each other throughout the story is such lovely ways, allowing them to learn from one another.

I don’t really have any criticisms of this one. It’s exactly what I wanted when I first heard about this book being written. Perhaps the villain is a little, well, villain-y, but the motivations are clear. And let’s be honest–sometimes people are just evil. This is true in life as it is in fiction. I certainly see a lot of parallels between the story and today’s sociopolitical climate (propaganda! fake news! fear of outsiders!) and perhaps that’s why the overall hopeful nature resonated so much with me–it served as a buoy to my spirits in a world that sometimes feels like it’s without hope. 5/5 stars.

17 thoughts on “Book Review: Turning Darkness Into Light by Marie Brennan

  1. evelynreads1 says:

    Ooh I’ve got an arc for this one, after reading your review I’m really excited to pick it up!


  2. Zezee says:

    I didn’t know there were other books that piggy-back on the Lady Trent books. I still haven’t read the Lady Trent ones, but I plan to. It sounds like something I might like.

  3. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum says:

    I just finished this! I’m glad you loved it so much, for me it’s definitely on par with some of the Lady Trent books as well. I feel like I didn’t get a chance to know Audrey as well, simply because of the format of the book, but I adored the worldbuilding and how she expanded on the Draconean culture/mythology!

    • waytoofantasy says:

      I can see that. At first I was mad when it cut away to the other girl’s POV but then I appreciated her view later. I liked all three main characters in the end. Would definitely love to spend more time with Audrey though!

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