Review – Within the Sanctuary of Wings

Posted 16 June, 2017 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Cover of Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie BrennanWithin the Sanctuary of Wings, Marie Brennan

I kind of procrastinated on reading this book, or at least finishing it, because I didn’t want the adventures to be over. This is the concluding volume of Lady Trent’s memoirs, and I already miss her ‘deranged practicality’, her curiosity and drive, and the people around her. Still, it’s a worthy end to her story, concluding her major scientific studies with — well, I’d better be careful not to say too much. The series has been building up to this point, and I wouldn’t want to spoil the moment of realisation and discovery halfway through this book.

My only quibble, perhaps, is a minor spoiler — I find it amazing that Isabella’s team come out of all of this so well. They end up in what I think are an analogue for the mountains of Tibet, suffer avalanches and punishingly cold temperatures, and yet for the most part, they come through these trials whole or able to heal. No frostbite, no permanent injuries, etc. It’s a bit of a contrast to the end of book one, where of course Isabella’s husband dies. I probably would’ve been annoyed if Isabella didn’t get a happy ending, but maybe this one felt a little too easy.

I don’t want to end on a quibble, though, because I truly love these books — more than I ever thought I would, the first time I read A Natural History of Dragons. Isabella is an amazing character, and I can’t help but love her and most of those around her. I really enjoy that the books have some illustrations of dragons and finds, and that Isabella is a serious scholar who tests hypotheses and formulates theories — she doesn’t get to the answer in one leap of intuition in book one and then simply have to prove what she already knows. The five books each see her learning more, changing her ideas, and being surprised along the way.

And lest you be worried about the Victorian-ish setting of these books and what effect it might have on the narration, don’t. If they were actually set in Victorian times, I’d call them anachronistic — there’s a flavour of the old fashioned in some of the phrasing and such, but no more. Suffice it to say that my sister read the last two books in about 24 hours — snatching my copy of this one from my hand almost as soon as she saw me when I arrived to visit.

If my wife would start reading them now, that’d be good. I’m waiting (and hoping she likes Isabella and her adventures as much as I do).

Rating: 5/5

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4 Responses to “Review – Within the Sanctuary of Wings”

  1. Glad to hear this is a good conclusion to the series! I haven’t read the first one yet – I tried a few years ago, got over halfway and ended up DNFing it because I just wasn’t feeling it – but I’ve heard so many people praising the series I want to give it another chance, particularly as I’m slowly discovering I have a bit of a weakness for fantasy of manners books. Mixing the Georgian/Regency/Victorian eras with something fantastical is something I’m very into it right now. Have you read any Mary Robinette Kowal? I’m currently making my way through Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series and I’d quite like to read Shades of Milk and Honey, too.
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    • I didn’t love the first book the first time I read it, but it’s grown on me a lot!

      I have read Kowal’s work; again, I didn’t love that the first time, but liked it more on a reread, weirdly enough.

    • Yeaaaah, I kind of shrieked about that one in the middle. The rest was kind of anticlimactic after that whopper, honestly. Not in a bad way, necessarily, but that felt like the high point.

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