Review – Turning Darkness into Light

Posted 31 August, 2019 by Nikki in Reviews / 4 Comments

Turning Darkness into Light, Marie Brennan

Received to review via Netgalley

I wanted to get this reviewed before it came out, but I also didn’t want to do it a disservice and rush it. To be quite honest with you, I basked in having this world to dive into anew, after some time has passed in that world; I adore what Brennan does in the Lady Trent books with showing scientific progress and academic endeavour, and I had the same feeling here. Being both a biology graduate and a literature postgraduate (and one who focused on languages and translation fairly heavily for a while), this world has now reflected so much of my experience it makes me quite squeeful. I know Audrey is much better at translating Draconaean than I ever was at Anglo-Saxon or Old Icelandic, but some of the struggles in reading are similar — and the process of academic review and piecing things together across texts is even more familiar.

(I mean, nor am I as experienced and high level a biologist as Lady Trent is a naturalist; still, there are commonalities, and Isabella and Audrey’s struggle for status is still relevant for female-bodied folks in STEM today, soooo…)

The thing is, in conclusion, that Brennan is just so clever in the way she puts together the work. The way she invents these ancient texts: the structures of them, the lacunae, the difficulty in understanding things that rely on context. The way she understands the process is so clear — which makes sense, given her background in anthropology, but that doesn’t always mean one will be good at writing it. Brennan is.

And that only touches on half the book! There’s also an exploration of what it might be like to be the granddaughter of someone like Isabella, explorations of the developments in Draconaean civilisation since she found the Sanctuary… and delightful bits like Audrey causing a riot (of course) and Isabella dismissing someone as a potential partner for Audrey because he’s not a sound scholar, and all the politics which Audrey manages to entangle herself in… It all comes together very satisfyingly.

Perhaps my only criticism is that Audrey is very like Isabella; their voices are similar, and you can be pretty sure that whatever Isabella would have done in a situation, Audrey will do as well. Obviously, there’s reasons for that, and good ones, but it makes the book feel less its own thing and more like it’s more of the same. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I hope if we see more of Audrey, she does more forging of her own way. (I absolutely want to see more of Audrey.)

Rating: 5/5

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4 Responses to “Review – Turning Darkness into Light”

  1. I liked that it forced Audrey to acknowledge how and why she was like Isabella though – and encouraged her to be herself. But mostly it was just such a delight to be back in this world and context (and OH MY the emotional journey and the way Brennan so successfully invests you in the academic tribulations as well as the personal). Also, Cora. Let’s take a moment to appreciate Cora.

    I’m meant to be writing my review of this at the moment and totally failing because SQUEEEEEE.
    imyril recently posted…August Redux: the wonder of WorldconMy Profile

    • That’s true! It did address that fact as well. It’s just that it felt just a little too like Isabella at times to be distinctive. Which, I mean, can be part of the problem for someone in Audrey’s situation, but. *waves hands incoherently* Tone-wise, it was very similar.

      I really do appreciate Cora. I am surprised my review did not mention her! There’s so much to talk about, though!

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