Published on March 4, 2014 by Tor
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
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Attentive readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoir, A Natural History of Dragons, are already familiar with how a bookish and determined young woman named Isabella first set out on the historic course that would one day lead her to becoming the world’s premier dragon naturalist. Now, in this remarkably candid second volume, Lady Trent looks back at the next stage of her illustrious (and occasionally scandalous) career.
Three years after her fateful journeys through the forbidding mountains of Vystrana, Mrs. Camherst defies family and convention to embark on an expedition to the war-torn continent of Eriga, home of such exotic draconian species as the grass-dwelling snakes of the savannah, arboreal tree snakes, and, most elusive of all, the legendary swamp-wyrms of the tropics.
The expedition is not an easy one. Accompanied by both an old associate and a runaway heiress, Isabella must brave oppressive heat, merciless fevers, palace intrigues, gossip, and other hazards in order to satisfy her boundless fascination with all things draconian, even if it means venturing deep into the forbidden jungle known as the Green Hell . . . where her courage, resourcefulness, and scientific curiosity will be tested as never before.
It’s been a little bit since I read A Natural History of Dragons so it took a bit of time to get back into the swing of things with the second book of the Memories of Lady Trent. Immediately you’re thrown into that captivating voice of Isabella Trent as she recounts her days of adventuring.
The Tropic of Serpents follows a similar pattern to the first book, detailing a new adventure with the same themes of challenging the role of women in society, specifically as scholars. As someone in the sciences pursuing a career in academia, I could really relate to this struggle and found that it was also better woven into the story and world compared to the previous book.
Once again, Isabella’s voice stole the show. She reminds me of that grandmother who loves talking about her youth and you can’t help but be captivated by her story. She experiences so much in such a short span (well, if you consider a book a short span of time). I also think it’s wonderful that Isabella isn’t the same person she was in A Natural History of Dragons in that her voice is the same as this is her “memoir” told in parts, but her character and her actions changes as she does.
Compared to the first book, I had a much easier time staying involved in the story. It could be because the first book had to set up her life as a child and move into her academic career so it was a bit slower going. I will say I was a tad disappointed with the lack of scaly beasts because dragons are awesome but being of an academic mind I enjoyed her growth as a person and as a scholar.
Now while I enjoyed it because I could relate, this is definitely not a book I would recommend to everyone. If you’re looking for a lot of action and adventure that immerses you in the world, I can’t say this is the best option. Because it works more as a story being re-told to the reader, it gives a different perspective on the usual fantasy but also gives the story a passive edge. I, personally, enjoyed it because of my background but that’s just me.
If you weren’t sure about this series after A Natural History of Dragons, I would definitely say give this next book a chance. I thought it definitely improved on the story and though there weren’t as many dragons as I would have liked, watching Isabella grow as a character was really interesting and I love her voice. It’s one I think a lot of people can relate to. A solid sequel for the series!