Book Review: The Tropic of Serpents (The Memoirs of Lady Trent, #2) by Marie Brennan

Book Review: The Tropic of Serpents (The Memoirs of Lady Trent, #2) by Marie Brennan

Review copy provided by the author’s agent—Zeno Literary Agency—in exchange for an honest review.

Cover art illustrated by Todd Lockwood

The Tropic of Serpents by Marie Brennan

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Series: The Memoirs of Lady Trent (Book #2 of 5)

Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy

Word Count: 98,000 words

Pages: 331 pages (Paperback edition)

Published: 4th March 2014 by Tor Books (US) & 20th June 2014 by Titan Books (UK)

The Tropic of Serpents precisely portrayed why I hate jungles.

“There is no faster way to harden my determination than to assume I will fail at something.”

I felt lukewarm about A Natural History of Dragons. The first book in Memoirs of Lady Trent had a memorable first half but somehow faltered in quality for the remaining half. I heard from many readers and fans of the series that The Memoirs Lady Trent is a series that keeps getting better and better with each book. And although not by much, I do concur that The Tropic of Serpents, the second book in The Memoirs of Lady Trent, is indeed a superior volume. It is consistently readable with a few moments of boredom.

“Science is not separate from politics. As much as I would like it to be a pure thing, existing only in some intellectual realm unsullied by human struggle, it will always be entangled with the world we live in.”

You know the drill here. If you have read the first book of the series, you’d know what to expect when it comes to the matter of narration. Despite my mixed feelings about A Natural History of Dragons, I did mention that I had a wonderful time reading Brennan’s prose. Lady Trent’s memoir, or narration, is so distinct. And the consistency of quality in that is improved further in The Tropic of Serpent. In this book, three years have passed since the end of A Natural History of Dragons. The next stage of Isabella’s journey takes her on an expedition to the war-torn continent of Eriga, where exotic draconian species such as the grass-dwelling snakes of the savannah, arboreal tree snakes, and, most elusive of all, the legendary swamp-wyrms of the tropics exists. The expedition, as you can predict, 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 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.

“Would that I were a man… Except that I do not wish I were a man. I only wish that being a woman did not limit me so.”

As I said at the beginning of this review, I am not a fan of the jungles. The jungle is one of my least favorite settings in books. In real life, it is one of the locations in our world that I feel most reluctant to visit. Isabella’s journey proved this notion further, and I am not even talking about the terrifying existence of dragons. But the unbearable heat, the insects, the unfriendly environment, and everything about adventuring in a jungle feel deadly and uninteresting to me. However, please do not assume my dislike of the jungle led to decreased reading enjoyment. I have read many epic fantasy books with the characters venturing through a jungle or forest, and those alone are not influential enough to impact my rating of the novel. One of the two critics I have, or preference, on The Tropic of Serpents is the lack of dragons in a supposedly dragon-centric series.

“Give me dragons any day; I understand their ways far better than those of my fellow human beings. We make our world much too complicated”

I totally understand that dragons in this world are relatively rare and difficult to find. But for a series focused on dissecting and analyzing dragons, their appearances are very few in between. It has been two books in the series, and it seems like they are just background figures for Isabella to develop as a character. To pursue her dream. The benefit from this, though… Isabella develops well as a character when she is forced to admit personal guilt and what she wants as an individual in The Tropic of Serpents. I truly enjoyed that. The second issue I had with the series is that I wish there was more tension in the series. At least in the climax sequence! It is true this is not an epic fantasy series, but the first two books did not succeed at sparking in me a sense of urgency or danger in the characters or situation. The Memoirs of Lady Trent felt like a cozy or comfortable fantasy to read. And when I reached the last page of The Tropic of Serpent, it felt like the book ended with no satisfying closure. If you approached this series expecting a shred of sense of danger in Isabella’s adventure, you might be disappointed.

“One does not cease to treasure a gem simply because one owns another that is larger.”

So yes. At the end of the day, I still feel mixed about The Memoirs of Lady Trent. But overall, The Tropic of Serpents was a slight improvement over A Natural History of Dragons. Despite my grievances with the series about the lack of dragons and palpable danger, Brennan’s writing and Isabella’s voice felt distinct and incredibly enjoyable to read. Lastly, it goes without saying the beautiful cover art and ten interior illustrations from Todd Lockwood helped amplify the compelling factor of the narrative for me. Will I continue to the third book? Maybe. But I must say, it is not urgent for now. I am, however, intrigued to read the Rook and Rose trilogy that Brennan co-wrote with Alyc Helms as M.A. Carrick. It is highly possible that Rook and Rose trilogy, based on what I heard, would be more suitable to my reading taste. So, who knows? I will see what my reading mood decides.

You can order this book from: Amazon | Blackwells (Free International shipping)

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