Excerpt: WITHIN THE SANCTUARY OF WINGS by Marie Brennan (Tor)

To celebrate the recent release of Marie Brennan‘s Within the Sanctuary of Wings, Tor Books has sent me this excerpt to share. The final novel in the author’s Memoirs of Lady Trent fantasy series, first here’s the synopsis:

After nearly five decades (and, indeed, the same number of volumes), one might think they were well-acquainted with the Lady Isabella Trent — dragon naturalist, scandalous explorer, and perhaps as infamous for her company and feats of daring as she is famous for her discoveries and additions to the scientific field.

And yet — after her initial adventure in the mountains of Vystrana, and her exploits in the depths of war-torn Eriga, to the high seas aboard The Basilisk, and then to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia–the Lady Trent has captivated hearts along with fierce minds. This concluding volume will finally reveal the truths behind her most notorious adventure — scaling the tallest peak in the world, buried behind the territory of Scirland’s enemies — and what she discovered there, within the Sanctuary of Wings.

Now. On with chapter one…

Continue reading

Guest Post: “The Series Payoff” by Marie Brennan

BrennanM-AuthorPicIf I had to name one specific story mode I love the most, it would be the closed-arc series.

Other kinds of stories are great, too! A self-contained, single-volume story can pack a hell of a punch, and I’m as susceptible as the next reader to wanting the continuing adventures of my favorite characters, tackling a new puzzle or threat every week. But my absolute favorite is the kind of story that takes place in multiple installments, maybe with a semi-episodic structure, but with an over-arching plot that will wrap up in due course.

The advantages of this form are (in my opinion) legion. Comparing them against the standalone novel: a series has more room to work with, and as a result, can pull off effects that are very difficult to do in a confined space. You can show long-term character development, without short-changing the amount of time and effort required to make that kind of thing plausible. You can lay groundwork and then leave it alone for long enough that the reader forgets about it, until it comes back to punch them in the face. You can make use of recurring motifs, revisiting a particular bit of plot from different angles, so the reader gets a variety of perspectives on it rather than just the one. Continue reading

Guest Review: A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS by Marie Brennan (Tor/Titan)

BrennanM-LT1-ANaturalHistoryOfDragonsUSThe first Memoir of Lady Trent

You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart — no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon’s presence, even for the briefest of moments — even at the risk of one’s life — is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten…

All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.

Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever. 

Reviewed by Ryan Frye

A Natural History of Dragons is set in a Victorian-era-esque, male-dominated world where women, particularly those like Isabella (of noble birth) are meant to host teas, plan dinners and keep their interaction with the natural world limited to gardening. Obviously, Isabella wants none of that life and instead yearns to be accepted into the scholarly life as a Natural Historian who studies dragons. As luck would have it, she winds up marrying possibly the one man in all of Scirland who is willing to help her achieve her goals. Through her husband’s connections, she finagles her way into an expedition that is set to study dragons in a far-off land. Upon arrival, they are attacked by one of the region’s dragons, (attacks of this sort are a rare occurrence), and from there, the expedition continuously veers away from its original purpose. Continue reading