Review of Turning Darkness into Light by Marie Brennan

As the renowned granddaughter of Isabella Camherst (Lady Trent, of the riveting and daring Draconic adventure memoirs) Audrey Camherst has always known she, too, would want to make her scholarly mark upon a chosen field of study.
When Lord Gleinheigh recruits Audrey to decipher a series of ancient tablets holding the secrets of the ancient Draconean civilization, she has no idea that her research will plunge her into an intricate conspiracy, one meant to incite rebellion and invoke war. Alongside dearest childhood friend and fellow archeologist Kudshayn, must find proof of the conspiracy before it’s too late.

I was initially totally drawn into by the cover of this book, I’m usually trash for anything with dragons and the 4 dragons hatching from the single egg is amazing, beautifully illustrated and totally on point with the story. Whilst this is a standalone in the Lady Trent universe, I have to be honest and say I think I would have enjoyed this a lot more if it had read the books that had come before. Having that already established understanding of the world and those that inhabit it would have been a large bonus, I know that’s not a failing of the author though.

The story did take me a bit of time to get into, it’s compiled of a combination of news articles, diary entries, letters, and studies, which isn’t what I’m used to, but I did eventually get into the flow. I liked how the author appeared mindful of newcomers to the series though and we are drip fed information rather than one large infodump. This worked well in a couple of ways, firstly in that I didn’t feel overwhelmed and secondly in that the story is one of discovery and revelation in any event. Whilst a fictional fantasy world, this read very much as Victorianesque in terms of sensitivities, vocabulary, and surroundings, so great if you enjoy a historical feel. Things definitely picked up for me with the arrival of Kudshayn, as Audrey felt more at home when they started working together, their kinship making her more likeable and having someone to bounce off brought much needed colour to the story. Whilst the topic of translation is a dry one, there is a great deal of excitement as the translations take place and the story of the Epic begins to take shape. The book raises a lot of important questions about tolerance, inclusion and agenda’s, which gave the opportunity to expand into what became a great mystery to solve, with a race against time feel. I found myself wishing that more of the book read like the closing quarter as it really was exceptional.

There were, however, narrative and formatting choices which I found hard to get on with. Whilst I absolutely adored the passages containing the translations of the Epic (in fact these parts and Audrey’s diary were my favourite) I found the conversational footnotes difficult to find a flow with. This was a real shame as Audrey and Kudshayn’s discussions were fascinating, just not in tandem with the translation itself. I sadly found myself eventually ignoring the footnotes and just reading the translations as they were. I’d be interested to see how this would be laid out in ebook form as it may work better that way. I also struggled with the large amount of italicised text that appeared every time we were faced with correspondence, this often went on for many pages and it was hard going on my eyes.

Whilst by the very end I was fully immersed in the story and excitement I did struggle a lot to find my footing and perhaps the style just wasn’t for me. I’m sure established fans of the series will love this though!


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