Fifth and final chapter (In the Labyrinth of Drakes, 2016, etc.) of the memoirs of Isabella, Lady Trent of Scirland, dragon naturalist extraordinaire.
Iconoclastic, indomitable, and perspicacious, Isabella refuses to allow the prevailing Victorian ethos to deflect her from exploring and learning about dragons, which in this world are ubiquitous and take a bewildering variety of forms. Her one unrealized ambition is to force her way into the prestigious all-male Philosophers’ Colloquium. As her husband, Suhail, attempts to decipher inscriptions in Draconean, the language of a long-vanished Draconean Empire wherein humans tamed, or perhaps worshipped, creatures who resembled bipedal dragons, a furtive stranger named Thu Phim-lat shows up; he’s a native of the remote, mountainous country of Yelang, whose expansionist ambitions threaten Scirland. Thu reports discovering the remains of dragons preserved in the ice atop Yelang’s loftiest peaks; they appear to be of an unknown and possibly extinct type. (Left to their own devices, dragon bones decay too rapidly for preservation.) Despite the geopolitical complications, Isabella naturally organizes an expedition to investigate. What eventuates is, omitting plot spoilers, an adventure that is part exploration, part dragonology, part political conundrum, narrated with all the charm, verve, and methodological rigor as previous volumes, that will tax Isabella physically and mentally as never before. There are a few caveats. Isabella dominates to such an extent that other familiar characters make only brief appearances, while new ones seem more archetypes than individuals. And the central mystery here has been touched upon in preceding volumes, so will come as no great surprise to existing fans. Still, it’s a thoroughly absorbing conclusion to this refreshingly different and consistently intriguing pentalogy.
Catch them all. Don’t start here.