This is a spoiler-free review and all opinions are my own.
✨ Turning Darkness Into Light is out August 20th! ✨
Title: Turning Darkness Into Light
Author: Marie Brennan
Publisher: Titan Books
Publication Date: 20 August 2019
Length: 432 pages
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 Gleinleigh 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, she must find proof of the conspiracy before it’s too late.
This is a spin-off to The Memoirs of Lady Trent series but can be read as a standalone.
This book was so good. So, so good. I have no words to describe how Marie Brennan’s writing makes me feel. Actually, I do – my earliest notes read “15 pages in and already in love”, which pretty much sums up my entire reading experience.
First off, the world-building is fantastic. And vast. And complex. And amazingly thought-out.
The story takes place in an alternative Victorian-like fantasy world a few decades after Lady Trent’s adventures, with Lady Trent’s granddaughter, Audrey, now as the protagonist.
We are immediatey assaulted by all manners of dragonesque sayings, historian/archaeological language, a scholar-like mindset, strange places and practices, and a whole lot of characters to keep up with.
It sounds overwhelming, but it actually isn’t so bad once you get the gist of it.
The narrative takes shape in different formats, all equally engaging and with completely distinctive voices: diary entries, letters, reports, lists, translations, etc., which was extremely clever and allowed the reader not only access to a lot more knowledge than a single POV could provide, but was also a lot more interesting to follow along because you never really knew what you were getting next.
It’s equal parts fascinating and terrifying how the society depicted in Brennan’s work doesn’t stray too far from our modern one, managing to tackle various anthropological issues such as racism, segregation, contraband, cultural appropriation, amongst several others.
Kudshayn, in particular, really struggles with these as he is Draconean and thus considered beneath human beings. His traumatic past also shapes a lot of who he is. Audrey is a biracial girl, which brings challenges of its own throughout the story, despite her famous and respected family. And another important character shows signs of being on the autism spectrum, though this is never explicitly stated.
Our heroes are so amazing and clever and dedicated… And our villains so insanely two-faced, despicable and unscrupulous.
There are so many adorable friendships, endearing family bonds, and even a tiny tiny bit of romance to spice things up.
And if all of this wasn’t enough, there is actually an epic plot going on, ponctuated by conspiracies, a race against time and mind-blowing plot twists!
I felt a bit lost because I didn’t actually know much about Lady Trent and what happened in the previous books. While it’s not at all necessary to read them first, I think my reading experience would have been a lot richer if I’d had previous knowledge of the series and its fantastic world-building.
Although most of it is explained along the way (and part of it brand new to the spin-off) I feel like I missed some of the magic of being a Brennan initiate. Yet that didn’t seem to make that big of a difference in my overall excitement, if I’m being honest!
- Philology, Archaeology and History nerdiness
- Brave female heroine
- Reluctant but brilliant sidekicks
- Villain love interest
- Dragon allusions
- Victorian splendor
- Those looking for Indiana Jones-type of action. It’s highly academic, with more “Eureka” moments than actual violence galore (although some chasing and murder do take place), which may be boring to some readers.
As a self-proclaimed geek, I love all scholarly things and this book is packed full of them. Throw in the fantasy element with a glorious Victorian backdrop and you get absolute Heaven.
I adored working alongside Audrey, Kudshayn and Cora in their quest for enlightenment about the past and future of their civilisation. Their absolute devotion to knowledge and justice was contagious and I couldn’t stop turning page after page, hoping they would find exactly what they were looking for, and fearing so badly they wouldn’t.
Perfect for Marie Brennan fans, old and new!