Please welcome Marie Brennan to The Qwillery. Within the Sanctuary of Wings, the 5th and final Memoir of Lady Trent, was published on April 25, 2017 by Tor Books.
TQ: Welcome back to The Qwillery! The first of the Memoirs of Lady Trent, A Natural History of Dragons, was published in 2013 and now Within the Sanctuary of Wings, the final Memoir has been published. What are your thoughts on ending this series?
Marie: I'm sad to see it end -- but I also am glad to be finishing while I am sad, rather than after I've grown tired of it. Or worse, after my readers have grown tired of it.
TQ: When we first spoke I asked if you were a plotter or pantser and you replied "...somewhere in between." And now, 4 years later, how would you answer that question? Has anything changed about your writing process?
Marie: I'm a bit less linear than I used to be, but ultimately, I'm still in between on the question of outlining versus improvising. For example, I knew going into Sanctuary what Isabella was going to find, but the specifics of how she found it and what happened afterward? Those mostly got made up as I went along. I still have fixed points I want to hit, and those get added to along the way, but a lot of it is still discovery, me figuring out how I'm going to get from where I am to where I want to be.
TQ: You are both an anthropologist and a folklorist. Have you based any of the dragons that have been documented by Lady Trent on anything in the fossil record?
Marie: Oh, definitely! The drakeflies in The Tropic of Serpents were inspired by a dinosaur called Microraptor, which had two sets of wings. They were probably connected by a membrane rather than being separate like a dragonfly's, but that didn't stop me from running with my own version. And the idea that a swamp-wyrm at different stages in its life cycle might look like very different organisms also came from a theory about certain dinosaurs -- apparently I was reading a lot about dinos while I worked on that book!
TQ: And do you have a favorite dragon from folklore?
Marie: My favorite dragon overall is Maleficent, but I think it's a bit of a stretch to call Disney's decision to turn her into a dragon an element of genuine pre-modern folklore. I'm also quite partial to the Wawel dragon of Kraków -- but that's more a matter of liking the story of how the dragon got defeated, rather than the dragon itself. So let's go with the quetzalcoatl of Aztec folklore, because feathered dragons are cool. (As are feathered dinosaurs!)
TQ: What is the most unusual thing that Lady Trent has discovered in Books 1 - 4?
Marie: I am so tempted to name off some random detail about people! Part of the idea behind the series is that the places she travels to are every bit as interesting as the dragons she studies there. But since I suspect you meant something dragon-related, I'll say the odd quirk of draconic development Isabella figures out at the end of In the Labyrinth of Drakes, via the honeyseeker breeding project. I can't really be more specific without spoilers, though.
TQ: Please describe Within the Sanctuary of Wings in 140 characters.
Marie: Intrepid lady adventurer nearly gets killed in the Himalaya discovering awesome dragon stuff!
TQ: Please tell us something about Within the Sanctuary of Wings that is not found in the book description.
Marie: There's a whole lot of linguistic fun around the efforts to decipher the ancient Draconean language. And I love the fact that fans of this series are the kinds of nerds who really will find that fun -- it's like a puzzle, and the characters have to get really creative to solve it.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Within the Sanctuary of Wings.
Marie: "In the history of scientific discovery, it is my opinion that insufficient credit has been given to the behaviour of the humble yak."
TQ: Please tell us a bit about the 4 dragons on the gorgeous cover of Within the Sanctuary of Wings?
Marie: Todd Lockwood and I were discussing the covers a year or two ago, trying to figure out what else we could do that would fit the "scientific" theme of the images, without being a rehash of what we'd done before. He was the one who suggested an evolutionary series, like those pictures you see of a chimpanzee getting bigger and more upright until it's a modern human being. The idea is that you're seeing how a much more lizard-like creature eventually became a beautiful Yelangese azure dragon.
TQ: Who has been your favorite not main character in the Memoirs? And which character has given you the most trouble?
Marie: Oh, man -- you're going to make me pick? I'm going to cheat and say my favorite is a tie between Tom and Suhail. The former because I loved developing his partnership with Isabella over the course of the series, and the latter because he's an archaeologist and in some ways my self-insert character. Most trouble was Ankumata, the ruler of Bayembe, because he required me to think through a lot of political calculus to figure out how he should act.
TQ: What's next?
Marie: On May 30th Tor.com will be publishing Lightning in the Blood, the sequel to Cold-Forged Flame. That series is more in the epic fantasy vein than the historical/scientific flavor of the Memoirs, but I've had a lot of fun with the worldbuilding for it.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Marie: Thank you!
Within the Sanctuary of Wings
The Lady Trent Memoirs 5
Tor Books, April 25, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages
Within the Sanctuary of Wings is the conclusion to Marie Brennan's thrilling Lady Trent Memoirs
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.
MARIE BRENNAN is an anthropologist and folklorist who shamelessly pillages her academic fields for material. She is the author of several acclaimed fantasy novels including A Natural History of Dragons; The Onyx Court Series: Midnight Never Come, In Ashes Lie, A Star Shall Fall, and With Fate Conspire; Warrior; and Witch. Her short stories have appeared in more than a dozen print and online publications.
A Natural History of Dragons
The Lady Trent Memoirs 1
Tor Books, February 4, 2014
Trade Paperback,352 pages
Hardcover and eBook, February 5, 2013
Marie Brennan begins a thrilling new fantasy series in A Natural History of Dragons, combining adventure with the inquisitive spirit of the Victorian Age.
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.
"Saturated with the joy and urgency of discovery and scientific curiosity."—Publishers Weekly (starred review) on A Natural History of Dragons
The Tropic of Serpents
The Lady Trent Memoirs 2
Tor Books, February 14, 2015
Trade Paperback, 352 pages
Hardcover and eBook, March 4, 2014
The thrilling adventure of Lady Trent continues in Marie Brennan's The Tropic of Serpents . . .
Attentive readers of Lady Trent's earlier memoir, A Natural History of Dragons, are already familiar with how a bookish and determined young woman named Isabella first set out on the historic course that would one day lead her to becoming the world's premier dragon naturalist. Now, in this remarkably candid second volume, Lady Trent looks back at the next stage of her illustrious (and occasionally scandalous) career.
Three years after her fateful journeys through the forbidding mountains of Vystrana, Mrs. Camherst defies family and convention to embark on an expedition to the war-torn continent of Eriga, home of such exotic draconian species as the grass-dwelling snakes of the savannah, arboreal tree snakes, and, most elusive of all, the legendary swamp-wyrms of the tropics.
The expedition 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 in order 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.
Voyage of the Basilisk
The Lady Trent Memoirs 3
Tor Books, February 2, 2016
Trade Paperback, 368 pages
Hardcover and eBook, March 31, 2015
The thrilling adventure of Lady Trent continues in Marie Brennan's Voyage of the Basilisk . . .
Devoted readers of Lady Trent's earlier memoirs, A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents, may believe themselves already acquainted with the particulars of her historic voyage aboard the Royal Survey Ship Basilisk, but the true story of that illuminating, harrowing, and scandalous journey has never been revealed—until now.
Six years after her perilous exploits in Eriga, Isabella embarks on her most ambitious expedition yet: a two-year trip around the world to study all manner of dragons in every place they might be found. From feathered serpents sunning themselves in the ruins of a fallen civilization to the mighty sea serpents of the tropics, these creatures are a source of both endless fascination and frequent peril. Accompanying her is not only her young son, Jake, but a chivalrous foreign archaeologist whose interests converge with Isabella's in ways both professional and personal.
Science is, of course, the primary objective of the voyage, but Isabella's life is rarely so simple. She must cope with storms, shipwrecks, intrigue, and warfare, even as she makes a discovery that offers a revolutionary new insight into the ancient history of dragons.
In the Labyrinth of Drakes
The Lady Trent Memoirs 4
Tor Books, March 14, 2017
Trade Paperback, 368 pages
Hardcover and eBook, April 5, 2016
In the Labyrinth of Drakes, the thrilling new book in the acclaimed fantasy series from Marie Brennan, the glamorous Lady Trent takes her adventurous explorations to the deserts of Akhia.
Even those who take no interest in the field of dragon naturalism have heard of Lady Trent's expedition to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia. Her discoveries there are the stuff of romantic legend, catapulting her from scholarly obscurity to worldwide fame. The details of her personal life during that time are hardly less private, having provided fodder for gossips in several countries.
As is so often the case in the career of this illustrious woman, the public story is far from complete. In this, the fourth volume of her memoirs, Lady Trent relates how she acquired her position with the Royal Scirling Army; how foreign saboteurs imperiled both her work and her well-being; and how her determined pursuit of knowledge took her into the deepest reaches of the Labyrinth of Drakes, where the chance action of a dragon set the stage for her greatest achievement yet.
From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review
A Lady Trent Story
Tor Books, May 18, 2016
eBook, 32 Pages
After risking the neck of her loved ones and herself during her perilous sea voyage aboard The Basilisk, and the discoveries made at Keonga, Isabella, Lady Trent, returns to Scirland with the aim of publishing her research. And yet, given the level of secret knowledge she now posses, she is reduced to waiting to reveal her new academic discovery until royal decrees can be lifted and a fraught political situation avoided. In her idle frustration, Isabella vents her spleen upon the shoddy research published by lesser men with swollen heads in local journals. Enjoy the following collection of letters, found in a trunk of mislaid scholarly documents left behind when she removed to Linshire for the season.