Turning Darkness Into Light by Marie Brennan

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A stand alone companion to the Lady Trent series of books this is a slow burner of a mystery.
We start with the discovery of a series of ancient tablets which their owner, Lord Gleinleigh, is keen to have translated.  Who better for the job than Lady Trent’s feisty granddaughter, Audrey Camherst.  She enlists the help of her Draconian friend Kudshayn and together (over several months) they attempt to unpick his nation’s history.
Having not read any of the Lady Trent series I confess I found the book quite hard going to start with.  Whilst this is a stand alone novel I think some previous knowledge of the characters and the worlds they inhabit would have been helpful.  The book is quite descriptive but, for all that, I still haven’t got a clear image in my head of how humanoid dragon Kudshayn looks or a firm grip on the various lands they live in.
The story is told using a collection of letters, diary entries and translations, with the odd throwback to previous events.  As a style it can feel a bit disjointed at times but Audrey’s diary entries really give you an insight into her personality and feelings towards other characters which help you feel connected to her.
Soon it becomes clear that she has doubts about Lord Gleinleigh, as he seems to have a connection with some dubious characters, is there more to these tablets than meet the eye?  Gleinleigh’s niece, Cora, is helping them but can she be trusted or is she just an informant for Gleinleigh?
As they work their way through the tablets the story of the four dragons hatched from one shell takes a dark turn.  Is ancient Draconian history/myth about to have disastrous consequences for the race in current times?  Or are there people who would gain from them being falsely discredited?  Could this be a political intrigue more complex than Brexit?
The book is at heart a fantasy novel crossed with a detective mystery with a peppering of Indiana Jones-esque adventure.  However it couldn’t be described as a fast paced romp.  The first two thirds are slow going and the annotated translations feel a bit like wading through too many layers of academia at times.  It is worth sticking with though as the final third gets more exciting with double crossing, forgery, fraud and murder all coming into play.
Audrey feels like a thoroughly modern and feisty “Victorian” female and fans of fantasy will undoubtedly love all the dragon related history and imagery (the cover is particularly eye catching).
Not necessarily an easy read but the end certainly justifies the means.
Turning Darkness into Light is published by Titan Books and is available here.

Marie Brennan

Marie Brennan is a former academic with a background in archaeology, anthropology, and folklore, which she now puts to rather cockeyed use in writing fantasy. She is the critically acclaimed author of the Lady Trent series, as well as the Doppelganger and Onyx Court novels, six novellas and more than thirty short stories. She won two Isaac Asimov Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing Grand Prizes.

Reviewed by Angela Paull

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