In The Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan

Rating 8.7/10
The fourth in a series of involving novels

From the first A Natural History of Dragons series of novels, Isabella wanted to search for and catalogue dragons of every kind and didn't mind going all around the natural world to do so. This is the one thing that sets her apart from her fellow women as she acts, in tomboy fashion, as a man would do and comes under great scrutiny from other men for being so bold.

Over the past three novels we have seen Isabella find just about every dragon there is to make a serious note of, this time she intends to help dragons breed as she fears they may become extinct due to human hunting, and actually feels a close bond with them. One man who always seems to tag along with her on these occasions is Tom Wilker who with her is in charge of the dragon-breeding project. Bearing in mind this is something already close to her heart, she hopes it will work and takes time out to visit the island of drakes, the dragons she intends to breed as they are perfect for this experiment. The reason for this project is that dragon bone is being seen as a form of armour that can be used by the military in battle, and even though there are many dragons around, Isabella realises it won't be long before they are soon killed-off as humans are so wont to do.

Akhia's drakes are robust and perfect for study and breeding as they are in a desert setting. Anyone who has read the previous books will see this as one of Brennan's finest novels in the series to date as she goes into the story of the problems Isabella faces; enemies of the Royal Scirling's Army who head the project, her former friend, Suhail who was seen in The Voyage of the Basilisk and comes to cause trouble for her with her project, though does prove useful as the one who thwarts Isabella's kidnapping.

Other characters do get a look in in this novel, but not much time is spent on them or their progress, which is a shame. We get to see Tom doing his best to help out and Andrew, her brother who doesn't seem that important here. From a voyage on the high seas, pirate style to a quest for peace that sounds plausible if it were about any other endangered animal shows us the compassion of one person who can gather several to her aid for a cause that also speaks of the real world we have and might not have fifty years from now.

The cover and interior art by Todd Lockwood enhances the reading and gives life to the dragons you read about. This is a science novel about the one thing that doesn't exist, but that doesn't prevent us from enjoying the story or the themes in it. Affection, possible romance and the levels of feeling in it are explored for all to see in this, the fourth in the series of Brennan's involving novels.

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