So Marie Brennan’s Lady Trent series is sort of loosely like Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, in that it’s globetrotting in a basically-Napoleonic setting with dragons. But it’s not quite doing the same thing.

Partly that’s because the setting here is not our Earth—it’s a fictional subcreation. This doesn’t matter a whole lot, because it’s usually pretty easy to translate things into not-London, not-Russia, not-Japan, and so forth, but it does mean that there’s no actual Napoleonic War going on.

Which gets into a larger difference, which is that these aren’t really about the military at all. Lady Trent is a natural scientist who’s interested in dragons, so while she is traipsing all over the globe, she’s doing it for research purposes, rather than military ones. (Though of course, it’s hard for a not-British subject to go on expeditions all over the globe without getting mixed up in political and military concerns at least a little bit.)

But… still and all, you’ve got a book with old-timey genteel protagonists exploring all the corners of their world, and seeing how the dragons and the people are in all these different places, and making discoveries scientific and historical along the way, so it’s not totally different. Maybe the best way to think of it is that Novik’s books are about Captain Aubrey’s concerns, while Brennan’s are about Doctor Maturin’s.

As far as handling the problematic aspects of imperialism, the book is a little bit of a mixed bag—it’s written from a first-person perspective (the narrator of the books is the elderly Lady Trent talking about her younger life), and that perspective is sort of a screaming leftie by the standards of her fictional time, in that she questions some of the assumptions of the imperial project and constantly is an advocate for the interests of the people she meets on her travels; and plus is lightly against the not-British class system, and is of course a feminist. But still and all, she’s a citizen of not-Britain and tends to think of the people in other places as having concerns that are secondary to those of her country, and their beliefs as quaint folkways to be politely respected but not really taken seriously.

Overall, though, it’s an enjoyable series and a quick read. Recommended to anyone who wants to read an elderly woman who clearly dgaf talking about the scientific exploits of her youth.


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