Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie Brennan
Might contain spoilers.
This is naturally the most thrilling and suspenseful book in the series, being the climax and making the grand revelations we’ve been waiting for. The issues I have with the cultural standins (like Dajin for India, although I thought it was Vidwatha last time, and Tser-nga as a mélange of Tibet & Nepal) persist. For some reason, it feels as though Tom doesn’t have much to do this time around. The younger Jacob was conspicuously absent from the past two books, so it makes sense that he abruptly departed to become a sailor. I wonder whether this was for lack of neat ways to incorporate him into the story. Meanwhile, the colonel was an amusing character I would have been happy to see a bit more of.
The mountain seems like the most extreme climate yet. It’s hard to believe they survived for so long, including during the search for Isabella. Still, as unrealistic as it was, thank goodness no one died in the avalanche. That would have been too much to bear. It’s been such a pleasure to see all these characters grow over time, from when Isabella and Tom began to make their mark on history to where they are now. It was sad enough when Maxwell Oscott passed away (between the third and fourth books, if I recall correctly).
Isabella’s relationship with Suhail is so different from her relationship with Jacob. It’s not a question of better or worse, but rather indicative of human nature just how memorable Jacob’s comparatively brief presence in her life is, both for her and for us.
I said when I finished the last book that I couldn’t wait to see what comes next, and this one did not disappoint. It was so hard for me put it down once they discovered the bodies on the mountain and the trajectory of the story became clear. The Draconeans are fascinating. I admit they feel less distinct than I expected, but I believe that may be explained by their being the descendants of the Draconeans that we’ve read about, stuck in one small village and stagnating for who knows how long. Despite the social and biological differences, they’re quite human in their personalities, which isn’t all that strange considering their provenance. I enjoyed seeing Isabella’s relationship with the three sisters evolve even within the space of half a book. The dragons and the Draconeans both feel a bit like bears dancing for the emperor at the end, but needs must, I suppose.
The revelation that firestone was used to kill Draconeans in the egg is shocking. It makes me wonder just how humans and Draconeans can ever live alongside each other, with all the bad blood between them. Then again, that isn’t so different from what humans have done to each other…
On the whole, this is a lovely end to the series, unlike some rushed endings I’ve seen. Isabella’s induction into the Colloquium is triumphant and stirring. The little touch of putting her name to the right of Tom’s warmed my heart. I can’t say why this book gives me that impression and others feel as if the ending was a hurried afterthought spanning two pages. It feels as though the entire second half of Within the Sanctuary of Wings is the ending, from meeting the Draconeans onwards, as is appropriate for such a carefully developed story. I turned the last page with a smile on my face and contentment in my heart.
Next in series: Turning Darkness Into Light by Marie Brennan(#6 in Thoughts & Spoilers: Books: The Memoirs of Lady Trent (2013))