Turning Darkness Into Light (Marie Brennan) – Review

Turning Darkness Into Light returns readers to the popular world of the Memoirs of Lady Trent series in this new, standalone spin-off sequel. Centring on Audrey Camherst, the granddaughter of the famous Lady Trent, Turning Darkness Into Light is principally a mystery story, centred around a series of ancient artefacts that Audrey is hired to help translate.

In all honesty, I found it a little difficult to get on with the book to begin with, despite how interesting this initial set-up was. This was mainly due to the fact that it was filled with places and things that I had never heard of before. Places such as Akhia and Falchester were talked about without any explanation of where they were or what they were like, Draconians and the Watchers Heart were mentioned in passing with no context, and important political and social events that were vital to the story were not gone into in any great detail.

Now, I know what you’re going to say, this is a sequel to a five book series, so of course it will be talking about things that fans would already know about about. And that’s a perfectly reasonable thing, and once I got over that and picked up the basics as the story unfolded I found myself much more drawn in than I was initially expecting.

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Audrey is something of a fascinating lead, a young woman who doesn’t fit into societal norms thanks to her independent streak and some slightly racist views towards her dark complexion. She is like most of her family, someone who is interested in the world and fascinated with history. She wants to contribute something to the world the way her grandmother did and is determined to leave her mark. However, despite these strengths she is at times very impulsive, idealistic, and even naive. Over the course of the book, which is several months, we get to see Audrey lose some of these attributes and grow as a person, though even she admits that she makes several silly mistakes even towards the end of her adventure.

Audrey, as a philologist, is hired to translate ancient tablets belonging to the Draconian people, a race of humanoid dragons. The Draconians, only recently discovered to exist by Audrey’s grandmother, are preparing to meet with human politicians in order to petition their independence as their own nation, and the owner of the tablets wants to cash in on this by having them translated in time. Whilst it initially seems like Lord Glenleigh, the man who found the tablets, is simply trying to make a little money on the side by releasing the translation, Audrey begins to learn that the contents of the tablets may have a huge impact on the future of both races.

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The slow unfolding of the tablets is initially interesting as it sheds a lot of light on both this world that I was unfamiliar with, but also the Draconian people. However, as more and more of the tablets were translated, and their impact upon the world became more apparent I found myself getting further invested. Then, when hints emerged that there may be more going on than initially thought, and a possible conspiracy, I was hooked. I couldn’t put the book down because I was desperate to find out what happened next, and only stopped reading because I realised I’d been reading into the early hours in the morning. This happened more than once!

It was often the world around this story that captured my imagination, as I wanted to learn more about the political state of these wonderful new lands, and to discover their histories and cultures. The same went for the characters; Audrey might be a great lead, but she’s surrounded by loads of interesting side characters too. One that really hooked me was Cora, who over the course of the book drew my attention thanks to what appeared to be autistic traits. I was so fascinated with her that I even approached Marie Brennan on social media just to find out is Cora was autistic because I loved her character that much.

Marie Brennan managed to completely enthral me into this story and its characters in a way that was totally unexpected. I would never have thought that I would care so much about a fantasy world that I knew so little about, or would find translating ancient texts to be an incredibly tense and exciting story. This, for me, speaks volumes as to how well written the book is.

Thanks to Turning Darkness Into Light I’m going to be going back and reading not just the previous five entries in the series, but looking to check out other books that Marie Brennan has worked on. Turning Darkness Into Light is a book that took me totally by surprise, filled with wonderful, complex characters, and a plot that has so many twists and turns in it that you’ll never anticipate what is coming next, but will leave you hungry to read more. An absolutely wonderful read.

Turning Darkness Into Light by Marie Brennan is available from the 20th of August from Titan Books.

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