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The Tropic of Serpents: A Memoir by Lady Trent (Memoirs of Lady Trent Book 2) by [Marie Brennan]
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The Tropic of Serpents: A Memoir by Lady Trent (Memoirs of Lady Trent Book 2) Kindle Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 222 ratings

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“This, the second of Isabella's retrospective memoirs, is as uncompromisingly honest and forthright as the first, narrated in Brennan's usual crisp, vivid style, with a heroine at once admirable, formidable and captivating. Reader, lose no time in making Isabella's acquaintance.” ―Kirkus, starred review

“Saturated with the joy and urgency of discovery and scientific curiosity.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review on A Natural History of Dragons

“If you've ever secretly wished dragons were real, this story is for you. Fans of Naomi Novik and Mary Robinette Kowal will especially enjoy this book.” ―RT Book Reviews on A Natural History of Dragons

“Her Ladyship is a determined and canny woman in search of dragons--I wholeheartedly approve!” ―Melanie Rawn, bestselling author of Touchstone, on A Natural History of Dragons

--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

ONE


 
My life of solitude—My sister-in-law and my mother—An unexpected visitor—Trouble at Kemble’s
Not long before I embarked on my journey to Eriga, I girded my loins and set out for a destination I considered much more dangerous: Falchester.
The capital was not, in the ordinary way of things, a terribly adventurous place, except insofar as I might be rained upon there. I made the trip from Pasterway on a regular basis, as I had affairs to monitor in the city. Those trips, however, were not well-publicized—by which I mean I mentioned them to only a handful of people, all of them discreet. So far as most of Scirland knew (those few who cared to know), I was a recluse, and had been so since my return from Vystrana.
I was permitted reclusiveness on account of my personal troubles, though in reality I spent more of my time on work: first the publication of our Vystrani research, and then preparation for this Erigan expedition, which had been delayed and delayed again, by forces far beyond our control. On that Graminis morning, however, I could no longer escape the social obligations I assiduously buried beneath those other tasks. The best I could do was to discharge them both in quick succession: to visit first my blood relations, and then those bound to me by marriage.
My house in Pasterway was only a short drive from the fashionable district of Havistow, where my eldest brother Paul had settled the prior year. I usually escaped the necessity of visiting his house by the double gift of his frequent absence and his wife’s utter disinterest in me, but on this occasion I had been invited, and it would have been more trouble to refuse.
Please understand, it is not that I disliked my family. Most of us got on cordially enough, and I was on quite good terms with Andrew, the brother most immediately senior to me. But the rest of my brothers found me baffling, to say the least, and my mother’s censure of my behaviour had nudged their opinions toward disapproval. What Paul wanted with me that day I did not know—but on the whole, I would have preferred to face a disgruntled Vystrani rock-wyrm.
Alas, those were all quite far away, while my brother was too near to avoid. With a sensation of girding for battle, I lifted my skirt in ladylike delicacy, climbed the front steps, and rang the bell.
My sister-in-law was in the morning room when the footman escorted me in. Judith was a paragon of upper-class Scirling wifehood, in all the ways I was not: beautifully dressed, without crossing the line into gyver excess; a gracious hostess, facilitating her husband’s work by social means; and a dedicated mother, with three children already, and no doubt more to come.
We had precisely one thing in common, which was Paul. “Have I called at the wrong time?” I inquired, after accepting a cup of tea.
“Not at all,” Judith answered. “He is not at home just now—a meeting with Lord Melst—but you are welcome to stay until he returns.”
Lord Melst? Paul was moving up in the world. “I presume this is Synedrion business,” I said.
Judith nodded. “We had a short respite after he won his chair, but now the affairs of government have moved in to occupy his time. I hardly expect to see him between now and Gelis.”
Which meant I might be cooling my heels here for a very long time. “If it is not too much trouble,” I said, putting down my teacup and rising from my seat, “I think it might be better for me to leave and come back. I have promised to pay a visit to my brother-in-law Matthew today as well.”
To my surprise, Judith put out her hand to stop me. “No, please stay. We have a guest right now, who was hoping to see you—”
I never had the chance to ask who the guest was, though I had my suspicions the moment Judith began to speak. The door to the sitting room opened, and my mother came in.
Now it all made sense. I had ceased to answer my mother’s letters some time before, for my own peace of mind. She would not, even when asked, leave off criticizing my every move, and implying that my bad judgment had caused me to lose my husband in Vystrana. It was not courteous to ignore her, but the alternative would be worse. For her to see me, therefore, she must either show up unannounced at my house … or lure me to another’s.
Such logic did little to sweeten my reaction. Unless my mother was there to offer reconciliation—which I doubted—this was a trap. I had rather pull my own teeth out than endure more of her recriminations. (And lest you think that a mere figure of speech, I should note that I did once pull my own tooth out, so I do not make the comparison lightly.)
As it transpired, though, her recriminations were at least drawing on fresh material. My mother said, “Isabella. What is this nonsense I hear about you going to Eriga?”
I have been known to bypass the niceties of small talk, and ordinarily I am grateful for it in others. In this instance, however, it had the effect of an arrow shot from cover, straight into my brain. “What?” I said, quite stupidly—not because I failed to understand her, but because I had no idea how she had come to hear of it.
“You know perfectly well what I mean,” she went on, relentlessly. “It is absurd, Isabella. You cannot go abroad again, and certainly not to any part of Eriga. They are at war there!”
I sought my chair once more, using the delay to regain my composure. “That is an exaggeration, Mama, and you know it. Bayembe is not at war. The mansa of Talu dares not invade, not with Scirling soldiers helping to defend the borders.”
My mother sniffed. “I imagine the man who drove the Akhians out of Elerqa—after two hundred years!—dares a great deal indeed. And even if he does not attack, what of those dreadful Ikwunde?”
“The entire jungle of Mouleen lies between them and Bayembe,” I said, irritated. “Save at the rivers, of course, and Scirland stands guard there as well. Mama, the whole point of our military presence is to make the place safe.”
The look she gave me was dire. “Soldiers do not make a place safe, Isabella. They only make it less dangerous.”
What skill I have in rhetoric, I inherited from my mother. I was in no mood to admire her phrasing that day, though. Nor to be pleased at her political awareness, which was quite startling. Most Scirling women of her class, and a great many men, too, could barely name the two Erigan powers that had forced Bayembe to seek foreign—which is to say Scirling—aid. Gentlemen back then were interested only in the lopsided “trade agreement” that sent Bayembe iron to Scirland, along with other valuable resources, in exchange for them allowing us to station our soldiers all over their country, and build a colony in Nsebu. Ladies were not interested much at all.
Was this something she had attended to before, or had she educated herself upon hearing of my plans? Either way, this was not how I had intended to break the news to her. Just how I had intended to do it, I had not yet decided; I kept putting off the issue, out of what I now recognized as rank cowardice. And this was the consequence: an unpleasant confrontation in front of my sister-in-law, whose stiffly polite expression told me that she had known this was coming.
(A sudden worm of suspicion told me that Paul, too, had known. Meeting with Lord Melst, indeed. Such a shame he was out when I arrived.)
It meant, at least, that I only had to face my mother, without allies to support her in censure. I was not fool enough to think I would have had allies of my own. I said, “The Foreign Office would not allow people to travel there, let alone settle, if it were so dangerous as all that. And they have been allowing it, so there you are.” She did not need to know that one of the recurrent delays in this expedition had involved trying to persuade the Foreign Office to grant us visas. “Truly, Mama, I shall be at far more risk from malaria than from any army.”
What possessed me to say that, I do not know, but it was sheer idiocy on my part. My mother’s glare sharpened. “Indeed,” she said, and the word could have frosted glass. “Yet you propose to go to a place teeming with tropical diseases, without a single thought for your son.”
Her accusation was both fair and not. It was true that I did not think as much of my son as one might expect. I gave very little milk after his birth and had to hire a wet-nurse, which suited me all too well; infant Jacob reminded me far too much of his late namesake. Now he was more than two years old, weaned, and in the care of a nanny. My marriage settlement had provided quite generously for me, but much of that money I had poured into scientific research, and the books of our Vystrani expedition—the scholarly work under my husband’s name, and my own inane bit of travel writing—were not bringing in as much as one might hope. Out of what remained, however, I paid handsomely for someone to care for my son, and not because the widow of a baronet’s second son ought not to stoop to such work herself. I simply did not know what to do with Jacob otherwise.
People often suppose that maternal wisdom is wholly instinctual: that however ignorant a woman may be of child rearing prior to giving birth, the mere fact of her sex will afterward endow her with perfect capability. This is not true even on the grossest biological level, as the failure of my milk had proved, and it is even less true in social terms. In later years I have come to understand children from the perspective of a natural historian; I know their development, and have some appreciation for its marvellous progress. But at that point in time, little Jacob made less sense to me than a dra...
--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B00MLDK7MK
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Titan Books (20 June 2014)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 2300 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Not Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 332 pages
  • Page numbers source ISBN ‏ : ‎ 0765331977
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.6 out of 5 stars 222 ratings

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SC
3.0 out of 5 stars A decent read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 18 July 2019
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K. Myers
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic journey which one does not want to see end.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Good read
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Karen
3.0 out of 5 stars A believable dragon's tale
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 21 February 2020
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Stephanie G.
5.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 14 April 2020
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