Book Review: WITHIN THE SANCTUARY OF WINGS by Marie Brennan

Title in black on white next to drawing of dragons
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 5 stars
Series: yes - fifth book



Book cover for WITHIN THE SANCTUARY OF WINGS: title in black on beige above drawings of dragons

After nearly five decades (and, indeed, the same number of volumes), one might think they were well-acquainted with the Lady Isabella Trent–dragon naturalist, scandalous explorer, and perhaps as infamous for her company and feats of daring as she is famous for her discoveries and additions to the scientific field.

And yet–after her initial adventure in the mountains of Vystrana, and her exploits in the depths of war-torn Eriga, to the high seas aboard The Basilisk, and then to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia–the Lady Trent has captivated hearts along with fierce minds. This concluding volume will finally reveal the truths behind her most notorious adventure–scaling the tallest peak in the world, buried behind the territory of Scirland’s enemies–and what she discovered there, within the Sanctuary of Wings.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


How does one begin to attempt a coherent review of this book? As I said to my buddy reader, there were many points when only “all the exclamation marks” was the possible response. And then to attempt to write a review that does not spoil all the twists, which are naturally the things I have the most thoughts about.

The big twist/reveal around the 1/3 mark is the reveal the entire series has been building towards. It is SO MUCH FUN when it arrives. How on Earth can Isabella’s discoveries outdo those of the previous book, you may ask. WELL. Let’s just say it changes the entire understanding of dragons and the Draconeans and leave it at that, shall we?

It’s just so satisfying, all these hints paying off, all this groundwork from previous books about political situations and language (etc) allowing it to work. The grounding we already have in dragon physiology and development explaining why and how things come to be.

This series is pretty much a master class in subtly setting down all the clues and world building to make a finale work – while also keeping every book in ~320-350 page range. Which is to say, rather short for adult fantasy. Most series of this length would have easily ended up breaking 550 pages by the finale, if not longer. It’s such concise, efficient story telling, world building, and character work, making the books feel so satisfying while keeping them quite short.

I have not spoken about the drawings in these books before, I think (and really should have before this book, given for certain reasons, Isabella is not able to draw the same way she was in other books, and thus there are fewer illustrations.) However, they are so much fun. Given how alien dragons are, and given Isabella is a naturalist able to draw, to include “her” sketches adds a fun little flavour to the book.

(Also, DO NOT skip through idly to see the pictures in advance in this book, like my buddy reader did. It COMPLETELY ruins the reveal.)

I have come to the end of the main series now, though there is a companion book to come, which I shall look forward to just as soon as I’ve cleared a few books off my review list (which has suffered while I’ve been devouring this series!)

Read my reviews of other books by Marie Brennan:

The Memoirs of Lady Trent (this series):

With Alyc Helms (as M. A. Carrick)

Rook and Rose:

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