#WyrdAndWonder 2020 | What Lady Trent taught me about internalised misogyny

Decorative phoenix © Tanantachai Sirival

 Wyrd & Wonder is a month-long celebration of the fantastic hosted by imyril @ There’s Always Room for One More, Lisa @ Dear Geek Place and Jorie @ Jorie Loves a Story. Get involved here!

Don’t read this if you haven’t finished The Memoirs of Lady Trent series

When I was a little girl I was obsessed with dinosaurs. I watched Land Before Time so many times it’s a wonder my mum doesn’t have a nervous twitch if I happen to mention the name, and Jurassic Park is still one of my favourite films.

I borrowed books about dinosaurs from the library constantly and one of my heroes was Mary Anning. So when I discovered a series about a dragon naturalist who essentially reads like a fantasy version of Mary Anning, I knew I had to check it out.


I first tried to read the first book in the series, A Natural History of Dragons, back in 2014 when I found a copy in the library. I managed to get over halfway through the book before I DNF’d it – it just wasn’t working for me, and I was so sad this book that should have ticked all of my boxes wasn’t doing any ticking at all.

Then, in 2018, I decided to give the audiobook a try and fell in love with Kate Reading’s narration. I ended up reading all but one of the books in the series via audiobook – the final book I had to read on my kindle, because for some reason the audiobook was only available as an expensive audio CD – and I had the best time. If you’re interested in this series I can’t recommend the audiobooks enough; Kate Reading is marvellous.


Now, if you were to ask me, I’d happily say that Isabella is one of my favourite fantasy heroines. We follow her through several years of her life and her various adventures and scientific discoveries, so you can’t help but love her by the time her story draws to a close at the end of Within the Sanctuary of Wings.

And yet, if I’m being completely honest with myself, even when I listened to the audiobook I found Isabella quite irritating for most of the first book. I threw my hands up at various decisions she made and sighed and wondered why she couldn’t get it right.

But why did I expect that of her? If I remember correctly, Isabella is around 18-years-old when she gets married, and she’s still in her late teens/early 20s when she’s able to convince her husband to let her accompany him on what would become her first expedition to pursue her passion for dragonology. Why, at 18-years-old and having barely experienced anything of her world because she’s a woman and therefore not permitted to have such experiences, did I expect her to get everything right first time?

The answer, my friends, is our old acquaintance: the patriarchy.


So many of us have been conditioned to expect perfection from women, perhaps even more so from our fictional women because they can be written perfect if the author so chooses, that we don’t expect from men because ‘boys will be boys’. It makes me so sad to think that, if A Natural History of Dragons had simply been a standalone, I would have remembered Isabella as a slightly irritating heroine who kept making mistakes. Thankfully, because Brennan has written this series spanning one woman’s life (and, importantly, her career), we’re able to see Isabella grow and learn from those mistakes which, as a human being, she’s perfectly entitled to make.

It also made me wonder how many other heroines have been dismissed as irritating or annoying – by me and by others – who deserve to be read better by all of us, because it could simply be that they’re appearing in a story at a time in their own lives when they’re still learning how to navigate their world and any mistakes they might make in it.

We know from the beginning of the story that Isabella eventually becomes Lady Trent and I, like many readers, kept a lookout for who this Lord Trent might be, only for Marie Brennan to school us once again with her feminism.


The beauty of this series is that there is no Lord Trent. Isabella is made Lady Trent in her own right for her own work – the work we literally follow her doing throughout this series – and I was so mad at myself for assuming it’d be a title she married into rather than a title she earned herself, and I love that that’s the direction Brennan decided to take the story in.

So I owe my thanks to Isabella and Marie Brennan both for helping me shake-up the way I view the women I encounter in fantasy and, perhaps more importantly, for helping me change my view of what I should expect from the women I encounter in fantasy.

Who are some of your favourite women in fantasy?

13 thoughts on “#WyrdAndWonder 2020 | What Lady Trent taught me about internalised misogyny

  1. Susy's Cozy World says:

    I have read the first book of this series some years ago and then decided to drop the series. I was quite disappointed with the reading in general, and the main problem for me is that I was expecting something more… Witty, or fun. This was the main problem, but I have to admit that I didn’t particularly care for the MC, and maybe you are right, and I wasn’t so fond of her because my point of view was, in some ways, skewed. So your post managed to do a really bad thing for my TBR, because now I have decided to give this series a second chance, keeping in mind what you wrote here, about our expectations and this sort of misogyny, which is so subtle (as in “hard to detect”) and so very bad!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. waytoofantasy says:

    Oh my gosh, yes. This is such a fantastic post. I love that series so much. I also loved the new one that is about Isabella’s granddaughter–Marie Brennan is so great to bring lots of things into her writing but still make the books entertaining stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. amithi says:

    I didn’t mind the mistakes, the whole series was out when I first read it and I was concious of her age. But I do distinctly remember being on the lookout for Lord Trent as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Tammy says:

    I love this post, and I love the idea of having a character grow so much over a long series like this. I haven’t read these books, but I’m always on the lookout for complex characters, and Lady Trent sounds like a brilliant one😁

    Liked by 1 person

  5. acquadimore says:

    Great post.
    I don’t remember the exact moment I realized I was doing this and decided to try my best to never do that again – probably while reading reviews of books I loved that hated on the heroine for no reason while praising the male characters – but I remember a similar journey. And now reading is a better experience as well! I almost never hate female main characters anymore and don’t want them to be perfect. Especially when it comes to girls in YA, it’s not only sexist but also very unrealistic to expect perfection from a 17-year-old in a new, stressful situation…

    Liked by 1 person

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