Voyage of the Basiliskby Marie Brennan
Series: The Memoirs of Lady Trent #3
Published on March 31, 2015 by Tor
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
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Devoted readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoirs, A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents, may believe themselves already acquainted with the particulars of her historic voyage aboard the Royal Survey Ship Basilisk, but the true story of that illuminating, harrowing, and scandalous journey has never been revealed—until now. Six years after her perilous exploits in Eriga, Isabella embarks on her most ambitious expedition yet: a two-year trip around the world to study all manner of dragons in every place they might be found. From feathered serpents sunning themselves in the ruins of a fallen civilization to the mighty sea serpents of the tropics, these creatures are a source of both endless fascination and frequent peril. Accompanying her is not only her young son, Jake, but a chivalrous foreign archaeologist whose interests converge with Isabella’s in ways both professional and personal.
Science is, of course, the primary objective of the voyage, but Isabella’s life is rarely so simple. She must cope with storms, shipwrecks, intrigue, and warfare, even as she makes a discovery that offers a revolutionary new insight into the ancient history of dragons.
We’re at that point in the series where it’s hard not to spoil previous books but I shall endeavor to not do so. Voyage of the Basilisk picks up a little while after the previous book, The Tropic of Serpents, and continues the memoirs of Lady Isabella Trent as she recounts her adventures across Scirland.
If you enjoyed the previous two books, then you’ll find the same honest, detailed narrative I’ve come to love. Isabella is now older but her view of the world has been somewhat limited until now. This book takes the intricate world Brennan began building back in A Natural History of Dragons and expands it tenfold. The scientist in me was very happy with this particular development as it meant a whole score of new creatures of the scaly variety.
I loved that Isabella finally got a shot at her own research, making the calls (and the mistakes that go along with research). She’s the kind of character that, in her “current” days reminds me of that grandmother with all the interesting stories from her youth. And as the younger version of herself, as portrayed through the story, she’s a woman who challenges the world, taking on roles that women didn’t tend to hold, showing strength without having to be a warrior. So often I feel like strong female leads are associated with physical strength and willpower but I don’t think that’s only one representation. Isabella Trent is strong. She’s already been through a lot but she also has the strength to know when she has messed up, as well as when she’s right. I want more books with characters like her.
I’m also glad that her son became a bigger player in this book. I hoped to see more of him as their relationship was lacking, at best, and I was curious how Brennan would take that.
But just like the voice of the story, the world-building stole the show. I think one of the biggest points of these books, for me, are the way that the author explores all the different cultures of this world, bringing them to life through vivid description and thought-provoking encounters. I’m a lover of science, but also history, and the way the two are combined with the different groups of people Isabella meets made me a very happy reader.
I’d also say that the pace of this one was, while similar to the first two at a glance, moved a bit quicker due to nature of the plot. Which was great. The narrative style can sometimes drag a bit but all the action kept things moving quick.
These books have honestly gotten better and better. I think the first two were good but Voyage of the Basilisk brought a bit more action, a bit more adventure, and definitely more fantastical creatures to explore. If Brennan ever writes up a guide “created” by Isabella Trent from these travels I would buy it in a heartbeat!