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Voyage of the Basilisk
A Memoir of Lady Trent
by Marie Brennan
TOR; $25.99; 348pp
Published: March 2015

This is the fourth volume in the memoirs of the eccentric, adventurous dragon naturalist, Isabella Camherst, aka Lady Trent set in a pseudo alternate universe Victorian period with a faint whiff of steampunk (check out the caeliger developed by the Yelangese).

The Voyage of the Basilisk is a wonderful addition to Brennan’s oeuvre: for this time she takes Lady Camherst to the sea on a “brig sloop” named the Basilisk to see the ocean-living dragons therein. On this trip, Lady Camherst brings a companion, Abby, her nine-year-old son Jake and the steadfast and intelligent Tom Wilker as her assistant.

Isabella’s adventures take her to seeing a feathered Quetzaltcoatl on the steps of a pyramid in the jungles of Coyahuac (sounds very much like the east coast of Mexico)—and there she meets a gentleman adventurer named Suhail who is an Akhaian archeologist fascinated by Draconean ruins—a mysterious and very ancient peoples whose ruins have been found throughout the world and who might have actually tamed dragons in their day. Suhail is intrigued that Isabella, in her previous visit to the Mouleen in the last novel, may have discovered her world’s version of the Rosetta stone on a ledge of a fabulous waterfall. It bore two versions of writing, one which scholars actually had translated---the other language being that of the Draconeans which has only been partially translated.

Of course---because of Lady Camherst’s previous adventures, she has been banned from visiting the country of Bayembe where this Rosetta stone lies and wasn’t able to do a rubbing of it at the time. (I suspect at some point this stone will become critical in another novel)

Suhail joins Lady Camherst on the Basilisk as they travel further east and visit Yelang where she finds to her horror that the emperor condones hunting the river-dwelling dragons for their very light, but incredibly strong bones. But before she can do anything to stop it—she is banished from Yelang (because she got too close to exposing a nasty collusion between a huge business enterprise and the emperor) and the ship sails even further east into the Broken Sea. The Broken Sea is so named for the hundreds of islands that litter the area and the half-buried reefs and volcanic up thrusts that make it a very tricky place to voyage.

A horrendous storm pounds them for three days, finally causing the ship to founder on the rocks near the island kingdom of Keonga. And here is where the heart of the novel unfolds. The natives are friendly but the shipwrecked adventurers and sailors are told they cannot explore any islands in the vicinity and so must stay put until the Basilisk is repaired.

Suhail and Isabella explore of course, and she gets to see fire-lizards which live up near active volcano calderas, and Suhail though initially disappointed as there isn’t much in the way of Draconean ruins in the area (that they know of) helps Isabella on her searches. They even get to ride sea dragons, after some of the Keongans show them how.

But their wild ride takes them far from the safe waters of Keonga and into the forbidden waters around the small nearby island of Rahuahane where Suhail and Isabella make astounding discoveries that will change both their views of the Draconeans and dragon evolution.

This novel, like the last three, is a very entertaining. Writing in the first person (as it is, after all, a memoir) makes it immediately engaging. Isabella Camherst is a no-nonsense woman with character, strength, intelligence and wry asides. Brennan has continued to develop her into a multi-layered, fascinating creation. The subsidiary characters are as equally well-drawn and the world they inhabit gets curiouser and curiouser as our knowledge of dragons expands even further.

The book is printed in a lovely aqueous blue type and as in the previous books, illustrated with wonderful drawings by Todd Lockwood. A very engaging tale and by no means the last memoir of Lady Trent. ~~ Sue Martin

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