‘Voyage of the Basilisk’ by Marie Brennan

Voyage of the Basilisk

Voyage of the Basilisk: A Memoir by Lady Trent, by Marie Brennan, is the third fantasy novel in her Memoirs of Lady Trent series of books. In Brennan’s latest installment in the series, Lady Trent, a.k.a. the widowed Isabella Camherst, brings her son, Jake, who is now nine, with her on a voyage of discovery “around the world, to study dragons in all the places they might be found.”

Lady Trent has some trepidation about bringing along her son, but she reasons that “Boys have gone to war at sea that young. Why should one not go in the name of science?” Even when Jake was seven, Lady Trent had considered having her son come along with her when she traveled to find out more about the dragons said to inhabit the land of Eriga, but she instead had him stay at home under the guidance and tutelage of her companion, Nataie Oscott.

Close to the start of Marie Brennan’s  Voyage of the Basilisk,  Isabella hires a governess, Abigail (Abby) Carew, to take care of her precocious child, before she decides to have both Abby and her son come along with her. The thought strikes Isabella that it would be “a splendid educational opportunity for a boy of nine,” while others thought it was another sign of her “characteristic madness.”

In Voyage of the Basilisk, Isabella Camherst (Lady Trent) reveals information about her adventures and misadventures which she declares have never been revealed before. She writes that the two years she spent aboard the Basilisk was well-known, but some of the stories about what happened to her were lies put forth as being the truth, and even this present volume would not reveal the entire truth about the voyage.

Natalie does not accompany her in Voyage of the Basilisk. This time around, her traveling companion and expedition master, Tom Wilker, joins her in her adventures in search of dragons. Lady Trent journeys to the waters of Va Hing, and she explores verdant jungles and travels to the islands of Keonga in her search. Lady Trent is not disappointed in her quest to find dragons. She finds dragons of all sizes and shapes, and even chances upon fire lizards, sea serpents, large turtles and komodo dragons.

Lady Trent’s time aboard the Basilisk, detailed in Marie Brennan’s  Voyage of the Basilisk, is marked by scandal, as she is accused of having a love affair with not only her traveling companion, Tom Wilker, but also with two other men, the captain of the Basilisk, Aekinitos, and Suhail, a handsome linguist and scholar. She is no stranger to being the subject of a scandal, though, so she takes the rumors in stride. She is more interested in becoming well-known as a naturalist and a scholar.

The Memoirs of Lady Trent books, beginning with A Natural History of Dragons and continuing in the second book, The Tropic of Serpents, and the third, Voyage of the Basilisk, have attracted a relatively large fan base, as there are both a lot of people who like to read about dragons, and also because Lady Trent is an excellent narrator with a dry and wry wit who draws the readers in. Author Marie Brennan hit a home run when she came up with using Lady Trent as a narrative voice for her novels.

In Voyage of the Basilisk, readers not only learn more about Lady Trent as a scholar and a young woman trying to prove her worth in a man’s world but also as a mother. Previously, Isabella was not the person who organized the expeditions that she went on, but she is in command of the entire expedition in Voyage of the Basilisk.

One drawback that Voyage of the Basilisk suffers from is that it starts out slowly, and the action does not really pick up until in the second half of the novel. Tom Wilker does not have very much to do with the plot, either, as he comes down with dengue fever.

Also, Isabella has a somewhat hypocritical attitude when it comes to killing dragons. She believes it is okay to kill them in the name of science, to study them better and gain further knowledge about them; but, she does not approve of poachers or hunters killing dragons, at all.

Jake develops into a strong character in Voyage of the Basilisk, and like his mom, is intelligent, inquisitive, and headstrong. He often convinces his mom to do things, some of which she might not have done on her own. Sometimes, out of thoughts of Jake’s safety, his mom is more cautious than she ordinarily would be, or she changes her plans.

Most of the action does not take place until they get to the islands of Keonga. There are interesting parts in the first half of the novel, like when Lady Trent first encounters sea serpents, as well as the time she spends in Va Hing; but, much of the first half is just to set up the second half. Lady Trent makes for a compelling enough narrator that her narrative voice helps to carry the story.

For anyone who loves reading fantasy novels about dragons with strong female characters, Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan is a Must Read, as are the first two books in her Memoirs of Lady Trent series, A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents. Though the first half of Brennan’s latest novel starts out slowly, it is still a compelling, page-turning read, and there is quite a bit of action in the second half of the book.

Written By Douglas Cobb

Voyage of the Basilisk: A Memoir by
Lady Trent by Marie Brennan (Tor/Forge)

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