64. ‘Voyage of the Basilisk’ by Marie Brennan

Dragon-obsessed Isabella is back, and this time she’s setting out on an two-year-long expedition around the world. She has joined a merchant ship, acquired research funding, and put together a small team comprised of long-time travel companion Tom Wilker, her son, nine-year-old Jacob, and his governess, Abigail. The stage is set for another riproaring adventure!

(This is the third book in Brennan’s Lady Trent series. I have also reviewed all the others: A Natural History of Dragons, The Tropic of Serpents, In the Labyrinth of Drakes and Within the Sanctuary of Wings.)

voyage of the basilisk marie brennan

I just can’t get enough of Isabella! In Voyage she remains a brave, stubborn, incessantly curious heroine, and there are plenty of kickass, convention-defying moments for fans of the series to enjoy. I did think that Isabella was slightly more preoccupied with propriety in this book than in the previous ones; this is probably because she is trying to set a good example to her son, but I couldn’t help but wish that she’d worry a little less and get stuck in a little more. As ever, politics appear frequently in Voyage – Isabella has to jump through bureaucratic hoops on her journey, and contend with border crossings and angry guards – but I thought the balance between politics and action was a little better in this book than in The Tropic of Serpents.

Of course, aside from our heroine, the reason we read these books is for the dragons, and there were loads of different ones in this story. Because she travels so widely, Isabella gets to see ‘quetzalcoatls’ (feathered serpents in a South American-style jungle), dragon turtles and sea serpents (creatures in a Caribbean-esque sea), Komodo dragons and fire lizards (volcano dwellers). The scientific investigation is on point, with a good amount of detail about the unique characteristics of different dragon species, as Isabella continues her attempt to classify what is a ‘true’ dragon and what is not.

Once again, Brennan weaves a topical issue from our world into her fantasy world with deftness and skill. In this book she discusses gender; Isabella finds herself accused by Keongan tribespeople of ‘standing between’ male and female because of her refusal to adhere to typical female gender roles. She is labelled ke’anaka (‘dragon spirit’) and is asked to marry a woman because ke’anaka are wild and can only be tamed by marrying; Isabella must marry a woman because she acts more like a man in her intrepid adventuring. Her response is perfect: “So long as my society refuses to admit of a concept of femininity that allows for such things, then one could indeed say that I stand between.” I just love how Brennan manages to combine modern discussions about gender and sexuality into a story set in a far older time.

A few honourable mentions of the things I really loved: Suhail the archaeologist is a great character and the adventure involving his diving bell is brilliant. What happens with the sea serpents is cool as. I also love how Voyage adds to the series as a whole, with callbacks to Isabella’s time in Eriga from the previous book, and hints about the problem she is perpetually trying to solve: how to create a substance as strong as dragonbone so people won’t kill dragons in order to build things from their remains.

I continue to love this series – its heroine, its attitude and its infectious sense of fun. Bravo!

“I had rather face wild beasts and diseases than the perils of civilization.” – Isabella

Have you read this book? I’d love to know your thoughts!

Read my review of the next book in the series, In the Labyrinth of Drakes.

Want to read this? You can buy the book here.

What do you think?

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