Voyage of the Basilisk: A Memoir by Lady Trent (A Natural History of Dragons 3) by Marie Brennan
|Voyage of the Basilisk: A Memoir by Lady Trent (A Natural History of Dragons 3) by Marie Brennan|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: The third book in this continuing series unfortunately spends too long on detailing the world and the journey while disguising the real thrust of the story – or lack thereof.|
|Buy? No||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 368||Date: March 2015|
|Publisher: Titan Books|
|External links: Author's website|
It's time. Lady Trent – Isabella Camherst – can finally leave her educational soirees in her own salon and go and discover more about her beloved dragons. This time it's going to be epic – not only has she for the first time taken her young son with her, she is on a sailing ship with a whole two years plying the seven seas to be looked forward to. The world is on the tip of a seesaw as regards dragons – just as one side weighs down with new knowledge, so the other side comes down with industrialised exploitation of the creatures – and Lady Trent must make sure that she has a (decorous, Victorian-styled covered) firm bottom to keep things on the side she wants. But she has no idea how buttock-clenching the whole voyage will turn out to be…
There's a weird sensation you get sometimes when reviewing books in a continuing series, that of the author actually reading and taking on board what you've mentioned in your humble verbiage. Patently absurd on the whole, of course, but I'll run with it. There is a tiny sense that Marie Brennan has had a peek at our site and responded here. So whereas last time I mentioned countries on this alternative Earth-styled planet resembling France and Europe, here the gauntlet has been thrown. So we leave the Scottish-seeming Scirland and go what seems to be northeast to the Baltic and Russia, then immediately hit Mexico (to see some pyramid ruins and find a hunky archaeologist, who in our world would be Arabic – even if our heroine is the one who refuses to eat pork) then immediately arrive on the area of the included map that looks like Hawaii and is certainly in the exotic Pacific islands. There all kinds of things kick off, and the world is getting to be even more creatively portrayed and invented than ever before.
However there is a strong sense here that lessons haven't been learnt. I also mentioned the fact that the point of the plot last time came upon us far too late. I can't even begin with the plot of this one, for unfortunately it's just too obtuse. Reading the author's blog I see her inventing our hunky archaeologist well before the second book came out, and what's also clear is that alongside planning her guest characters the author is also clearly concentrating on the aforementioned seesaw – the inching to the truth regarding dragon biology for her heroine and getting the larger world ensconced in a drama regarding the benefits or otherwise of dragon remains.
And that's where the problem lies – and I can see it going to lie from now on (that blog again – the fourth one is in the hands of the publishers). This world, even when it's so utterly well defined and completely realised, is just going to get in the way of the story. There are several action scenes here – a couple of bangs for our bucks – but while some are dramatic and they can raise the pulse they're nowhere near enough. I was certainly more enamoured of the way the brilliant set-up of the Victorian-styled society, and our heroine in particular, learning to engage with this variant on dragon lore provided for entertaining and fresh fantasy in book one. But here is evidence that Brennan loves the world too greatly, perhaps identifies with Isabella too closely, and wants us to need every minutia she includes, when we can't. We want a full plot each time, that starts on page one, rivets to page 360, and ends. The over-reaching arc of the whole series is stifling here, and killing off the creative genre ideas.
I must still thank the publishers for my review copy.
Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre will appeal to people looking for a historical fantasy/fantastical history book, yet one grounded in this world.
You can read more book reviews or buy Voyage of the Basilisk: A Memoir by Lady Trent (A Natural History of Dragons 3) by Marie Brennan at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Voyage of the Basilisk: A Memoir by Lady Trent (A Natural History of Dragons 3) by Marie Brennan at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.