the Little Red Reviewer

Voyage of the Basilisk, by Marie Brennan

Posted on: June 7, 2015

voyage basilisk coverVoyage of the Basilisk, by Marie Brennan

published March 2015

where I got it: purchased new









Voyage of the Basilisk is the third book in Marie Brennan’s “Lady Trent” series. If you’re just joining us, I suggest skimming or skipping this review, as there are unavoidable spoilers. But do take a look at my reviews for the earlier books in the series!

For the last six years, Isabella Camherst has been second guessing some of her decisions in Eriga, allowing her townhouse to become a gathering place for the intelligentsia and curious, and raising her son Jake.  She pours over research and samples, trying to understand how to categorize the known species of dragons. There is quite a bit of talk of what makes something a dragon, or simply a reptile (if Pluto is a planet, why is this larger thing not a planet?). Is it the extraordinary breath? having wings? having a bird-like bone structure?  Are sea serpents not quite dragons since they don’t have wings, or even legs?  She’ll simply have to study them more!

Her plans come to fruition, and along with Jake and his governess, and fellow researcher Tom Wilker, she finds herself on the Royal Ship Basilisk, which is captained by Dione Aekinitos, known as the mad Captain.  Tiny quarters will be their home for at least the next year, but who cares? Isabella and Tom will have the chance to study sea serpents, fire lizards, and other species the most Anthiopians have only ever heard about second or third hand. Part of her funding has come from a local society, so part of her letters home include dispatches, essays, and researches to be published publicly.

Of course, things do not go as planned. She does see sea serpents. and fire lizards.  And meets a handsome and engaging archeologist. And has a secret marriage.  And there are politics and pirates and volcanoes. And references to Linear A, the Rosetta Stone, and how to translate untranslatable languages. And like in the first two books, there is much in the way of Isabelle the elder taking pains to “set the story straight”, and to make sure the reader knows that when she was traveling she had no way of knowing what people were saying or doing back home.

Even this is a fantasy novel, it has a ton of science in it. Isabella is, after all, a naturalist. She wants to know everything there possibly is to know about dragons – their taxonomy, their biology, their  migration patters, everything. She’s an early  biologist. How fun, to have so much biology (and chemistry) show up in a fantasy novel!   the categorization and taxonomy of fantasy being just as complex as that of dragons? who would have thought it? 😉

Plot wise, this wasn’t my favorite Lady Trent book. I found it to be much slower than the previous books, with lower octane surprises. But when it came to teasing, to sly references of what was right around the corner, to making me question everything these characters were talking about, Voyage of the Basilisk leaves the first two novels in the series in the dust.  There are some huge political things going on that Isabella keeps telling herself she’s not involved with (which again, it makes me want to read The English Patient). There is war on the horizon, new technologies,  governments destroying their rare and natural resources for political gain.  Far more happening off the page, rather than on. I wish there was more happening on page. But I’m sure in the next book, everything will come crashing together.

And Suhail, the archeologist? Who is he? He’s obviously more than just an archeologist, but he’s not talking, and Isabella is too polite (or preoccupied) to know.  I really loved the conversations between Suhail and Isabella. He’s on the verge of discovering something that could change everything, so I do hope we meet him again in future novels. Isabella keeps referring to untrue things that were published about her. I want to know what those things were!

See what I mean about the teasing? plot and character wise, Basilisk did not knock my socks off. But I want my questions answered, and know Brennan’s answers most certainly will knock my socks off.
Interesting side note on  book design – in the first two books, the print inside is brown. In Basilisk, the print inside is blue. Of course, I am curious about this color decision! In the first two books, Isabella spends most of her time on land (and sometimes in a swamp). In the third book, she is mostly in a ship on the ocean. Two books on land get brown print. the book on the sea gets blue print. Not sure if that’s the why behind the what, but that’s my guess and I’m sticking with it.

More of Todd Lockwood's gorgeous wrap around cover art

More of Todd Lockwood’s gorgeous wrap around cover art

7 Responses to "Voyage of the Basilisk, by Marie Brennan"

I found the plot much slower than the previous too, and I felt this was the weakest of the series so far (still though it was good book though!) Also, that things that happens at the very end of the story… I don’t care what Isabella says, I say fisherman’s tale 😛


I love this series so much. It’s so unlike anything else I’ve ever read, and I love the scientific approach to what we generally class in fantasy as, well, the fantastic. Something that doesn’t need explaining. A dragon is a dragon, so who cares how it flies or breathes fire? It was great to find a series that looks at such things in a scientific way, and makes an amazing story out of the discovery.


[…] [Little Red Reviewer] Andrea Johnson on Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan. […]


I’ll go against the tide here and say I liked Basilisk best of the three. For me the story went faster, the shipboard sections were fascinating, the islands setting of the last part I loved. The new character left, but I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of him, or I hope not. And I mean, come on, riding sea serpents? Yeah. I’m already eager for the next book, and I guess it’s a year away, though I think the cover art is already out.


Riding the sea serpents was freakin’ awesome!


Waiting on a price drop before I pick this up! 😀 I quite enjoyed the first two books, the second in particular. It was relaxing to meander around the setting, to the tune of Isabella’s narration.


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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