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Voyage of the Basilisk: A Memoir by Lady Trent (A Natural History of Dragons Book 3) Kindle Edition
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For some reason (unknown to me) I love and are instantly drawn to books that involve any type of wooden ship sea-voyages, or explorations in exotic/foreign lands that involve interactions with the natives. Naturally, it is out of my power that I would be attracted to this series.
The third installment of Lady Trent's memoirs takes us on an exciting voyage across the seas and to isolated lands. We will meet numerous new dragons (of both land and sea), and Isabella will explore these foreign lands and have a run in with the locals (which always go so well for her). The origins of dragons will the examined, their relationship with the Draceons explored, and Isabella will fight to keep the secret of dragon bone a hidden secret.
My one and only problem with this story was the pacing. Though this is only a single point of issue, I found it a big let down for me. These novels generally start off with a lack of action and focus more on Isaballe's life (being a women and the political set-backs involved with that) or delve into the biology of dragons. Then things go a long, and the story sucks me; Usualy Isabella manages to get to herself in some situation, and that drama and the actions that comes with it it was hooks me in for good, while sill giving a nice balance on the scientific study of dragons thrown in between.
This time, I just kept waiting and waiting for that drama and action to come to the front, and have the story just sweep me away. But it never it came until very late - for me, at least. There are little bits here and there, but they would die down quickly, and we would be back to the academics.
I have read the previous two novels, so I understand not to expect there to be giant, fire breathing dragons every page simply because the book has dragons in it. I know that this series is focused on Isabella, a naturalist, anthropologically studying and exploring the origins and mysteries of dragons. I very much like that about these novels. These are very realistic fantasy to me, in the sense that they only thing that makes them fantasy genre, is that Isabella is studying dragons instead of monkeys. I love that twist of the genre! All the theories of evolutions for dragons, the explanations of their anatomies, and study of their environments and habits - I eat all the stuff up! The actual studying and explaining of the dragons in favorite part! However, I am here read to fantasy fiction, not fantasy non-fiction. By that, I mean story first, academics second.
Aside from the pacing though, I was into this story. I said I loved the academics of this series and I mean it! This story heavily focuses on dragon evolution. Trying to figure out why there are different types of dragons; are all dragons related or just certain types? How far back can we trace them? Are they more closely related to birds or lizards or fish.? What even defines a dragon?
Unfortunately I only ever learnt linguistic anthropology, not much vertebrae. However, I do have a background in biology and in it, learned a bit of evolution... just enough for me to try to solve all these question right along with Isabella!
Anways, we get two new characters time worth of mention. Suhail is an archeologist that Isabella meets along her travels. He is a serious academic like her self, but having a man in her company is always bound to start rumors for poor Isabella. The one man who did not bring any rumors was Jake - her son. For this trip, she decided to bring the young boy along. I like Jake, but man, I am so jealous! It would be incredibly awesome to be him, having Isabella as my mom and have her take me on this voyage. Jake is also very much like his mother. Remember how Isabelle was for her parents? KARMA
A major theme in this series is Isabella trying to overcome the social restrictions placed on her because she is a women. I don't think it plays as major a role (by that, I mean hinderance to academics pursuits) as the previous novel, but it is still there. There are a few moments that get me a little heated with how she was being treated or taken advantage of, but thank god these are memoirs. (I know for a fact that all these issues get resolved, because she notes it does.) I can rest easy knowing she gets to stick it to the man. (Just have to wait and see how she is going to do it.)
A reason I also think that her being a women didn't hinder her as much as it had in the past, is due to the fact that she is slowly overcoming it. We get little glimpses here and there that she is making changes and strides. Obviously, any man with half the career of hers would have been basically knighted by a princess by the now; but because of her persistnace to not let that stand in her way of her academics, she will win.
Granted these are fantasy stories, but I still have certain sense of what is real and believable in this world. With that in mind, there is what I would call a "fisherman's tale", at the end of the book. Isabella says it happened, but I call torus excrimentum. Pics or it didn't happen :P
This was a good book, but I'd have to say it's the weakest of the series. We make great headways in the dragon research, but the story didn't quite hook me in as with the past books. The action was few, late coming, and the drama wasn't nearly as stressful as before. However, that is relative the previous two books, not other works.
Still love this series, one of my favorites, and if you are looking to continue this series or deciding to pick it up - I say YES to both. )Can't forget the artwork of Todd Lockwood! Sketches in this books are amazing again!) This is a series unlike any others I am currently reading, and are eager to see what kind of trouble Isabelle gets herself into next time!
I get slightly scared only thinking about trying to swim with dolphins, but I would jump at at a chance to get in the water with a dragon turtle... or some else ;)
Readers will most likely note the resemblance between the title of this work and Charles Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle, which makes perfect sense as an analog since in this continuation of the series Lady Isabella Trent, along with her long-time colleague Tom and her young son Jake and his nanny, heads up a two-year scientific expedition a la Darwin’s trip on the Beagle. Trent offers up a nice tease though, raising expectations from a mere naturalist expedition by telling the reader that earlier accounts of this well-documented trip had been an “outright lie,” a major cover-up thanks to issues of national security.
But those events won’t happen for quite a while in book time. Until then it’s a slow meander through this world’s version of our South Pacific islands as Trent continues to push back against the restrictions on women in this society to varying degrees of success even as she slowly adds to the world’s knowledge of dragonkind. I had a spectrum of responses to this section, about the first 175 pages or so.
One was a sense of impatience as the plot was less than compelling and moved along at a slow, stately pace, to say the least. The structure is episodic, but the individual episodes weren’t, to be honest, all that interesting and more than once I had to resist the urge to skim a little bit. It also felt far too summative in style. Although the pace and excitement picked up in the latter half, and the story became more scene than summary, the book still felt overlong by the end and even had me wondering if it was a necessary addition to the series. In other words, though being the third book, it had the feel of the dreaded “bridge book” in trilogies — a slow-moving “filler” of a book to get from book one to book three.
On the other hand, as with the other books, Lady Trent’s voice — wry, charming, dryly witty, introspective at times, highly intelligent, and supremely curious — makes up for a lot. And even if I felt the desire to skim now and then, I still fell under her spell enough so that for the most part the voice just carried me along happily. I also thought the moments, which were too few in the first half, where we saw more deeply into Lady Trent’s feelings and persona were some of the best in the book, as here, while she watches two dragons mating:
More than that, I found myself envying the dragons before me … I was struck by the companionship they shared — or rather that I imagined them sharing. It is not as if they were reading the latest scholarly journal together, or doing anything else I associated with the domestic harmony of marriage. But they were mated, and according to the villagers had been so for many years. I had that briefly, and then I had lost it. Whether I would ever have it again … at the time I could not say.
The other reason, beyond narrative voice, I could be more forgiving of the pace and unexciting events than I would be in another novel is that intellectually (if not readerly), I appreciated the fact that the book focused so much on science and curiosity, and in a fashion that presented them realistically. The scientific method is by its nature often slow and methodical, filled with fits and starts, and, as this book is not afraid to detail, errors. But as any scientist will tell you, failure often teaches as much (sometimes more) than success. I also like the big picture in the series of her science—that she is adding, over years, brick by brick, theory by theory, to the world’s store of information about and understanding of dragons. So one can argue that the slow pace is an appropriate one for the subject matter. That said, it’s a fine line to walk between pace and realism, and I can’t say Brennan wholly nails it.
The pace does though, pick up quite a bit in the latter third, reaching at times an almost frantic pace as Trent becomes embroiled in a host of action scenes. One might even call it a bit rushed at the end, and maybe a little over-the-top pulp-heroish. So balance is a bit of a n issue overall.
Meanwhile, as mentioned the moments of deep characterization of Lady Trent were some of the best, especially as regards her sense of isolation, her constant battle with the world’s view of “correct” female behavior, and her conflict between motherhood and her love of what she does. Unfortunately, other characters don’t fare so strongly. This may be an artifact of the first-person narration, but most, such as her son, the ship’s captain, and the nanny, have very little page time and so never have a chance to come alive; their presence is barely felt. This is sadly even true of Tom, who has been part of the series from the start. A new character and fellow scientist introduced to the series, Suhail, has much more page time and indeed becomes an integral part not just of the plot but of Lady Trent’s life, but even he feels a bit two-dimensional, though there are hints of complexities, and I hope we see him in future books.
The only other aspect I had some issues with were how closely at times Brennan hewed to our own world. This is another fine line to walk in alternative historical fantasy, and while for the most part I felt wholly immersed in this charmingly quasi-Victorian universe, at times the analogs were so spot on they were distracting. A few examples are when she goes to see Komodo Dragons, or when she comes across Easter Island statues. Why this pulled me out I don’t know; it doesn’t bother me when Queen Victoria is mentioned, for instance, in other alternative histories. And it doesn’t bother me that this world calls horses “horses,” but for some reason calling Komodo Dragons “Komodo Dragons” was jarring. So this one I might need to chalk up to being my issue and not Brennan’s.
The first book of the series is, I think, the weakest of the trio, with some pacing and plotting issues, but the voice still endeared me to the character and made me want to pick up book two, which improved in all ways on book one. Voyage of the Basilisk is a small step back; better pacing, more scene than summary, and a sharper group of side characters all would have improved the novel. But really, it’s hard to complain much about spending more time with Lady Trent.
Most recent customer reviews
I'm still enjoying, and will keep reading, this series. Certain themes are starting to seem awfully familiar (e.g.Read more