Third in Brennan’s fine natural-history fantasy series, set six years after the events detailed in The Tropic of Serpents (2014).
This time, iconoclastic scientist Isabella, Lady Tren of Scirland, embarks on a two-year global voyage, hoping to determine the relationships among the endless varieties of dragon. Joining her aboard the research vessel Basilisk will be her commoner sidekick, Tom Wilker (here given little to do), her young son, Jake, and the vessel’s captain, Dione Aekitinos, who, we’re frequently reminded, is “mad,” although he never does or says anything that remotely warrants such an epithet. As they approach the tropics, Jake joyfully takes to the seafaring life, though to Isabella’s disappointment, he shows little interest in natural history. Also joining the expedition will be Suhail, an archaeologist whose theories—concerning an ancient, long-vanished civilization whose buildings, artifacts and script suggest they were dragon-tamers—neatly coincide with Isabella’s interests. Their relationship rapidly develops beyond the professional. But politics are never far away, with the expansionist empire of Yelang a looming threat. Then, entering the Broken Sea, a dreadful storm hurls the Basilisk onto a reef, necessitating extensive repairs. The inhabitants of the local archipelago are none too pleased with this development, suspecting them of being allies of the Yelang. Worse, they regard Isabella’s affinity for dragons and sea serpents as unnatural. This volume lacks the complexity and intensity of its predecessor but is nonetheless beautifully worked and thoroughly engrossing.
Fans of this charming series won’t be disappointed.