A Basketful of Reviews

Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan

Six years after her perilous exploits in Eriga, Isabella embarks on her most ambitious expedition yet: a two-year trip around the world to study all manner of dragons in every place they might be found, from feathered serpents in the ruins of a fallen civilization to the mighty sea serpents of the tropics. Facing storms, shipwrecks, and warfare, she makes a discovery that offers a revolutionary new insight into the ancient history of dragons.

This is the third in the series, and Isabella’s getting more confident in her role as a dragon-natural-historian, and in her knowledge. That said, she still manages to get into almost endless scrapes, usually involving dragons. This volume is a mix of tropical islands, castaways, family arguments and general chaos, and it’s almost as much fun as the first two! I admit it felt almost too brief, despite being the same length as the first two volumes – I would like to read her dispatches back at the time, as well as the memoirs in this book. But hey ho! A fun, amusing continuation of the series, and I’m definitely picking up the next one!

Children of the Shaman by Jessica Rydill

When their aunt is taken ill, thirteen-year old Annat and her brother are sent from their small coastal town to live with their unknown father. Like Annat, Yuda is a Shaman; a Wanderer with magical powers, able to enter other worlds. As Annat learns more about her powers, the children join their father on a remarkable train journey to the frozen north and find a land of mystery and intrigue, threatened by dark forces and beset by senseless murders that have halted construction of a new tunnel. But Annat’s doll, her only remembrance of her dead mother, may hold a dark secret – and when her brother Malchik is kidnapped, Annat and her father must travel onwards to find him before it is too late.

Between uncertain allies, shadowed enemies and hostile surroundings, it is only in the magical kingdom of La Souterraine that they can find answers – and it may be that only a Shaman can save the family and the Goddess.

A coming-of-age story mixed with fantasy, fairy-tale and adventure with an almost horror tinge; the world feels serious and deep, despite the story itself being a relatively easy read. Rydill’s storytelling is complex and nuanced; Annat is a brilliant narrator, and I love that every character is flawed and human. I admit I found I had to put this down quite frequently, as it’s not really a book I was able to read for long periods of time, but it’s worth reading. The second and third books in the trilogy will be out in 2017/2018.

A Season of Spells by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

Sophie and Gray return to London, escorting the heiress of Alba to meet the British prince to whom she is betrothed. Sparks fail to fly between the pair and the marriage alliance is cast into further doubt when the men who tried to poison King Henry are discovered to have escaped from prison. Gray sets off to track the fugitives, while Sophie tries to spark a connection between the bride and groom by enlisting them in her scheme to reopen a long-shuttered women’s college at Oxford. Many may believe that educating women spells ruin, but in the decaying college library lies the key to protecting everything they hold dear-as well as a dark secret that could destroy it all.

I absolutely adore this series, and this third book rounds it off nicely! The only complaint I have about the story is that it does feel quite bitty; it was hard to follow all of the links, and the end does feel a little disconnected. But that’s a minor point – there’s Sophie causing trouble and Gray causing slightly less trouble, and Johanna and the princes being spiky and awkward and human…I love them. If you like Emma Newman or spells-n-sorcery or just awesome people-centred fiction with awesome politics and a wonderful world, read this series! The first one is The Midnight Queen, followed by Lady of Magick.