Category Archives: alternate history

#Sunday Post – 15th July, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog

Standard

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

This has been a busy week. On Tuesday, I completed my Poetry Workshop short course, which was a real success despite the sweltering conditions. It was such a treat being able to teach specifically for the poets and as ever, I was blessed with a class full of enthusiastic, engaged writers eager to have a go. On Wednesday I resumed my Pilates and Fitstep class and realised just how very unfit I have become on Thursday when I staggered out of bed aching in places I didn’t know I had muscles. On Thursday evening, I attended West Sussex Writers for an excellent talk and workshop on the craft of short story writing given by Juliet West and Claire Fuller. It was so nice to to catch up with other club members as I haven’t been able to attend for a few months.

On Friday, I took my sister with me when visiting my daughter and newest granddaughter. What a difference a week makes… Baby Eliza, now nearly a fortnight old, is clearly thriving as she was trying to focus on us. It was lovely finally to have a few unhurried cuddles and get to know her. This weekend we are having the grandchildren, so I did the school run and brought them home. After the long, hot journey, we went to the beach as the sun was setting, walked along the damp sand and cooled down, ready for bed. On Saturday we went shopping, after all, pocket money needs to be spent…

And this Sunday is a very special day. It’s the day the film premiere of Hoodwinked Three: This Time It’s Personal, which Tim wrote and starred in as a time-travelling Robin Hood and we spent a chunk of last year writing, editing and filming as part of his studies. I am really looking forward to meeting up with the delightful youngsters that made up the cast, again and watching the film on a large screen.

This week I have read:

Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Amelia dreams of Mars. The Mars of the movies and the imagination, an endless bastion of opportunities for a colonist with some guts. But she’s trapped in Mexico City, enduring the drudgery of an unkind metropolis, working as a rent-a-friend, selling her blood to old folks with money who hope to rejuvenate themselves with it, enacting a fractured love story. And yet there’s Mars, at the edge of the silver screen, of life. It awaits her.
This near-future novella is riveting examination of a bright, ambitious woman trapped in a dead-end existence and battling for a way out. I found it an engrossing, memorable read.

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes
Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.
The colour magic and spread of the stone plague adds an intriguing twist to this turbulent time in history. I really liked the fact that Brandes includes a number of facts that surrounded The Gunpowder Plot.

 

 

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 8th July 2018

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Earth and Air – a novella prequel to the Earth Girl series by Janet Edwards

Teaser Tuesday featuring Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

Dying for Space Giveaway ENDS TODAY

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Prime Meridian by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

My Top Ten Favourite Reads of 2018 So Far…

Friday Face-off – There’s more of gravy than grave about you… featuring The Ghost Brigades – Book 2 of The Old Man’s War series by John Scalzi

Review of Breach of Containment – Book 3 of the Central Corps series by Elizabeth Bonesteel

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

A quote for readers… https://powerfulwomenreaders.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/a-quote-for-readers/ I really loved this – it sums up my feelings about certain books so accurately.

Blood Moon 2018: Total Lunar Eclipse on July 27 https://earthianhivemind.net/2018/07/13/blood-moon-2018-total-lunar-eclipse-july-27/ I was really excited to read about this one – we come within the band that gets to see the second half of it

The 2018 Blogoversy: Nine Favorite Writing Tips of All Time https://saraletourneauwriter.com/2018/07/11/2018-blogoversary-nine-favorite-writing-tips/ Sara writes a series of indepth articles on the craft of writing, so there are worth reading

Speculative Fiction Showcase: Kristell Ink Sci-fi anthology launch in Waterstones… http://indiespecfic.blogspot.com/2018/06/kristell-ink-sci-fi-anthology-launch-in.html?spref=tw I was startled to see yours truly in a mirror arriving at the Waterstones launch at Oxford – and delighted to read Jessica’s account of the evening.

When the Book Isn’t Better https://marvelatwords.wordpress.com/2018/07/09/when-the-book-isnt-better/ Wendleberry lists the books that she found disappointing after seeing the film – do you agree with her choices?

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and have a great week.

Advertisements

Teaser Tuesday – 10th July, 2018 #Brainfluffbookblog #TeaserTuesday

Standard

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

30% I burst through the door and out onto the green lawn that sloped down to the banks of the Thames in time to see Father throw a very muddy and bloody Percy into the putrid waters.
I stumbled to his side as Percy emerged with a gasp. “Fawkes, you—”
“Scrub yourself clean, Percy.” Father squatted by the bank. “Before you oust us all. You’ve been a fool this night.”

BLURB: Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared, but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.

But what if death finds him first?

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

I am enjoying this alternate history. The fantasy twist hinges on two different magical factions battling for supremacy in Stuart England during the turbulent times leading up to the Gunpowder Plot.

#Friday Faceoff – I was asleep when the dinosaurs roamed the earth… featuring #West of Eden #Brainfluffbookblog #Fridayface-off

Standard

 

This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which we prefer. Lynn and Lynn’s Book Blog nurtures it at present. This week the theme is a cover featuring dinosaur, so I’ve selected West of Eden by Harry Harrison.

 

This cover produced by iBooks in June 2004 isn’t my favourite. I rather like the font, but the image looks like a still taken from Jurassic Park, rather than a specifically designed piece of artwork for a book. There is also far too much chat along the bottom of the book.

 

This edition was produced by Spectre in June 1985 and at least shows evidence of a cover having been designed with more thought. Though I really dislike those great blocks of brown that squeeze the image into a narrow strip so it’s difficult to make out exactly what is going on – which is a shame, because it looks quite interesting…

 

Published in July 1984 by Bantam, this is the first cover that I really like. We get a clear idea of what is going on. And I very much like the way the sun is gleaming through the title font, which is rather funky.

 

This edition, published by Panther Books Limited in July 1985, is my favourite. We get a clear idea that the dinosaurs featured are intelligent with some civilisation – part of the premise of this intriguing fantasy series. I love the warm colouring of the sky which gives us a sense of difference in this alternate history.

 

This Italian edition, produced by Nord in February 1989, provides another interaction between the fearsome lizards and the humans cowering in the forefront of the cover. You get a sense the dinosaur is talking to them, or is he about to eat them? I don’t like the chatter scattered across the artwork – or the border as I can’t see the point and it is particularly unappealing and drab. Which is your favourite?

Review of KINDLE Ebook The King’s Name – Book 2 of the Tir Tanagiri series by Jo Walton

Standard

I read the first book, The King’s Peace, in this superb series the Christmas before last – and it has taken far too long to track down this second book in this wonderful retelling of the Arthurian legend.

“The peace of the nation of Tir Tanagiri had been bitterly won. But after years of fighting against rival kingdoms and Jarnish invaders, the warrior Sulien ap Gwien and her lord, King Urdo, had finally won it, through great strength of arms – and greater strength of vision. For Sulien was inspired by Urdo’s dream of a kingdom ruled by justice, whose subjects all were equal under a single code of law. But where many see a hopeful new future for the land, others believe they sense the seeds of a new tyranny.”

Soon the land faces the terrible blight of civil war, and Sulien ap Gwien must take up arms again. But where once her enemies were barbarian invaders and unrepentent usurpers, now they are former comrades and loved ones. And as the conflict tears her country and her family apart, and life-long friends go to meet their destinies, Sulien must fight harder and harder to hold on to Urdo’s shining dream. Sulien is now older, though still a mighty warrior and now a Lord who has a settlement to protect and administer. Her son is now grown. This should be a time when the hardwon Peace carved out from years of bitter fighting and enforcement against the lawless banditry that had prevailed should be enjoyed. But Urdo has implacable enemies – and some of them are far closer than they should be…

Once again I was pulled into this tale of Sulien, the woman warrior, who has devoted her life to protecting the weak against the strong. Walton’s prodigious talent is once more evident as this tale of betrayal and scheming slides inexorably once more into warfare. Sulien, writing her memoirs years later, is devastated. I love her character as her sense of hurt rings off the page when Urdo’s attempts to broker a council to reach an agreement between the different factions fail and the country is braced once more for war. I was absolutely gripped even though I had a fairly good idea what happens. Walton’s version of the court of Camelot is layered with Sulien’s forthright views on the nobility along with conjecture and gossip. If you have ever read any of the Arthurian legends and become fascinated with that particular time, then this is a joy. I particularly like her take on Urdo’s wife, Elenn.

I finished this book with a lump in my throat as once again, Walton magnificently succeeds in creating a wonderful, magical time that has passed into our folklore and legends. And this retelling is right up there with the best of them.
10/10

Friday Faceoff – Where there’s fire there’s…

Standard

This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week the theme is a cover featuring smoke, so I’ve selected Smoke – see my review here – by Dan Vyleta.

 

This edition was produced by Doubleday in May 2016. The impressionistic view of the Houses of Parliament with the Thames in the foreground is beautiful, though feels more like fog than the sooty, unpleasant excretion caused by wicked, impure thoughts of the novel. While it is attractive, with plenty of eye appeal, I’m not sure it adequately portrays the novel.

 

Published in July 2016 by W & N, this cover is extremely effective. The black cover contrasts nicely with the wisping threads of smoke rising off the stylised S and its very simplicity sets it apart. I really like this one.

 

This edition, published by Anchor Books in June 2017, is really disturbing. The person seems to be consumed by the thick, black smoke pouring off him, leaving only his feet uncovered. This one is my favourite – another elegant and simple design, I think the image is both compelling and eerie.

 

This paperback edition, produced by W & N Books in April 2017, is a variation on the second cover, and the extra touch of colour makes it even more attractive. I like the grey cover and the deep blue curls of smoke, which look both beautiful and menacing. This cover is a very close second, to the extent that I nearly rolled a dice to see which would be my favourite this week.

 

This Swedish cover, published in September 2016 by Albert Bonniers Förlag, has taken the story as the cover’s reference. A Victorian street scene is enveloped in thick, choking smoke and the sepia tones complete the period feel, which gives the cover an extra sense of authenticity. Once more, this is a well designed, attractive cover. Quite often, I’m reasonably certain that I’ll know which cover will turn out to be the favourite – however, today I haven’t a clue. Which is your favourite? I’m very much looking forward to finding out!

Review of Smoke by Dan Vyleta

Standard

I picked this one off the shelves because I loved the look of the cover and the idea that this book filled a gap left by J.K. Rowling and Phillip Pullman appealed.

England. A century ago, give or take a few years. An England where people who are wicked in thought or deed are marked by the Smoke that pours forth from their bodies, a sign of their fallen state. The aristocracy do not smoke, proof of their virtue and right to rule, while the lower classes are drenched in sin and soot. An England utterly strange and utterly real. An elite boarding school where the sons of the wealthy are groomed to take power as their birthright. Teachers with mysterious ties to warring political factions at the highest levels of government. Three young people who learn everything they’ve been taught is a lie – knowledge that could cost them their lives.

This book is set in a Dickensian England in an alternate time when any negative emotion appears as either soot or Smoke. The aristocracy and upper classes generally don’t show any signs of such debased behaviour, whereas the lower orders are steeped in it. London, with its factories and crowded living conditions, is a byword for degradation and filth as a perpetual cloud of Smoke infests its streets. We follow the fortunes of three youngsters – two boys who are pupils at the boarding school – Charlie and Thomas and a girl Livia.

I thoroughly enjoyed the way this book opened and found the initial tension and questions surrounding Smoke pulled me into the story. However, while it continued to be enjoyable and there was never any risk of my not finishing it, the readability factor that initially hooked me began to dissipate. Vyleta seemed to need to thoroughly explain his world and that was the factor that began to drive the story, rather than the other way around. It is, indeed, a fascinating premise. But I did find the continual addition of random characters who we never saw again giving us slices of their viewpoint rather jarring and it diluted the characterisation and strength of the initial protagonists, who became rather generic. The love triangle also seemed an oddity and didn’t sit at all well with me, given how it cuts right across the gothic atmosphere and managed to diminish the story into a will-they-won’t-they romance while also trying address some really big and interesting themes.

I’m conscious that it sounds as if I thought this was a bad book and it’s not. There premise is original – Vyleta handles the subsequent class divide really cleverly – and at times, the writing is wonderful. But I have a feeling that this book is trying to be a gothic, Dickensian read while having a wide YA appeal and in trying for both goals has managed to fall short of the original greatness this book promised. Having said that, I’m glad I’ve read it and would be interested in reading other works by this author – he certainly has a fertile, original imagination.
8/10

Sunday Post – 17th September 2017

Standard

This is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

I started the week spending half the day in bed recovering from a virus. On Wednesday, I no longer felt like a piece of chewed string so drove over to Northbrook to photocopy all my course notes in readiness for my Creative Writing courses which start tomorrow. On the way home I popped in to see my sister and catch up. We ended up at the Harbour Lights café for a cuppa and a HUGE slab of lemon drizzle cake – yum! In the evening I attended Writing Group where the lovely Sarah Palmer gave me loads of useful advice regarding where to take Miranda’s Tempest.

On Thursday, Mhairi and I did our tax returns together, which worked really well. I always find this online business stressful, but going through the document with a buddy feels a whole lot less lonely. As a reward for having completed a really grotty job, we sat down to watch Sharknado 5 which had us howling with laughter.

I finally started teaching Tim a whole week later than I should on Friday. It was all about the film rehearsal which I attended most of Saturday. Frances accompanied me and I helped with the blocking and line rehearsal for several scenes. It’s lovely seeing Tim’s film script being acted by an enthusiastic, energetic cast. Today my sister is coming over for lunch and as the grandchildren are staying over this week-end, it should be a noisy, enjoyable affair. I love having plenty of folks sitting around our kitchen table talking and laughing as we eat. I hope you have a lovely week, hopefully with some of that fine September weather we’re owed.

This week I have read:

The Tiger’s Daughter – Book 1 of Their Bright Ascendency by K. Arsenault Rivera
The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests. Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons. This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O-Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.
This Eastern epic fantasy tells the story of two young women and their adventures through the letter of one of them to the other. The language is lush and the story full of demons, magic and destiny…

 

The Paper Magician – Book 1 of The Paper Magician series by Charlie N. Holmberg
Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic… forever.
An entertaining, smoothly written fantasy that I mostly enjoyed, though I did have a bit of an issue when the teacher and apprentice fall in love. Hm…

 

 

Smoke by Dan Vyleta
England. A century ago, give or take a few years. An England where people who are wicked in thought or deed are marked by the Smoke that pours forth from their bodies, a sign of their fallen state. The aristocracy do not smoke, proof of their virtue and right to rule, while the lower classes are drenched in sin and soot. An England utterly strange and utterly real.
An elite boarding school where the sons of the wealthy are groomed to take power as their birthright. Teachers with mysterious ties to warring political factions at the highest levels of government. Three young people who learn everything they’ve been taught is a lie – knowledge that could cost them their lives.
This world is fascinating, where the presence of Smoke defines and hardens class barriers. This alternate history is enjoyable and thought provoking.

My posts last week:

Sunday Post – 10th September

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Last Dog on Earth by Adrian J. Walker

Teaser Tuesday featuring Smoke by Dan Vyleta

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Dazzling Heights – Book 2 of The Thousandth Floor by Katherine McGee

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Taste of Marrow – Book 2 of River of Teeth series by Sarah Gailey

Friday Face-off – Checkmate… featuring Blackout – Book 1 of the All Clear series by Connie Willis

Shoot for the Moon – August roundup

Interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week and a bit, in no particular order:

Goodbye is not an Option https://ginnibites.wordpress.com/2017/09/10/goodbye-is-not-an-option/ Ginni is a talented poet and this moving poem written in collaboration with a grieving widow is beautiful and brave.

Generational Time Machine https://scvincent.com/2017/09/09/generational-time-machine/ This lovely article is about a first day at school and the memories it evokes…

Inspirational David Mitchell Quotes http://logicalquotes.com/david-mitchell-quotes/ David Mitchell is one of my favourite authors and this article reminded me why…

10 of the Best Poems about Friendship https://interestingliterature.com/2017/09/13/10-of-the-best-poems-about-friendship/ This is a lovely selection of poems about the positive relationships that enhance our lives.

Different Ways To Organise Your Bookshelves https://aspiringwriter22.wordpress.com/2017/09/13/different-ways-to-organize-your-bookshelves/ Half of these ways of classifying my book collection never occurred to me, what about you?

Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to visit, like and comment on my site and may you have a great week.

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NOVELLA Taste of Marrow – Book 2 of River of Teeth series by Sarah Gailey

Standard

After enjoying the hippo-related mayhem of River of Teeth and looking forward to reading what happens next as the first book left everything on something of a cliffhanger, I was delighted to spot this one on Netgalley.

A few months ago, Winslow Houndstooth put together the damnedest crew of outlaws, assassins, cons, and saboteurs on either side of the Harriet for a history-changing caper. Together they conspired to blow the damn that choked the Mississippi and funnel the hordes of feral hippos contained within downriver, to finally give America back its greatest waterway. Songs are sung of their exploits, many with a haunting refrain: “And not a soul escaped alive.” In the aftermath of the Harriet catastrophe, that crew has scattered to the winds. Some hunt the missing lovers they refuse to believe have died. Others band together to protect a precious infant and a peaceful future. All of them struggle with who they’ve become after a long life of theft, murder, deception, and general disinterest in the strictures of the law.

My first piece of advice would be – don’t start with this one, go back to River of Teeth as this novella picks up from where the first book left off and there isn’t anything in the way of ‘The Story So Far’. While there is a bit of explanation about what happened, it comes fairly late in the story and in the meantime, I think newcomers to this series could flounder.

As we plunge straight back into the action only a few weeks after the climactic events at the end of River of Teeth we meet up with all the protagonists once again as they start to count the cost of that dramatic day. It took me a while to get back into this, because not only wasn’t there much explanation, neither did we have any rebonding moments with the main characters. I did care about several of the gang members, but was rather detached from Winslow, whose behaviour wasn’t particularly pleasant. While I understood it, because the reason for it was in the previous book, we didn’t get a chance to see the justification and I think this hampered some of my enjoyment.

I do like the world very much and there was plenty going on – but I wanted more character development and longer to enjoy this interesting, vivid setting. There was a sense that this was a quart-sized story squeezed between pint-sized covers. That said, if I hadn’t liked it so much then clearly I wouldn’t have wanted more – this is really cool idea and was brought to a satisfactory conclusion this time around. I’d love to see a full-length novel set in this world, though… While I obtained the arc of Taste of Marrow from the publisher via NetGalley, this has in no way influenced my unbiased review.
8/10

Teaser Tuesday – 12th September, 2017

Standard

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by The Purple Booker.
Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This is my choice of the day:
Smoke by Dan Vyleta

p. 286 ‘Our captain wants to be a gentleman,’ I say to Poppy, watching van Huysmans mince around the deck.
‘A gentleman!’ Poppy replies enthusiastically, not catching my tone. ‘Imagine it! Clean sheets, nobody cussing you out or even raising their voices. No pushing and shoving. A soft world.’

I snort. ‘Always thinking before you speak. Inspecting your bedding in the morning. Keeping your farts in, lest they trigger something. A life lived with your arsehole clamped. Never letting rip.’

But the boy is adamant, forgets for a moment that I am his senior and his prophet, his shipside god.
‘What’s so great about coarseness and dirt?’ he asks.

And when I don’t answer (for he’s hit upon a point, I suppose) he adds, now wet in his eye. ‘They’ll go to heaven, sir. And you and I shan’t.’

BLURB: Imagine a world in which every bad thought you had was made visible. Where anger, hatred and envy appeared as thick smoke pouring from your body and soot on your skin. With society controlled by an elite who have learned to tame their darkest desires. Thomas and Charlie are friends at a boarding school near Oxford, where the children of the rich and powerful are trained to be future leaders. Charlie is naturally good, but Thomas’s father was accused of murder and Thomas fears that the same evil lies coiled inside him. Then, on a trip to London – a forbidden city shrouded in darkness – they learn that all is not as it appears. So begins a quest to find the truth, and to learn what lies beneath this world of smoke, soot and ash…

I’m just over halfway through this intriguing book. The premise is a great one and I’ve really enjoyed the start – right now we’re enmeshed in the middle of the plot with it all going to hell in a handbasket. I’ll be reviewing it in due course.

Review of KINDLE Ebook The Voyage of the Basilisk – Book 3 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent series by Marie Brennan

Standard

The discovery of this series has been one of my reading highlights – and the reason I haven’t powered through all the books is because they are too good. I want to savour each one after I’ve read it and reflect on it for a while, before once more diving back into this rich, beautifully evoked world. That said, the gap between The Tropic of Serpents and this one was longer than I’d planned.

Devoted readers of Lady Trent’s earlier memoirs, A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents, may believe themselves already acquainted with the particulars of her historic voyage aboard the Royal Survey Ship Basilisk, but the true story of that illuminating, harrowing, and scandalous journey has never been revealed—until now. 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 sunning themselves in the ruins of a fallen civilization to the mighty sea serpents of the tropics, these creatures are a source of both endless fascination and frequent peril. Accompanying her is not only her young son, Jake, but a chivalrous foreign archaeologist whose interests converge with Isabella’s in ways both professional and personal.

The tone and writing is pitch perfect. Isabella Trent epitomises those gutsy Victorian lady explorers who endured hazardous journeys to distant corners of the world in primitive conditions – often still wearing corsets and long skirts. Although Isabella does adopt trousers for their practicality in scrambling over ruins and running away from enraged dragons. This time, most of the book is spent aboard the ship Basilisk as the expedition she is heading attempts to garner more information on sea dragons, amongst other breeds living inconveniently long distances away from Scirland.

The first third of the book is necessarily episodic as the expedition gets under way – but once events start to spin out of control, as they invariably do for Isabella and her companions, the pace picks up along with the stakes. While she would love to devote all her attention and resources on tracking down and learning more about dragons, the politics of the region has to be taken into account – particularly in relation to her own country’s ambitions and she has learnt the hard way that this is an aspect of her travels she cannot afford to disregard.

The long-running narrative arc regarding the issue of dragon bones being stabilised and used industrially continues to gain momentum through this book. While I think all the books can be easily read as a standalone, it is always gratifying to have at least one ongoing thread to reward readers who follow the series. The climax in this book kept me reading until the end – I simply couldn’t put it down. And while I am not going to dive straight into the next book – I want more time to fully absorb and appreciate Basilisk goodness – I certainly don’t want to leave it too long before I once again delight in revisiting this world with the next book in the series, In the Labyrinth of Drakes. Highly recommended.
9/10