The Basilisk's Lair
A book review for parents
This fantasy book is the second in the "Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist" series by R.L. LaFevers and is published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
The Basilisk's Lair is written for kids ages 7 to 11 years. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
In book one, 10-year-old Nathaniel Fludd's adventurous parents are proclaimed dead in 1928, and he is sent to live with his Aunt Philomena (Phil), a beastologist. After flying to Arabia (the name used for this country in 1928) and helping save a phoenix, Nathaniel Fludd (Nate) feels he's a real beastologist like his Aunt Phil. Since beastologists study and aid rare and mythical creatures, Nate and Aunt Phil respond quickly when summoned by the Dhughani people of Africa to locate their lost basilisk. Nate is daunted when he reads about the basilisk in Aunt Phil's Book of Beasts. The creature has a rooster's head, wings, feathers, fangs, reptilian skin and bright colored scales. Even its gaze is highly poisonous, not to mention its venom. Nate, Aunt Phil and the Dhughani's spiritual leader, called a Dolon, climb a treacherous cliff to reach the basilisk's cave. Each person follows a different tunnel, unwinding roles of twine behind them to keep from getting lost. Nate, along with his gremlin, Greasle, finds a hole in the cave wall and a pick axe nearby. They return to tell the others the basilisk may have been stolen and not lost. Nate and Aunt Phil follow a trail to the creature. As Nate tries to lure it into their trap, the basilisk shoots its poison at Aunt Phil. Nate cures her with ashes of the phoenix and Greasle disables the basilisk's poisonous gaze by putting goggles over its eyes. After chloroforming the basilisk and returning it to its caretakers, Aunt Phil and Nate head home in search of answers about Nate's parents' disappearance, Nate's former guardian and the man they believe freed the basilisk.
Aunt Phil determines to make an adventurer out of Nate. She refuses to let him go home or sit out any of their explorations. She teaches him all she knows about beastology, which helps him gain self-confidences and overcome fear.
Other Belief Systems
Nate reads in The Book of Beasts that the basilisk's venom is highly valued by those who practice the dark arts. The Songhay Empire, ancestors of the Dhughani, made a sacred contract with the basilisk. They would bring it sacred offerings. The Dhughani follow the tradition by bringing skulls and bones of animals sacred to the basilisk to its cave. Nate cures Aunt Phil of her basilisk injuries by sprinkling a pinch of ashes from the fire of the phoenix on her. The Book of Beasts says these ashes can cure any human illness. The Dolon has a sacred duty to care for the basilisk.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Why does Aunt Phil make Nate join her in various stages of their basilisk hunt when he would rather wait outside or go home?
What does she want to teach him?
What is something you have learned through experience instead of just hearing about it?
Do you think Nate will learn more from his experiences or from hearing Aunt Phil talk about hers?
- What are some characteristics of Aunt Phil that make her a good adventurer and beastologist?
What kind of a guardian is Aunt Phil?
- Is Nate a good beastologist?
How does he grow from the beginning to the end of the story?
Where does he still have room for improvement?
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.