Novik - Book Reviews

***** - Excellent
**** - Good
*** - Okay
** - Bad
* - Terrible
+ - Half-star

His Majesty's Dragon
(The Temeraire series, Book 1)
Naomi Novik
Del Rey
Fiction, Fantasy
****

DESCRIPTION: During the wars against Napoleon, the HMS Reliant captures a French vessel with a most grand prize aboard: a dragon's egg, no doubt bound for France's booming aerial corps, whose breeders have outpaced their English counterparts for years. Captain Will Laurence of the Reliant couldn't be more pleased, even if he personally doesn't think much of dragons and their crews; aviators are crude and brutish sorts, isolated from the rest of society as they cannot leave their dragons to raise families or pursue other interests, practically above the law as a dragon will not fly without their chosen captain and they're simply too dear to lose to legal trivialities. During the long voyage back to England, the worst happens. The egg hatches out on board the ship, and of all the crewmen it singles out Laurence as its new master and future aviator. Forced to leave the Navy because of the unintentional bonding, he and the young Temeraire must travel to the dragon training grounds in Scotland to learn in a few months what most aviators study since childhood, for in these desperate times even an inexperieced former Navy captain and his dragon of unknown origins may find themselves on the front lines of battle.

REVIEW: Alternate history books can be a bit iffy, in my experience. Some people can hybridize fantasy (or sci-fi) and history and some people just can't. Novik seems to be in the former category, presenting an excellently realized world of yesteryear with the convincing addition of dragons. Her dragons aren't simply animals, either; part of their appeal here is that they can speak, think, and form opinions, which makes their inclusion in a war not of their making all the more interesting and, occasionally, tragic. In truth, her dragons almost could have composed an entirely separate universe without any ties whatsoever to our own, but she managed to integrate them well enough. The appendix, in which she outlines the origins and specifics of several dragon breeds mentioned in the book, seems dry, and the illustrations contradict her own words (aside from anatomical issues, she makes a point of five-fingered dragons being an anomoly, yet all the dragons in the diagrams have five fingers.) I would've rather had a better diagram of a dragon's full war harness, which supports several crewmembers and essentially turns the dragon into a flying fortress complete with artillery; it was hard to visualise the crew placements during the action in the book, and the diagram at the end unhelpfully fails to show where everyone manages to fit on a fully-loaded war dragon. I still look forward to reading the next books in this series.

You might also enjoy:
The Green Rider series (Kristen Britain, Fiction - Finding a dying royal messenger, a merchant's daughter reluctantly finds herself drawn into the mysterious, magical world of the Green Riders)
The Vlad Taltos series (Stephen Brust, Fiction - In a world of magic and gods, the human assassin/detective Vlad Taltos works with his bonded dragonlike familiar)
The Shadow of Black Wings (James Calbraith, Fiction - After a disaster, the son of a naval captain and his dragon find themselves in the forbidden island nation of Yamato)
Dragon Companion (Don Callander, Fiction - A librarian finds himself inexplicably transported to a world of magic and dragons, where a dragon befriends him)
Dragons in the Stars and Dragon Rigger (Jeffrey A. Carver, Fiction - A "rigger," capable of navigating interstellar ships through lucid dreaming, befriends the embattled dragons who live in hyperspace)
Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher (Bruce Coville, YA Fiction - A boy buys a dragon's egg in a magic shop, never expecting it to actually hatch out a live dragonling)
How to Train Your Dragon (Cressida Cowell, YA Fiction - Misfit Viking boy Hiccup struggles to train a stubborn dragon to avoid shaming his chieftain father)
The Dragon Book (Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois, editors, Fiction - 19 dragon tales by modern writers)
The Fire Within (Chris D'Lacey, YA Fiction - A college teen receives a clay dragon figurine from his landlady, which comes alive in his mind)
Hatching Magic and The Dragon of Never-Was(Ann Downer, YA Fiction - A modern Boston girl's encounter with a medieval wizard's pet wyvern wakes her own latent powers, powers she isn't sure she wants)
Dragonsdale (Salamanda Drake, YA Fiction - Born and raised at a dragon-riding academy, the stablemaster's daughter is forbidden to fly)
Dragon Rider (Cornelia Funke, YA Fiction - A brave dragon seeks a legendary sanctuary in the Himalayas with an irritable brownie friend and an orphaned London boy)
The Liveship Traders trilogy and The Rain Wilds Chronicles (Robin Hobb, Fiction - Enter wonderfully realized fantasy world of living ships, pirates, raiders, sea serpents, and dragons)
The Familiar Dragon series (Daniel Hood, Fiction - A murdered wizard's dragon familiar forces a bond with the relucant detective who finds the body)
The Dragon quartet (Marjorie B. Kellogg, Fiction - Elemental dragons and their human companions travel around the world and through time to avert a global catastrophe)
Song in the Silence (Elizabeth Kerner, YA? Fiction - A girl longs to find the legendary True Dragons of her world... and one True Dragon dreams of finding a human girl)
The Dragonling series (Jackie French Koller, YA Fiction - A boy discovers a newborn dragonling in its slain mother's pouch)
Bitterwood (James Maxey, Fiction - In a world where dragons have enslaved humanity, one dragonslayer's bloodthirsty quest for vengeance only makes things worse)
The Dragonriders of Pern series (Anne McCaffrey, Fiction - On the world of Pern, dragons and their telepathically-bonded riders fight a deadly organic substance known as Thread)
The Airborn books (Kenneth Oppel, YA Fiction - In a world dominated by "hydrium" airships, a brave boy and a headstrong girl have larger-than-life adventures in the stratosphere)
Eragon (Christopher Paolini, YA? Fiction - A farmer's boy finds a dragon's egg, changing his life and his nation's future forever)
Dragonheart (Charles Edward Pogue, Fiction - An embittered dragonslayer must team up with the last living dragon to defeat an evil king)
The Dragon Round (Stephen S. Power, Fiction - After mutineers set their captain adrift, he finds a chance at vengeance with a hatchling dragon... a plot that spirals beyond his control)
The Waking Fire (Anthony Ryan, Fiction - A corporate-run world where dragonblood grants power faces war)
The Leviathan trilogy (Scott Westerfield, YA Fiction - World War 1 in an alternate-history Earth involves great walking "Clanker" machinery and "Darwinist" fabricated animals)
The Thousand Names (Django Wexler, Fiction - A Colonial army leader's attempts to retake a rebellious desert land involve a hidden agenda: long-lost magics, hidden by the rebels)
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Patricia C. Wrede, YA Fiction - Sick of being the proper princess in a fairy-tale world, a headstrong girl runs away to live with dragons)
Thirteenth Child (Patricia C. Wrede, YA Fiction - In an alternate magical 1800's America, young Eff is considered cursed by birth)
The Pit Dragon Chronicles (Jane Yolen, YA Fiction - On Austar IV, a slave boy steals a hatchling dragon from his master)
The Dragonback Adventures (Timothy Zahn, YA Fiction - A boy thief, on the run from an interstellar megacorporation, becomes the reluctant ally of a dragonlike alien whose people are being systematically slaughtered)

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Throne of Jade
(The Temeraire series, Book 2)
Naomi Novik
Del Rey
Fiction, Fantasy
*****

DESCRIPTION: Novice aviator Will Laurence, formal Naval captain, and his dragon Temeraire proved themselves worthy of king and country in the heat of battle... but not, unfortunately, to the Chinese, who originally intended the egg to go to the Emperor Napoleon. After all, Temeraire is a rare Celestial dragon, traditional companion to kings and emperors, and seeing such a divine creature in war harness on the battle lines - under a commoner captain, no less - is almost an act of war as far as the Chinese are concerned. An envoy, headed by a Chinese prince, arrives to retrieve their wayward dragon and part him forever from the "common-born" Englishman he loves. The English diplomats have jumped on the conflict as a chance to establish peaceable relations, perhaps even a true alliance, with the nation of notoriously gifted dragon breeders, but neither Will nor Temeraire want any part in such maneuverings. After much political wrangling and close calls with prison and/or execution, they find themselves on a long, perilous voyage from England to the Far East, where the Chinese Emperor himself will decide the fate of man and dragon.

REVIEW: The second Temeraire novel brings back several favorite characters and introduces some new ones, while expanding Novik's alternate history beyond the European theater to include the people and dragons of the rest of the world. This, truly, is where Novik steps up her series to become something other than just a retelling of the Napoleonic wars with dragons. The ethical and political questions of involving sentient dragons in a human war are further probed, with some interesting twists as Laurence and Temeraire learn more of their own bond and interspecies relationships across the globe. I actually enjoyed this book more, as it wasn't as war-centered as the first volume. I eagerly look forward to the third book in this fascinating series.

You might also enjoy:
The Green Rider series (Kristen Britain, Fiction - Finding a dying royal messenger, a merchant's daughter reluctantly finds herself drawn into the mysterious, magical world of the Green Riders)
The Vlad Taltos series (Stephen Brust, Fiction - In a world of magic and gods, the human assassin/detective Vlad Taltos works with his bonded dragonlike familiar)
The Shadow of Black Wings (James Calbraith, Fiction - After a disaster, the son of a naval captain and his dragon find themselves in the forbidden island nation of Yamato)
Dragon Companion (Don Callander, Fiction - A librarian finds himself inexplicably transported to a world of magic and dragons, where a dragon befriends him)
Dragons in the Stars and Dragon Rigger (Jeffrey A. Carver, Fiction - A "rigger," capable of navigating interstellar ships through lucid dreaming, befriends the embattled dragons who live in hyperspace)
Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher (Bruce Coville, YA Fiction - A boy buys a dragon's egg in a magic shop, never expecting it to actually hatch out a live dragonling)
How to Train Your Dragon (Cressida Cowell, YA Fiction - Misfit Viking boy Hiccup struggles to train a stubborn dragon to avoid shaming his chieftain father)
The Dragon Book (Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois, editors, Fiction - 19 dragon tales by modern writers)
The Fire Within (Chris D'Lacey, YA Fiction - A college teen receives a clay dragon figurine from his landlady, which comes alive in his mind)
Hatching Magic and The Dragon of Never-Was(Ann Downer, YA Fiction - A modern Boston girl's encounter with a medieval wizard's pet wyvern wakes her own latent powers, powers she isn't sure she wants)
Dragonsdale (Salamanda Drake, YA Fiction - Born and raised at a dragon-riding academy, the stablemaster's daughter is forbidden to fly)
Dragon Rider (Cornelia Funke, YA Fiction - A brave dragon seeks a legendary sanctuary in the Himalayas with an irritable brownie friend and an orphaned London boy)
The Liveship Traders trilogy and The Rain Wilds Chronicles (Robin Hobb, Fiction - Enter wonderfully realized fantasy world of living ships, pirates, raiders, sea serpents, and dragons)
The Familiar Dragon series (Daniel Hood, Fiction - A murdered wizard's dragon familiar forces a bond with the relucant detective who finds the body)
The Dragon quartet (Marjorie B. Kellogg, Fiction - Elemental dragons and their human companions travel around the world and through time to avert a global catastrophe)
Song in the Silence (Elizabeth Kerner, YA? Fiction - A girl longs to find the legendary True Dragons of her world... and one True Dragon dreams of finding a human girl)
The Dragonling series (Jackie French Koller, YA Fiction - A boy discovers a newborn dragonling in its slain mother's pouch)
Bitterwood (James Maxey, Fiction - In a world where dragons have enslaved humanity, one dragonslayer's bloodthirsty quest for vengeance only makes things worse)
The Dragonriders of Pern series (Anne McCaffrey, Fiction - On the world of Pern, dragons and their telepathically-bonded riders fight a deadly organic substance known as Thread)
The Airborn books (Kenneth Oppel, YA Fiction - In a world dominated by "hydrium" airships, a brave boy and a headstrong girl have larger-than-life adventures in the stratosphere)
Eragon (Christopher Paolini, YA? Fiction - A farmer's boy finds a dragon's egg, changing his life and his nation's future forever)
Dragonheart (Charles Edward Pogue, Fiction - An embittered dragonslayer must team up with the last living dragon to defeat an evil king)
The Dragon Round (Stephen S. Power, Fiction - After mutineers set their captain adrift, he finds a chance at vengeance with a hatchling dragon... a plot that spirals beyond his control)
The Waking Fire (Anthony Ryan, Fiction - A corporate-run world where dragonblood grants power faces war)
The Leviathan trilogy (Scott Westerfield, YA Fiction - World War 1 in an alternate-history Earth involves great walking "Clanker" machinery and "Darwinist" fabricated animals)
The Thousand Names (Django Wexler, Fiction - A Colonial army leader's attempts to retake a rebellious desert land involve a hidden agenda: long-lost magics, hidden by the rebels)
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Patricia C. Wrede, YA Fiction - Sick of being the proper princess in a fairy-tale world, a headstrong girl runs away to live with dragons)
Thirteenth Child (Patricia C. Wrede, YA Fiction - In an alternate magical 1800's America, young Eff is considered cursed by birth)
The Pit Dragon Chronicles (Jane Yolen, YA Fiction - On Austar IV, a slave boy steals a hatchling dragon from his master)
The Dragonback Adventures (Timothy Zahn, YA Fiction - A boy thief, on the run from an interstellar megacorporation, becomes the reluctant ally of a dragonlike alien whose people are being systematically slaughtered)

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Black Powder War
(The Temeraire series, Book 3)
Naomi Novik
Del Rey
Fiction, Fantasy
*****

DESCRIPTION: On the heels of their mission to China, a strange missive reaches Temeraire and his captain Will Laurence, still in the Far East. They are ordered to head immediately for Istanbul to transport three dearly-bought Turkish dragon eggs to England's Aerial Corps. For this, they must forego another several-month sea voyage back around India and Africa and cut straight overland, through unforgiving mountains and vast deserts. As perilous as the crossing is, they may find the worst is yet to come, for Turkey is in the sights of the increasingly vast French Army... assisted now by a vengeful acquaintance who will turn the world upside-down in her quest to avenge her master's destruction and see Laurence and Temeraire suffer as she herself has suffered: the albino Chinese Celestial dragon Lien.

REVIEW: Novik continues to deliver a compelling, fast-moving tale in a wonderfully realized alternate history. Temeraire and Laurence, both changed by their experiences in China, find a new perspective on the war and its meaning for dragon and human combatants alike. As before, I found myself skimming a few of the battle sequences, and the afterword read somewhat dry and wordy after the faster, more interesting pace of the rest of the novel. Still, I highly enjoy the world and characters Novik has established. The ending sets up what promises to be a tense and dramatic fourth book.

You might also enjoy:
The Green Rider series (Kristen Britain, Fiction - Finding a dying royal messenger, a merchant's daughter reluctantly finds herself drawn into the mysterious, magical world of the Green Riders)
The Vlad Taltos series (Stephen Brust, Fiction - In a world of magic and gods, the human assassin/detective Vlad Taltos works with his bonded dragonlike familiar)
The Shadow of Black Wings (James Calbraith, Fiction - After a disaster, the son of a naval captain and his dragon find themselves in the forbidden island nation of Yamato)
Dragon Companion (Don Callander, Fiction - A librarian finds himself inexplicably transported to a world of magic and dragons, where a dragon befriends him)
Dragons in the Stars and Dragon Rigger (Jeffrey A. Carver, Fiction - A "rigger," capable of navigating interstellar ships through lucid dreaming, befriends the embattled dragons who live in hyperspace)
Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher (Bruce Coville, YA Fiction - A boy buys a dragon's egg in a magic shop, never expecting it to actually hatch out a live dragonling)
How to Train Your Dragon (Cressida Cowell, YA Fiction - Misfit Viking boy Hiccup struggles to train a stubborn dragon to avoid shaming his chieftain father)
The Dragon Book (Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois, editors, Fiction - 19 dragon tales by modern writers)
The Fire Within (Chris D'Lacey, YA Fiction - A college teen receives a clay dragon figurine from his landlady, which comes alive in his mind)
Hatching Magic and The Dragon of Never-Was(Ann Downer, YA Fiction - A modern Boston girl's encounter with a medieval wizard's pet wyvern wakes her own latent powers, powers she isn't sure she wants)
Dragonsdale (Salamanda Drake, YA Fiction - Born and raised at a dragon-riding academy, the stablemaster's daughter is forbidden to fly)
Dragon Rider (Cornelia Funke, YA Fiction - A brave dragon seeks a legendary sanctuary in the Himalayas with an irritable brownie friend and an orphaned London boy)
The Liveship Traders trilogy and The Rain Wilds Chronicles (Robin Hobb, Fiction - Enter wonderfully realized fantasy world of living ships, pirates, raiders, sea serpents, and dragons)
The Familiar Dragon series (Daniel Hood, Fiction - A murdered wizard's dragon familiar forces a bond with the relucant detective who finds the body)
The Dragon quartet (Marjorie B. Kellogg, Fiction - Elemental dragons and their human companions travel around the world and through time to avert a global catastrophe)
Song in the Silence (Elizabeth Kerner, YA? Fiction - A girl longs to find the legendary True Dragons of her world... and one True Dragon dreams of finding a human girl)
The Dragonling series (Jackie French Koller, YA Fiction - A boy discovers a newborn dragonling in its slain mother's pouch)
Bitterwood (James Maxey, Fiction - In a world where dragons have enslaved humanity, one dragonslayer's bloodthirsty quest for vengeance only makes things worse)
The Dragonriders of Pern series (Anne McCaffrey, Fiction - On the world of Pern, dragons and their telepathically-bonded riders fight a deadly organic substance known as Thread)
The Airborn books (Kenneth Oppel, YA Fiction - In a world dominated by "hydrium" airships, a brave boy and a headstrong girl have larger-than-life adventures in the stratosphere)
Eragon (Christopher Paolini, YA? Fiction - A farmer's boy finds a dragon's egg, changing his life and his nation's future forever)
Dragonheart (Charles Edward Pogue, Fiction - An embittered dragonslayer must team up with the last living dragon to defeat an evil king)
The Dragon Round (Stephen S. Power, Fiction - After mutineers set their captain adrift, he finds a chance at vengeance with a hatchling dragon... a plot that spirals beyond his control)
The Waking Fire (Anthony Ryan, Fiction - A corporate-run world where dragonblood grants power faces war)
The Leviathan trilogy (Scott Westerfield, YA Fiction - World War 1 in an alternate-history Earth involves great walking "Clanker" machinery and "Darwinist" fabricated animals)
The Thousand Names (Django Wexler, Fiction - A Colonial army leader's attempts to retake a rebellious desert land involve a hidden agenda: long-lost magics, hidden by the rebels)
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Patricia C. Wrede, YA Fiction - Sick of being the proper princess in a fairy-tale world, a headstrong girl runs away to live with dragons)
Thirteenth Child (Patricia C. Wrede, YA Fiction - In an alternate magical 1800's America, young Eff is considered cursed by birth)
The Pit Dragon Chronicles (Jane Yolen, YA Fiction - On Austar IV, a slave boy steals a hatchling dragon from his master)
The Dragonback Adventures (Timothy Zahn, YA Fiction - A boy thief, on the run from an interstellar megacorporation, becomes the reluctant ally of a dragonlike alien whose people are being systematically slaughtered)

Return to Top of Page - Return to Book Review List


Empire of Ivory
(The Temeraire series, Book 4)
Naomi Novik
Del Rey
Fiction, Fantasy
****

DESCRIPTION: Back in England after a narrow escape from Napoleon's forces, Temeraire and Captain Will Laurence - now in the company of a dozen or so enterprising feral dragons, intent on trading service to the Aerial Corps for food - find the local dragons in the grip of a mysterious and deadly illness. It spreads like wildfire through the ranks. Now, only a scant handful of dragons are even flightworthy, leaving the Channel wide open for invasion should the French learn of the disease. Only Temeraire seems immune, though he has been exposed during his trip to China by the courier dragon Volly. Retracing their steps, they determine it likely that they accidentally found a cure during their stay in Capetown. Thus begins a desperate race against time with the dragons of his old formation. Their search will lead them far from the colonies and coastline of Africa, into the deep and mysterious heart of a continent devastated by European invaders and rampant slave raids, a continent that has some surprising secrets in store.

REVIEW: Another exciting visit with Temeraire and his alternate-history world, marred mainly by Novik's comma- and semicolon-heavy writing style (which made some sentences hard to follow) and the fact that it felt like a setup for future books. The relations between man and dragon are further explored, as the tribes of inner Africa have come to almost worship the great creatures who have helped them build a fascinating, exotic way of life. Also further explored are the devastating politics of slavery - Laurence being an outspoken abolitionist in a government catering to slave traders - and the atrocities committed in the name of martial victory. The ending is another cliffhanger; Novik offers a preview of the next book, due out in 2008, via e-mail, and it's only a matter of time before I break down.

You might also enjoy:
The Green Rider series (Kristen Britain, Fiction - Finding a dying royal messenger, a merchant's daughter reluctantly finds herself drawn into the mysterious, magical world of the Green Riders)
The Vlad Taltos series (Stephen Brust, Fiction - In a world of magic and gods, the human assassin/detective Vlad Taltos works with his bonded dragonlike familiar)
The Shadow of Black Wings (James Calbraith, Fiction - After a disaster, the son of a naval captain and his dragon find themselves in the forbidden island nation of Yamato)
Dragon Companion (Don Callander, Fiction - A librarian finds himself inexplicably transported to a world of magic and dragons, where a dragon befriends him)
Dragons in the Stars and Dragon Rigger (Jeffrey A. Carver, Fiction - A "rigger," capable of navigating interstellar ships through lucid dreaming, befriends the embattled dragons who live in hyperspace)
Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher (Bruce Coville, YA Fiction - A boy buys a dragon's egg in a magic shop, never expecting it to actually hatch out a live dragonling)
How to Train Your Dragon (Cressida Cowell, YA Fiction - Misfit Viking boy Hiccup struggles to train a stubborn dragon to avoid shaming his chieftain father)
The Dragon Book (Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois, editors, Fiction - 19 dragon tales by modern writers)
The Fire Within (Chris D'Lacey, YA Fiction - A college teen receives a clay dragon figurine from his landlady, which comes alive in his mind)
Hatching Magic and The Dragon of Never-Was(Ann Downer, YA Fiction - A modern Boston girl's encounter with a medieval wizard's pet wyvern wakes her own latent powers, powers she isn't sure she wants)
Dragonsdale (Salamanda Drake, YA Fiction - Born and raised at a dragon-riding academy, the stablemaster's daughter is forbidden to fly)
Dragon Rider (Cornelia Funke, YA Fiction - A brave dragon seeks a legendary sanctuary in the Himalayas with an irritable brownie friend and an orphaned London boy)
The Liveship Traders trilogy and The Rain Wilds Chronicles (Robin Hobb, Fiction - Enter wonderfully realized fantasy world of living ships, pirates, raiders, sea serpents, and dragons)
The Familiar Dragon series (Daniel Hood, Fiction - A murdered wizard's dragon familiar forces a bond with the relucant detective who finds the body)
The Dragon quartet (Marjorie B. Kellogg, Fiction - Elemental dragons and their human companions travel around the world and through time to avert a global catastrophe)
Song in the Silence (Elizabeth Kerner, YA? Fiction - A girl longs to find the legendary True Dragons of her world... and one True Dragon dreams of finding a human girl)
The Dragonling series (Jackie French Koller, YA Fiction - A boy discovers a newborn dragonling in its slain mother's pouch)
Bitterwood (James Maxey, Fiction - In a world where dragons have enslaved humanity, one dragonslayer's bloodthirsty quest for vengeance only makes things worse)
The Dragonriders of Pern series (Anne McCaffrey, Fiction - On the world of Pern, dragons and their telepathically-bonded riders fight a deadly organic substance known as Thread)
The Airborn books (Kenneth Oppel, YA Fiction - In a world dominated by "hydrium" airships, a brave boy and a headstrong girl have larger-than-life adventures in the stratosphere)
Eragon (Christopher Paolini, YA? Fiction - A farmer's boy finds a dragon's egg, changing his life and his nation's future forever)
Dragonheart (Charles Edward Pogue, Fiction - An embittered dragonslayer must team up with the last living dragon to defeat an evil king)
The Dragon Round (Stephen S. Power, Fiction - After mutineers set their captain adrift, he finds a chance at vengeance with a hatchling dragon... a plot that spirals beyond his control)
The Waking Fire (Anthony Ryan, Fiction - A corporate-run world where dragonblood grants power faces war)
The Leviathan trilogy (Scott Westerfield, YA Fiction - World War 1 in an alternate-history Earth involves great walking "Clanker" machinery and "Darwinist" fabricated animals)
The Thousand Names (Django Wexler, Fiction - A Colonial army leader's attempts to retake a rebellious desert land involve a hidden agenda: long-lost magics, hidden by the rebels)
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Patricia C. Wrede, YA Fiction - Sick of being the proper princess in a fairy-tale world, a headstrong girl runs away to live with dragons)
Thirteenth Child (Patricia C. Wrede, YA Fiction - In an alternate magical 1800's America, young Eff is considered cursed by birth)
The Pit Dragon Chronicles (Jane Yolen, YA Fiction - On Austar IV, a slave boy steals a hatchling dragon from his master)
The Dragonback Adventures (Timothy Zahn, YA Fiction - A boy thief, on the run from an interstellar megacorporation, becomes the reluctant ally of a dragonlike alien whose people are being systematically slaughtered)

Return to Top of Page - Return to Book Review List


Victory of Eagles
(The Temeraire series, Book 5)
Naomi Novik
Ace
Fiction, Fantasy
*****

DESCRIPTION: After finding the cure for a deadly plague sweeping through Britain's dragon ranks, Temeraire and his captain Wil Laurence returned to Britain in triumph... only to discover that the admiralty planned to indiscriminately infect the whole of Europe - and thence, likely, the rest of the world - with the disease in order to decimate Napoleon's aerial forces. Temeraire refused to accept the wholesale slaughter of his species, and for their actions he and Laurence are branded traitors, the latter confined to prison pending hanging and the former stripped of his crew and sent to the Welsh breeding grounds. Once the pride of the British Aerial Corps, now they find themselves despised, outcast by family and many former friends. Meanwhile, Napoleon's army is at greater strength than ever, so great that he finally has attained a toehold on British soil - and more than a few blame Laurence's generosity.
Still abristle about the utter lack of rights and comforts of his kind in Britain, especially compared to China and, more recently under his enemy Lien's influence, France, Temeraire wastes no time before preaching his cause to any dragon within earshot. All too soon, he discovers that there is a world of difference between seeing injustice and rectifying it, especially when no other dragons seem to care about their rights, or even about England. So long as they have food and mates, it hardly matters to them whose flag the humans fly overhead. Especially in the breeding grounds, without even military training or captains or crews about to stimulate their interest, they settle all too easily into a lethargic complacency that Temeraire finds intolerable, especially with enemies practically on their doorstep. For the first time in his life, the Celestial dragon must learn to make decisions and face consequences without his captain's help.
Barely escaping a ship that was meant to be his prison but instead turned into a deathtrap by Napoleon's invading forces, Laurence finds himself temporarily pardoned and used as he long dreaded he would be: a dishonorable assurance of Temeraire's compliance. Sent to retrieve the Celestial and convince him to fight, he finds instead an empty covert... and is quickly swept up in the tangle of events unleashed by the invasion and Temeraire's self-proclaimed leadership of the breeding ground's unharnessed and feral dragons. But even they are no match for Napoleon's steadily worsening occupation of Britain. Defeat is on the horizon... and this time, Temeraire and Laurence may not be able to stop it.

REVIEW: Another excellent outing by Novik, this one starts on an entirely different note, crawling for the first time inside Temeraire's idealistic mind. It goes without saying that, at some point, dragon and captain are reunited, but both learn much from their time apart, and Temeraire especially must understand the harm caused by his rash actions, however well intentioned. It also goes without saying that Laurence isn't hanged, at least not in this book; word is she has at least two more lined up, so I expect he's safe until the last one. Some nice twists and turns keep the plot unpredictable, and characters new and old, historic and invented, bring life to her alternate Napoleonic- age Europe. Once more, I'll be waiting eagerly for the next installment.

You might also enjoy:
The Green Rider series (Kristen Britain, Fiction - Finding a dying royal messenger, a merchant's daughter reluctantly finds herself drawn into the mysterious, magical world of the Green Riders)
The Vlad Taltos series (Stephen Brust, Fiction - In a world of magic and gods, the human assassin/detective Vlad Taltos works with his bonded dragonlike familiar)
The Shadow of Black Wings (James Calbraith, Fiction - After a disaster, the son of a naval captain and his dragon find themselves in the forbidden island nation of Yamato)
Dragon Companion (Don Callander, Fiction - A librarian finds himself inexplicably transported to a world of magic and dragons, where a dragon befriends him)
Dragons in the Stars and Dragon Rigger (Jeffrey A. Carver, Fiction - A "rigger," capable of navigating interstellar ships through lucid dreaming, befriends the embattled dragons who live in hyperspace)
Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher (Bruce Coville, YA Fiction - A boy buys a dragon's egg in a magic shop, never expecting it to actually hatch out a live dragonling)
How to Train Your Dragon (Cressida Cowell, YA Fiction - Misfit Viking boy Hiccup struggles to train a stubborn dragon to avoid shaming his chieftain father)
The Dragon Book (Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois, editors, Fiction - 19 dragon tales by modern writers)
The Fire Within (Chris D'Lacey, YA Fiction - A college teen receives a clay dragon figurine from his landlady, which comes alive in his mind)
Hatching Magic and The Dragon of Never-Was(Ann Downer, YA Fiction - A modern Boston girl's encounter with a medieval wizard's pet wyvern wakes her own latent powers, powers she isn't sure she wants)
Dragonsdale (Salamanda Drake, YA Fiction - Born and raised at a dragon-riding academy, the stablemaster's daughter is forbidden to fly)
Dragon Rider (Cornelia Funke, YA Fiction - A brave dragon seeks a legendary sanctuary in the Himalayas with an irritable brownie friend and an orphaned London boy)
The Liveship Traders trilogy and The Rain Wilds Chronicles (Robin Hobb, Fiction - Enter wonderfully realized fantasy world of living ships, pirates, raiders, sea serpents, and dragons)
The Familiar Dragon series (Daniel Hood, Fiction - A murdered wizard's dragon familiar forces a bond with the relucant detective who finds the body)
The Dragon quartet (Marjorie B. Kellogg, Fiction - Elemental dragons and their human companions travel around the world and through time to avert a global catastrophe)
Song in the Silence (Elizabeth Kerner, YA? Fiction - A girl longs to find the legendary True Dragons of her world... and one True Dragon dreams of finding a human girl)
The Dragonling series (Jackie French Koller, YA Fiction - A boy discovers a newborn dragonling in its slain mother's pouch)
Bitterwood (James Maxey, Fiction - In a world where dragons have enslaved humanity, one dragonslayer's bloodthirsty quest for vengeance only makes things worse)
The Dragonriders of Pern series (Anne McCaffrey, Fiction - On the world of Pern, dragons and their telepathically-bonded riders fight a deadly organic substance known as Thread)
The Airborn books (Kenneth Oppel, YA Fiction - In a world dominated by "hydrium" airships, a brave boy and a headstrong girl have larger-than-life adventures in the stratosphere)
Eragon (Christopher Paolini, YA? Fiction - A farmer's boy finds a dragon's egg, changing his life and his nation's future forever)
Dragonheart (Charles Edward Pogue, Fiction - An embittered dragonslayer must team up with the last living dragon to defeat an evil king)
The Dragon Round (Stephen S. Power, Fiction - After mutineers set their captain adrift, he finds a chance at vengeance with a hatchling dragon... a plot that spirals beyond his control)
The Waking Fire (Anthony Ryan, Fiction - A corporate-run world where dragonblood grants power faces war)
The Leviathan trilogy (Scott Westerfield, YA Fiction - World War 1 in an alternate-history Earth involves great walking "Clanker" machinery and "Darwinist" fabricated animals)
The Thousand Names (Django Wexler, Fiction - A Colonial army leader's attempts to retake a rebellious desert land involve a hidden agenda: long-lost magics, hidden by the rebels)
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Patricia C. Wrede, YA Fiction - Sick of being the proper princess in a fairy-tale world, a headstrong girl runs away to live with dragons)
Thirteenth Child (Patricia C. Wrede, YA Fiction - In an alternate magical 1800's America, young Eff is considered cursed by birth)
The Pit Dragon Chronicles (Jane Yolen, YA Fiction - On Austar IV, a slave boy steals a hatchling dragon from his master)
The Dragonback Adventures (Timothy Zahn, YA Fiction - A boy thief, on the run from an interstellar megacorporation, becomes the reluctant ally of a dragonlike alien whose people are being systematically slaughtered)

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Tongues of Serpents
(The Temeraire series, Book 6)
Naomi Novik
Del Rey
Fiction, Fantasy
****

DESCRIPTION: Will Laurence, former captain of the English Navy, and Temeraire, the Chinese Celestial dragon whose hatching whisked Laurence from the seas to the skies as an aviator, were once the pride and talk of England, heroes in the ongoing war against Napoleon. After a journey to China opened their eyes to what a nation can become when it befriends instead of enslaves its dragons, and after Will helped Temeraire stop England's planned genocide of the French dragons, the two were deemed agitators and branded traitors. Now shipped off to the New South Wales prison colony of Australia, on the pretense of helping start a dragon covert in the lawless land with three surplus eggs as foundation stock, it is hoped that they will avoid causing further trouble.
Trouble, unfortunately, finds them even before they arrive in the harbor. The colony governor Bligh - late of the HMS Bounty - has been deposed by his own army, and demands justice, or rather retribution. Since Laurence is no longer technically a captain, the Aerial Corps has sent a commissioned officer to take one of the hatchlings as the official commander of the fledgling covert: none other than Captain Rankin, an abusive aristocrat who already let one dragon die through gross negligence. There's also talk of smugglers using the colony as an outlet for goods circumventing the British monopoly on Oriental trade. Then one of the precious dragon eggs, on the verge of hatching, is stolen.
Temeraire and Will find themselves embarking on a new, dangerous adventure, one that will take them through the heart of an unexplored continent, along the razor's edge between honor and patriotism, and into dangers both political and corporeal.

REVIEW: Once again, Novik serves up an alternate-history adventure filled with action, intrigue, and insights into the complicated social, political, and moral fabric of society during the Napoleonic War era. Removed from England and all contact with their old covert-mates and friends (save for letters, for the most part), Temeraire gets to explore the bizarre and deadly world of colonial Australia, a land that hardly needs fantastication to boggle the imagination. It seems a world apart from the European conflict... but, of course, even in Australia, global troubles cannot be escaped forever, as Laurence and Temeraire discover to their dismay. My main complaint is that, at under 300 pages in length, the story felt short. Removing them from the immediate conflicts reshaping Europe (and Africa, and the Americas as we learn) makes for a marked change of pace, but it also makes the story seem more like a sidetrack than a tangible progression of the first five novels. Some of the characters and situations felt like setups that never quite panned out, and at times I had the vague impression that Novik was filling pages rather than plot. I know there's at least one, possibly two more Temeraire books planned, but I still thought a little more could've been done here. On the whole, though, I enjoyed this book, and fully intend to keep reading so long as Novik wants to keep writing.

You might also enjoy:
The Green Rider series (Kristen Britain, Fiction - Finding a dying royal messenger, a merchant's daughter reluctantly finds herself drawn into the mysterious, magical world of the Green Riders)
The Vlad Taltos series (Stephen Brust, Fiction - In a world of magic and gods, the human assassin/detective Vlad Taltos works with his bonded dragonlike familiar)
The Shadow of Black Wings (James Calbraith, Fiction - After a disaster, the son of a naval captain and his dragon find themselves in the forbidden island nation of Yamato)
Dragon Companion (Don Callander, Fiction - A librarian finds himself inexplicably transported to a world of magic and dragons, where a dragon befriends him)
Dragons in the Stars and Dragon Rigger (Jeffrey A. Carver, Fiction - A "rigger," capable of navigating interstellar ships through lucid dreaming, befriends the embattled dragons who live in hyperspace)
Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher (Bruce Coville, YA Fiction - A boy buys a dragon's egg in a magic shop, never expecting it to actually hatch out a live dragonling)
How to Train Your Dragon (Cressida Cowell, YA Fiction - Misfit Viking boy Hiccup struggles to train a stubborn dragon to avoid shaming his chieftain father)
The Dragon Book (Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois, editors, Fiction - 19 dragon tales by modern writers)
The Fire Within (Chris D'Lacey, YA Fiction - A college teen receives a clay dragon figurine from his landlady, which comes alive in his mind)
Hatching Magic and The Dragon of Never-Was(Ann Downer, YA Fiction - A modern Boston girl's encounter with a medieval wizard's pet wyvern wakes her own latent powers, powers she isn't sure she wants)
Dragonsdale (Salamanda Drake, YA Fiction - Born and raised at a dragon-riding academy, the stablemaster's daughter is forbidden to fly)
Dragon Rider (Cornelia Funke, YA Fiction - A brave dragon seeks a legendary sanctuary in the Himalayas with an irritable brownie friend and an orphaned London boy)
The Liveship Traders trilogy and The Rain Wilds Chronicles (Robin Hobb, Fiction - Enter wonderfully realized fantasy world of living ships, pirates, raiders, sea serpents, and dragons)
The Familiar Dragon series (Daniel Hood, Fiction - A murdered wizard's dragon familiar forces a bond with the relucant detective who finds the body)
The Dragon quartet (Marjorie B. Kellogg, Fiction - Elemental dragons and their human companions travel around the world and through time to avert a global catastrophe)
Song in the Silence (Elizabeth Kerner, YA? Fiction - A girl longs to find the legendary True Dragons of her world... and one True Dragon dreams of finding a human girl)
The Dragonling series (Jackie French Koller, YA Fiction - A boy discovers a newborn dragonling in its slain mother's pouch)
Bitterwood (James Maxey, Fiction - In a world where dragons have enslaved humanity, one dragonslayer's bloodthirsty quest for vengeance only makes things worse)
The Dragonriders of Pern series (Anne McCaffrey, Fiction - On the world of Pern, dragons and their telepathically-bonded riders fight a deadly organic substance known as Thread)
The Airborn books (Kenneth Oppel, YA Fiction - In a world dominated by "hydrium" airships, a brave boy and a headstrong girl have larger-than-life adventures in the stratosphere)
Eragon (Christopher Paolini, YA? Fiction - A farmer's boy finds a dragon's egg, changing his life and his nation's future forever)
Dragonheart (Charles Edward Pogue, Fiction - An embittered dragonslayer must team up with the last living dragon to defeat an evil king)
The Dragon Round (Stephen S. Power, Fiction - After mutineers set their captain adrift, he finds a chance at vengeance with a hatchling dragon... a plot that spirals beyond his control)
The Waking Fire (Anthony Ryan, Fiction - A corporate-run world where dragonblood grants power faces war)
The Leviathan trilogy (Scott Westerfield, YA Fiction - World War 1 in an alternate-history Earth involves great walking "Clanker" machinery and "Darwinist" fabricated animals)
The Thousand Names (Django Wexler, Fiction - A Colonial army leader's attempts to retake a rebellious desert land involve a hidden agenda: long-lost magics, hidden by the rebels)
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Patricia C. Wrede, YA Fiction - Sick of being the proper princess in a fairy-tale world, a headstrong girl runs away to live with dragons)
Thirteenth Child (Patricia C. Wrede, YA Fiction - In an alternate magical 1800's America, young Eff is considered cursed by birth)
The Pit Dragon Chronicles (Jane Yolen, YA Fiction - On Austar IV, a slave boy steals a hatchling dragon from his master)
The Dragonback Adventures (Timothy Zahn, YA Fiction - A boy thief, on the run from an interstellar megacorporation, becomes the reluctant ally of a dragonlike alien whose people are being systematically slaughtered)

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Crucible of Gold
(The Temeraire series, Book 7)
Naomi Novik
Del Rey
Fiction, Fantasy
****+

DESCRIPTION: From the sea to the skies, from national hero to exiled traitor, from England to the prison colony of Australia... how could Will Laurence have guessed at his changing fortunes, that day when the HMS Reliant captured the French vessel with Temeraire's egg? But those days are behind him, the war against Napoleon a dim rumble far beyond the horizon. Stripped of rank by a hidebound government, the former captain and the Celestial dragon have found peace farming an isolated valley, content to forget and be forgotten. Then, with the arrival of an unwelcome visitor, the world once more comes crashing upon their doorstep.
Arthur Hammond, a tactless man but an effective diplomat, who once was willing to trade away Temeraire in order to secure goodwill with China, brings with him an offer of reinstatement in the British Aerial Corps, with full seniority restored. While Temeraire delights in the news, Laurence knows the government would never relent unless they needed something. Indeed, they do. Napoleon has enlisted the aid of the Tswana, the dragon-ruled African empire, to harry the Portuguese colony of Brazil, turning the angered nation loose upon the slave-owners who for so long plundered their tribespeople. Having spent time among the Tswana - as captives, mostly - the British hope that Laurence and Temeraire can help the struggling colony and curry favor with Portugal... and maybe even sway the African dragons to the British cause against France. A laughable notion, given Britain's continued support of the very slave trade that angered the Tswana into violence, but Laurence can hardly refuse the attempt. Too many good people saw their lives destroyed when he and Temeraire were branded agitators and traitors; maybe this mission, doomed as it seems, could help make amends.
Thus begins a perilous journey halfway around the globe, beset by storms, mutiny, and traitors.

REVIEW: Another exciting adventure in Temeraire's fascinating alternate-history world, this book wisely ties the action back into the greater world theater. Temeraire, ever the optimist, returns to active duty convinced that he's finally making headway against the British government; Laurence, far less sanguine about the situation, remains determined to never let himself sacrifice personal honor for his fickle nation's pride again. Matters of national honor take a back seat for a good chunk of the book, as the journey itself takes up more than half of the pagecount. In this respect, Crucible of Gold feels faintly reminiscent of Tongues of Serpents (Book 6), in that I sometimes wondered if Novik was stalling for pagecount with each new crisis sprung upon the travelers. Temeraire and his much-reduced crew finally visit the Incan Empire, whose aloof existence was teased in earlier volumes. Novik once again establishes a nation whose relationships with dragons have determined their survival, giving Temeraire a whole new perspective on his own responsibilities to his human companions. By the time they reach Brazil, the Tswana and Hammond's hopes to appease the Portuguese almost feel like afterthoughts. Naturally, all signs point to an eighth volume in the works, as the global theater of war tilts even further against a British victory.
With several significant personal and international developments, Crucible of Gold moves Temeraire's tale out of the backwaters and back into the forefront of a world at war... just where he belongs. I look forward to the next installment, and however many more Novik decides to write.

You might also enjoy:
The Green Rider series (Kristen Britain, Fiction - Finding a dying royal messenger, a merchant's daughter reluctantly finds herself drawn into the mysterious, magical world of the Green Riders)
The Vlad Taltos series (Stephen Brust, Fiction - In a world of magic and gods, the human assassin/detective Vlad Taltos works with his bonded dragonlike familiar)
The Shadow of Black Wings (James Calbraith, Fiction - After a disaster, the son of a naval captain and his dragon find themselves in the forbidden island nation of Yamato)
Dragon Companion (Don Callander, Fiction - A librarian finds himself inexplicably transported to a world of magic and dragons, where a dragon befriends him)
Dragons in the Stars and Dragon Rigger (Jeffrey A. Carver, Fiction - A "rigger," capable of navigating interstellar ships through lucid dreaming, befriends the embattled dragons who live in hyperspace)
Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher (Bruce Coville, YA Fiction - A boy buys a dragon's egg in a magic shop, never expecting it to actually hatch out a live dragonling)
How to Train Your Dragon (Cressida Cowell, YA Fiction - Misfit Viking boy Hiccup struggles to train a stubborn dragon to avoid shaming his chieftain father)
The Dragon Book (Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois, editors, Fiction - 19 dragon tales by modern writers)
The Fire Within (Chris D'Lacey, YA Fiction - A college teen receives a clay dragon figurine from his landlady, which comes alive in his mind)
Hatching Magic and The Dragon of Never-Was(Ann Downer, YA Fiction - A modern Boston girl's encounter with a medieval wizard's pet wyvern wakes her own latent powers, powers she isn't sure she wants)
Dragonsdale (Salamanda Drake, YA Fiction - Born and raised at a dragon-riding academy, the stablemaster's daughter is forbidden to fly)
Dragon Rider (Cornelia Funke, YA Fiction - A brave dragon seeks a legendary sanctuary in the Himalayas with an irritable brownie friend and an orphaned London boy)
The Liveship Traders trilogy and The Rain Wilds Chronicles (Robin Hobb, Fiction - Enter wonderfully realized fantasy world of living ships, pirates, raiders, sea serpents, and dragons)
The Familiar Dragon series (Daniel Hood, Fiction - A murdered wizard's dragon familiar forces a bond with the relucant detective who finds the body)
The Dragon quartet (Marjorie B. Kellogg, Fiction - Elemental dragons and their human companions travel around the world and through time to avert a global catastrophe)
Song in the Silence (Elizabeth Kerner, YA? Fiction - A girl longs to find the legendary True Dragons of her world... and one True Dragon dreams of finding a human girl)
The Dragonling series (Jackie French Koller, YA Fiction - A boy discovers a newborn dragonling in its slain mother's pouch)
Bitterwood (James Maxey, Fiction - In a world where dragons have enslaved humanity, one dragonslayer's bloodthirsty quest for vengeance only makes things worse)
The Dragonriders of Pern series (Anne McCaffrey, Fiction - On the world of Pern, dragons and their telepathically-bonded riders fight a deadly organic substance known as Thread)
The Airborn books (Kenneth Oppel, YA Fiction - In a world dominated by "hydrium" airships, a brave boy and a headstrong girl have larger-than-life adventures in the stratosphere)
Eragon (Christopher Paolini, YA? Fiction - A farmer's boy finds a dragon's egg, changing his life and his nation's future forever)
Dragonheart (Charles Edward Pogue, Fiction - An embittered dragonslayer must team up with the last living dragon to defeat an evil king)
The Dragon Round (Stephen S. Power, Fiction - After mutineers set their captain adrift, he finds a chance at vengeance with a hatchling dragon... a plot that spirals beyond his control)
The Waking Fire (Anthony Ryan, Fiction - A corporate-run world where dragonblood grants power faces war)
The Leviathan trilogy (Scott Westerfield, YA Fiction - World War 1 in an alternate-history Earth involves great walking "Clanker" machinery and "Darwinist" fabricated animals)
The Thousand Names (Django Wexler, Fiction - A Colonial army leader's attempts to retake a rebellious desert land involve a hidden agenda: long-lost magics, hidden by the rebels)
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Patricia C. Wrede, YA Fiction - Sick of being the proper princess in a fairy-tale world, a headstrong girl runs away to live with dragons)
Thirteenth Child (Patricia C. Wrede, YA Fiction - In an alternate magical 1800's America, young Eff is considered cursed by birth)
The Pit Dragon Chronicles (Jane Yolen, YA Fiction - On Austar IV, a slave boy steals a hatchling dragon from his master)
The Dragonback Adventures (Timothy Zahn, YA Fiction - A boy thief, on the run from an interstellar megacorporation, becomes the reluctant ally of a dragonlike alien whose people are being systematically slaughtered)

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Blood of Tyrants
(The Temeraire series, Book 8)
Naomi Novik
Del Rey
Fiction, Fantasy
***+

DESCRIPTION: En route from South America to China, disaster strikes the British dragon transport Potentate, and Captain Will Laurence is washed away. Waking on a foreign shore with no memory of the past eight years, he finds himself marked for torture and death: Japan only allows foreigners at the harbor in Nagasaki, and the Chinese-made sword he carries automatically marks him as an ally of their ancient enemy across the sea. Temeraire desperately wishes to find him, but the British are already losing precious time... and every day lost means another day away from the struggle in Europe. Napoleon's armies have turned toward Russia, one of the last holdouts between France and world domination. If the Chinese cannot be convinced to lend assistance, all may be lost... and a mission this vital cannot be risked for the life of one man, not even Temeraire's beloved captain.

REVIEW: I admit I cringed when I opened the covers to find one of the oldest literary chestnuts in the book - amnesia - greeting me on Page One. Fortunately, the general rush of events carries the story along. Indeed, with seven previous volumes of side-plots and characters and backstories, I started feeling overwhelmed, with too many spare pieces cluttering the chessboard. I still enjoy Temeraire and the dragons, and some of the people, and Novik continues to fill out her fascinating, dragon-influenced world. The story trundles along at a decent pace, wending through trouble and treachery and unexpected reunions, culminating at last on the battlefields of Russia. It all ends on an unsettled note, with one plot development at least that seems to exist solely to create trouble down the line. I sincerely hope that the next volume is the final one; much as I liked visiting Temeraire and Will again, the main story arc feels stretched thin, threatening to collapse under the weight of unresolved subplots. (I also still don't get why Novik felt the need to resort to the amnesia chestnut, save as a padding gimmick to stretch the story, or maybe catch new readers up on the general storyline.)

You might also enjoy:
The Green Rider series (Kristen Britain, Fiction - Finding a dying royal messenger, a merchant's daughter reluctantly finds herself drawn into the mysterious, magical world of the Green Riders)
The Vlad Taltos series (Stephen Brust, Fiction - In a world of magic and gods, the human assassin/detective Vlad Taltos works with his bonded dragonlike familiar)
The Shadow of Black Wings (James Calbraith, Fiction - After a disaster, the son of a naval captain and his dragon find themselves in the forbidden island nation of Yamato)
Dragon Companion (Don Callander, Fiction - A librarian finds himself inexplicably transported to a world of magic and dragons, where a dragon befriends him)
Dragons in the Stars and Dragon Rigger (Jeffrey A. Carver, Fiction - A "rigger," capable of navigating interstellar ships through lucid dreaming, befriends the embattled dragons who live in hyperspace)
Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher (Bruce Coville, YA Fiction - A boy buys a dragon's egg in a magic shop, never expecting it to actually hatch out a live dragonling)
How to Train Your Dragon (Cressida Cowell, YA Fiction - Misfit Viking boy Hiccup struggles to train a stubborn dragon to avoid shaming his chieftain father)
The Dragon Book (Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois, editors, Fiction - 19 dragon tales by modern writers)
The Fire Within (Chris D'Lacey, YA Fiction - A college teen receives a clay dragon figurine from his landlady, which comes alive in his mind)
Hatching Magic and The Dragon of Never-Was(Ann Downer, YA Fiction - A modern Boston girl's encounter with a medieval wizard's pet wyvern wakes her own latent powers, powers she isn't sure she wants)
Dragonsdale (Salamanda Drake, YA Fiction - Born and raised at a dragon-riding academy, the stablemaster's daughter is forbidden to fly)
Dragon Rider (Cornelia Funke, YA Fiction - A brave dragon seeks a legendary sanctuary in the Himalayas with an irritable brownie friend and an orphaned London boy)
The Liveship Traders trilogy and The Rain Wilds Chronicles (Robin Hobb, Fiction - Enter wonderfully realized fantasy world of living ships, pirates, raiders, sea serpents, and dragons)
The Familiar Dragon series (Daniel Hood, Fiction - A murdered wizard's dragon familiar forces a bond with the relucant detective who finds the body)
The Dragon quartet (Marjorie B. Kellogg, Fiction - Elemental dragons and their human companions travel around the world and through time to avert a global catastrophe)
Song in the Silence (Elizabeth Kerner, YA? Fiction - A girl longs to find the legendary True Dragons of her world... and one True Dragon dreams of finding a human girl)
The Dragonling series (Jackie French Koller, YA Fiction - A boy discovers a newborn dragonling in its slain mother's pouch)
Bitterwood (James Maxey, Fiction - In a world where dragons have enslaved humanity, one dragonslayer's bloodthirsty quest for vengeance only makes things worse)
The Dragonriders of Pern series (Anne McCaffrey, Fiction - On the world of Pern, dragons and their telepathically-bonded riders fight a deadly organic substance known as Thread)
The Airborn books (Kenneth Oppel, YA Fiction - In a world dominated by "hydrium" airships, a brave boy and a headstrong girl have larger-than-life adventures in the stratosphere)
Eragon (Christopher Paolini, YA? Fiction - A farmer's boy finds a dragon's egg, changing his life and his nation's future forever)
Dragonheart (Charles Edward Pogue, Fiction - An embittered dragonslayer must team up with the last living dragon to defeat an evil king)
The Dragon Round (Stephen S. Power, Fiction - After mutineers set their captain adrift, he finds a chance at vengeance with a hatchling dragon... a plot that spirals beyond his control)
The Waking Fire (Anthony Ryan, Fiction - A corporate-run world where dragonblood grants power faces war)
The Leviathan trilogy (Scott Westerfield, YA Fiction - World War 1 in an alternate-history Earth involves great walking "Clanker" machinery and "Darwinist" fabricated animals)
The Thousand Names (Django Wexler, Fiction - A Colonial army leader's attempts to retake a rebellious desert land involve a hidden agenda: long-lost magics, hidden by the rebels)
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Patricia C. Wrede, YA Fiction - Sick of being the proper princess in a fairy-tale world, a headstrong girl runs away to live with dragons)
Thirteenth Child (Patricia C. Wrede, YA Fiction - In an alternate magical 1800's America, young Eff is considered cursed by birth)
The Pit Dragon Chronicles (Jane Yolen, YA Fiction - On Austar IV, a slave boy steals a hatchling dragon from his master)
The Dragonback Adventures (Timothy Zahn, YA Fiction - A boy thief, on the run from an interstellar megacorporation, becomes the reluctant ally of a dragonlike alien whose people are being systematically slaughtered)

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League of Dragons
(The Temeraire series, Book 9)
Naomi Novik
Del Rey
Fiction, Fantasy
***

DESCRIPTION: With Napoleon's eye blackened by the rout in Russia, when a plan to unchain the abused Russian covert dragons backfired, the tide in the years-long war may be turning... but victory is far from certain. The exiled Chinese Imperial dragon Lien has applied her country's prodigious knowledge of dragon husbandry to the Emperor's breeding program, in addition to convincing Napoleon to begin treating the country's dragons as citizens, not mere beasts. Now, word is spreading that Napoleon will carve up the whole world between dragons should they come to his banner - even in defiance of their native countries and keepers. Once again, former naval captain Will Laurence and his dragon companion Temeraire find themselves entangled in knots of intrigue and politics as they approach the final showdown with Napoleon, one that will decide the future of Europe - and the fate of its many dragons.

REVIEW:I've been enjoying Novik's alternate world through eight books, a world that has come to outshine its somewhat-stretched storyline and bloated cast of characters. This finale embodied my mixed feelings over the series as a whole. On the plus side, I enjoyed some of my favorite characters, and the ocntinuing development of Temeraire's ambitions to improve the lot of his own species to a level on par with his native China. Some of the twists encountered were intriguing, and more Napoleonic battles unfold amidst plotting and scheming. On the other, Novik's story had sprawled so far, with so many side characters and subplots, that she couldn't hope to touch bases with, let alone wrap up, all of them. So I couldn't help feeling a little cheated on some accounts. (I also would've liked to visit North America; once again, itnriguing hints were dropped of their unusual relationship with their dragons, yet hints and intrigues are all that we readers were given... a serious oversight after Novik went out of her way to visit every other inhabited continent.) The main arc itself took some twists and turns, finally wrapping up - but it did so in a manner that miffed me the more I considered it, in addition to avoiding a final confrontation that most of the series had been building to (which I can't specify without potential spoilers, but which seemed to me quite integral to the main story thread.) It ends with enough unsatisfying loose ends dangling to make me wonder if Novik intentionally left the door cracked for future novels in this world, at the expense of full closure for the characters and arcs she already had in play. While I enjoyed the majority of the Temeraire series, and I found her many dragon-altered world cultures very intriguing, ultimately I walked away wondering if it needed to be quite so long, or end in quite so manipulated a manner.

You might also enjoy:
The Green Rider series (Kristen Britain, Fiction - Finding a dying royal messenger, a merchant's daughter reluctantly finds herself drawn into the mysterious, magical world of the Green Riders)
The Vlad Taltos series (Stephen Brust, Fiction - In a world of magic and gods, the human assassin/detective Vlad Taltos works with his bonded dragonlike familiar)
The Shadow of Black Wings (James Calbraith, Fiction - After a disaster, the son of a naval captain and his dragon find themselves in the forbidden island nation of Yamato)
Dragon Companion (Don Callander, Fiction - A librarian finds himself inexplicably transported to a world of magic and dragons, where a dragon befriends him)
Dragons in the Stars and Dragon Rigger (Jeffrey A. Carver, Fiction - A "rigger," capable of navigating interstellar ships through lucid dreaming, befriends the embattled dragons who live in hyperspace)
Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher (Bruce Coville, YA Fiction - A boy buys a dragon's egg in a magic shop, never expecting it to actually hatch out a live dragonling)
How to Train Your Dragon (Cressida Cowell, YA Fiction - Misfit Viking boy Hiccup struggles to train a stubborn dragon to avoid shaming his chieftain father)
The Dragon Book (Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois, editors, Fiction - 19 dragon tales by modern writers)
The Fire Within (Chris D'Lacey, YA Fiction - A college teen receives a clay dragon figurine from his landlady, which comes alive in his mind)
Hatching Magic and The Dragon of Never-Was(Ann Downer, YA Fiction - A modern Boston girl's encounter with a medieval wizard's pet wyvern wakes her own latent powers, powers she isn't sure she wants)
Dragonsdale (Salamanda Drake, YA Fiction - Born and raised at a dragon-riding academy, the stablemaster's daughter is forbidden to fly)
Dragon Rider (Cornelia Funke, YA Fiction - A brave dragon seeks a legendary sanctuary in the Himalayas with an irritable brownie friend and an orphaned London boy)
The Liveship Traders trilogy and The Rain Wilds Chronicles (Robin Hobb, Fiction - Enter wonderfully realized fantasy world of living ships, pirates, raiders, sea serpents, and dragons)
The Familiar Dragon series (Daniel Hood, Fiction - A murdered wizard's dragon familiar forces a bond with the relucant detective who finds the body)
The Dragon quartet (Marjorie B. Kellogg, Fiction - Elemental dragons and their human companions travel around the world and through time to avert a global catastrophe)
Song in the Silence (Elizabeth Kerner, YA? Fiction - A girl longs to find the legendary True Dragons of her world... and one True Dragon dreams of finding a human girl)
The Dragonling series (Jackie French Koller, YA Fiction - A boy discovers a newborn dragonling in its slain mother's pouch)
Bitterwood (James Maxey, Fiction - In a world where dragons have enslaved humanity, one dragonslayer's bloodthirsty quest for vengeance only makes things worse)
The Dragonriders of Pern series (Anne McCaffrey, Fiction - On the world of Pern, dragons and their telepathically-bonded riders fight a deadly organic substance known as Thread)
The Airborn books (Kenneth Oppel, YA Fiction - In a world dominated by "hydrium" airships, a brave boy and a headstrong girl have larger-than-life adventures in the stratosphere)
Eragon (Christopher Paolini, YA? Fiction - A farmer's boy finds a dragon's egg, changing his life and his nation's future forever)
Dragonheart (Charles Edward Pogue, Fiction - An embittered dragonslayer must team up with the last living dragon to defeat an evil king)
The Dragon Round (Stephen S. Power, Fiction - After mutineers set their captain adrift, he finds a chance at vengeance with a hatchling dragon... a plot that spirals beyond his control)
The Waking Fire (Anthony Ryan, Fiction - A corporate-run world where dragonblood grants power faces war)
The Leviathan trilogy (Scott Westerfield, YA Fiction - World War 1 in an alternate-history Earth involves great walking "Clanker" machinery and "Darwinist" fabricated animals)
The Thousand Names (Django Wexler, Fiction - A Colonial army leader's attempts to retake a rebellious desert land involve a hidden agenda: long-lost magics, hidden by the rebels)
The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Patricia C. Wrede, YA Fiction - Sick of being the proper princess in a fairy-tale world, a headstrong girl runs away to live with dragons)
Thirteenth Child (Patricia C. Wrede, YA Fiction - In an alternate magical 1800's America, young Eff is considered cursed by birth)
The Pit Dragon Chronicles (Jane Yolen, YA Fiction - On Austar IV, a slave boy steals a hatchling dragon from his master)
The Dragonback Adventures (Timothy Zahn, YA Fiction - A boy thief, on the run from an interstellar megacorporation, becomes the reluctant ally of a dragonlike alien whose people are being systematically slaughtered)

Return to Top of Page - Return to Book Review List


Uprooted
Naomi Novik
Del Rey
Fiction, YA Fantasy
****+

DESCRIPTION: Since time before memory, the dark corruption of the Wood has lurked in the valley of Agnieszka's home, birthing foul monsters and corrupting those who wander too far beneath its evil boughs. The wizard known as the Dragon protects the people from the Wood, asking only his share of taxes and a special tribute: every ten years, a girl aged seventeen is chosen to go to his tower for ten years. Tales beyond the valley insists that the Dragon devours these girls, or forces himself upon them, but Agnieszka knows better. She knows the girls survive, though they never return long to their villages, changed in some way by their service - yet she still can't help but hate him. For both she and her best friend were born in a Dragon year, due to come of age at his next choosing... and everyone knows that Kasia will be taken. Beautiful, graceful Kasia, trained since she was old enough to walk to cook for a lord, to be brave, to be skilled, to be everything the Dragon could possibly want in a servant. Soon she'll be gone, leaving Agnieszka far behind.
But when the Dragon comes, he doesn't take Kasia. He takes Agnieszka.
Soon, the clumsy, ill-prepared young woman is caught up in a world of magic and princes, curses and miracles, where nothing is as it seems - and where the terrible, twisted force behind the Wood threatens to destroy everything and everyone in the valley, and beyond.

REVIEW: Uprooted was evidently based loosely on a Polish fairy tale, and carries many fairy-tale elements in its rustic, pseudo-European setting and magic system. Even the characters have a hint of exaggeration about them, living in a world crafted of myth and story rather than flesh and blood, yet they retain a sense of grounding humanity. The Dragon (and most of the other wizards she encounters) tend to be cold and aloof, their softer sides worn out by centuries of living and - in the Dragon's case - centuries of fighting the implacable evil of the Wood. Agnieszka starts out clumsy and naive and full of peasant-girl notions of the world and the Dragon, but she does slowly figure things out. As for the Wood, it's a truly fearsome enemy, capable of turning even close friends into empty puppets in the service of its malevolence. The story starts fairly quickly and takes many unexpected turns, with successes and setbacks seemingly perfectly timed to pull the reader onward for just one more page, one more chapter. I read it in under two days, having great difficulty putting it down long enough to do much else while the story hung unresolved. Deeper themes of love and loss, of truth and delusions, of home and roots glimmer through the story like gilded threads in a tapestry. The actual wrap-up felt a little off, however, a stumble in the otherwise compelling rhythm. Likewise, the romance angle never quite rang true to me, feeling distinctly one-sided. Overall, though, it's an enjoyable, somewhat dark fairy tale.

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