Friday, February 7, 2014

EMPIRE OF IVORY


Review of EMPIRE OF IVORY by NAOMI NOVIK
(fourth in the TEMERAIRE series)

I enjoyed the very first book in this series and my opinion has only improved with each new installment, rising from like to love and now adoration.

Novik does an admirable job mixing up the conflicts in her alternate history of the Napoleonic Wars. While earlier books focused more on battles and action, EMPIRE OF IVORY’s major conflict revolves around a sudden, inexplicable dragon epidemic.  (Oh, there are still battles and action, too, don’t you worry.) There’s no known cure, the disease is both spreading and claiming dragon lives fast, and it’s vital Napolean not discover this handicap.

Temeraire may very well be the most lovable, endearing, and well-mannered dragon in literature history. I also adore, as I repeat in every review of a book in this series, the relationship between the dragon Temeraire and his human handler Laurence. In terms of loyalty, it rivals many marriages. They’re wholly committed to each other for life and will thoughtfully listen and consider each other’s differing opinions or even take on causes primarily for the sake of the other.

Novik’s been spinning a longer, overarching plot thread about dragon rights and that conversation continues in here…still without much concrete progress, I’m afraid. Though dragon treatment certainly isn’t as bad, Temeraire sympathizes with slaves for being perceived and treated as lesser beings. Needless to say, political themes emerge. I couldn’t help nodding along grimly when Laurence’s father, a resolved and active abolitionist, acknowledges that values won’t win people to their cause. Instead they need to flaunt titles of those on their side and throw more lavish parties than the people who support slavery. Wish I could call that political attitude unrealistic.

This book ends on a particular note of peril that has me especially eager for the fifth installment. Temeraire and Laurence now have prominent places in this reader’s heart!

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