books

Naomi Novik

Books

Temeraire: His Majesty's Dragon (2006), Throne of Jade (2006), Black Powder War (2006), Empire of Ivory (2007), Victory of Eagles (2008)

Anthologies: Naked City (2011), The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination: Original Short Fiction for the Modern Evil Genius (2013)

 

Temeraire

 

His Majesty's Dragon (2006)

During the Napoleonic wars, Captain Will Laurence of the HMS Reliant captures the French ship Amitie and its valuable cargo: a dragon egg. Unfortunately, the egg is close to hatching, so someone on the ship must become bonded to the dragon upon its hatching, and then leave the Navy to become one of Britain’s aviators, a fate no one on the ship wants.

I was reluctant to pick up this book initially, because I'm not a fan of Anne McCaffery, so I wasn't interested in a book about dragons. However, the idea of dragons and the British Navy during the Napoleonic wars struck me as very interesting, so I decided to take a chance and pick up His Majesty' Dragon.

I have to say that I was really impressed. I liked the characters, I loved the setting, and I really enjoyed the story. Temeraire was a very interesting character, and I very much liked the relationship between him and Laurence. Although some things were not clear--such as why Levitas put up with Rankin--other things became more clear as the story progressed--such as why they wanted to pair Temeraire with Dayes.

But mostly I really liked Temeraire.

Although this is an alternate history, she chose to keep things pretty much the same, except for the addition of dragons. I enjoyed this very much, because I particularly like books set in Regency/Victorian England, (No, I don't know why. I just do.) so in addition to a well written story, the setting was one that I like.

The writing is also different from what I had expected. Right or wrong, I expect dragon stories to be written more for teenagers, but although there were romantic elements (plus sword fighting!), and it wasn't a hard book to read, it didn't strike me as particularly light and fluffy. Additionally, I thought some of the elements of the story were quite well done (particularly dealing with Laurence's adjustment to the air corps).

However, there were a few things that were a little to easily dismissed, particularly, the estrangement between Laurence and his father. Perhaps Laurence was so busy he didn't have time to dwell on this issue, but I really thought he should have been more upset than he was.

Otherwise, this was an enjoyable book, and one that I think Michael will really like. I can't wait to read the next two (which I went out and picked up today,before I even finished His Majesty's Dragon.) And, although this is a trilogy, this book stands on its own. You'll want to read the next book not because you were left hanging at the end of this one, but because you like the characters and want to spend more time with them.
Rating: 8/10

Throne of Jade (2006)

Temeraire is not just a Imperial dragon, but a rare Celestial dragon, and upon discovering that the English have him, the Chinese are demanding his return, and the military is commanding Will Laurence to give him up–and to lie to Temeraire to convince him to return to China. Temeraire will not accept separation, and Laurence will not lie to him, so both the Chinese delegation and the English military are attempting to find a solution acceptable to both parties. A solution that seems likely to be unacceptable to Temeraire and Laurence.

Like the start of the first book, the first half of Throne of Jade is as much a sailing book as a fantasy about dragons. And it is very much about the relations between China, France, and England, and how Temeraire effects those relations.

This book explains why the Chinese had sent a Celestial egg to Napoleon, but more delves into how dragons are treated in England, especially in comparison to how they are treated in China.

I very much liked how we are shown the differences between the Chinese system and the English system, and how both Temeraire and Laurence feel about them. The political intrigue between England and China is also interesting, especially since I know nothing about relations between England and China during the Napoleonic era.

This book was good, although not quite as strong as the first book. Part of the problem may have been that much of the tension of this book was the question of whether Temeraire and Laurence would be separated. However, since there is a third book, that question seemed pretty well answered, so it just didn't feel very suspenseful.

The relationship between Temeraire and Laurence continues to develop, although it is quite clear that they are do bonded that a separation is acceptable to neither (which again pretty much killed any suspenseful element regarding their possible separation).

She also obliquely addresses the issue of slavery. Although she does not directly put forth the arguments for or against such as would have been found at that time, the ideas resonate in her descriptions of the differences between the treatment of English and Chinese dragons.

These are some gorgeous covers. Just lovely. I have to admit that the covers are part of what enticed me to pick up these books in the first place, as I found it hard to believe that a book with such a wonderful cover could be bad. (And I was right.) May publishers take note, and put out more covers this lovely.

Although Throne of Jade isn't quite as good as Her Majesty's Dragon, it's still a very good second book. However, I would not recommend reading it without having read the first book. The back story is there, but I'm not sure the story would be as good if you were not already emotionally invested in the characters from the first book. So go get Her Majesty's Dragon, and then you can read Throne of Jade. Meanwhile, I am going to start reading the third book.
Rating: 7/10

Black Powder War (2006)

Trilogy? Did I say trilogy? BAH! This is no trilogy! This is a series, nowhere near done!

It is, however, still good, and although the war still rages, she does complete the story arc of this book, and does not leaving you hanging--at least not too much.

Now that Temeraire and Laurence have received permission from the Chinese emperor to remain together, they must return to England. However, an accident damages the dragon transport, and unexpected orders require them to make haste to the Ottoman Empire, where they are to pick up three eggs purchased by the British government.

From China, across the dessert and mountains to the heat of the Ottoman Empire, and then straight into the Prussian war with Napoleon. We're getting a definite overview of the Napoleonic wars in Europe. I'm also seriously feeling the holes in my history, as what I remember of Napoleon tends to be along the lines of: butt kicking all over Europe, Russia + snow = bad, and then Waterloo. So I have no idea as to whether she is following the general outline of what happened in Europe at that time, or branching off.

Of course I'll have plenty of time to read up and find out, since the next book in the series has not yet been written.

As with the previous two books, the writing and characters remain excellent. I expected some of the things that happened in this book (at least those events involving a character from the previous book) but much else was a complete surprise to me, which is always nice.

I also like how Laurence and Temeraire continue to learn about war and ethics, and to influence each other in beliefs and ideas. I also like how the dragons of different areas have different ideas and attitudes, much as the humans in different areas do. However, I also found it interesting how she continues to add details that continue to remind you as you read that no matter how comfortable you become with the dragons, they are still other, and very different from humans. Sometimes it is easy to forget that Temeraire is a different species entirely, but just as you're getting comfortable, something happens that makes you reconsider how you view him.

Another gorgeous cover. I very much hope that they continue in this theme with the remainder of the series. It's nice to have books that aren't embarrassing to read on public transportation.

One thing I was not sure about in this book, was Tharkay. I see that he was supposed to be an enigma, yet his character was such that I couldn't get a handle on him at all. Although this meant that nothing he did surprised me, it also meant that I had a hard time caring very much about him. We were supposed to have sympathy for his status in society, yet I found myself not caring overly much about him.

Despite this failing, I found the book enjoyable and interesting, and look forward to the next book in the series, and can only hope that Naomi Novik writes quickly. If you have not read the previous two books, you could probably read this book without getting lots, but I think that having read the previous two books would be preferable.
Rating: 7/10

Empire of Ivory (2007)

I’ve been waiting for Empire of Ivory to come out since I finished Black Power War last year. The war with Napoleon is still raging, and Lawrence, Temeraire and the rest of their group are returning to England, where they hope to learn why England did not come to the assistance of the Prussians.

Unlike the first three books in this series, I found Empire of Ivory somewhat disappointing. The story didn’t seem to flow as evenly as the previous three books, and I found myself getting a little frustrated with Lawrence.

But the biggest annoyance was that the story ended badly. The futures of both Lawrence and Temeraire are unknown, with Lawrence in more serious danger than Temeraire. I really hate books that end like this. Especially since we have no idea when the next book will be coming out. And now, chances are that once the fifth book comes out, I won’t be in a hurry to read it, with the possibility of another unsatisfying ending.

On the positive side, I still love Temeraire. He is a fascinating and complex creature, and I sometimes find him more interesting and likable than Lawrence. Not that Lawrence is a bad guy, I just found him somewhat annoying in this book, although I can’t put my finger on what bothers me.

If you’ve read the first three Temeraire books, then you’ll definitely want to read Empire of Ivory. However, if you don’t like cliffhanger endings, then you may want to wait awhilem and read this after the release date for the fifth book is announced.
Rating: 6/10

Victory of Eagles (2008)


Anthologies

 

Naked City (2011) edited by Ellen Datlow

This collection of urban fantasy stories has several of my favorite authors, so it was a no-brainer to get. The bad thing is that I’ve been reading this collection for several months, so I now have no idea what the stories at the start of the anthology were about, which is dangerous, because it means I may end up accidentally rereading several of them.

...

Naomi Novik, who wrote the Temeraire series, has a non-dragon entry–another vampire story, only this one about the problems of the housing market in New York city.

...

Although there were several stories I didn’t care for, I believe that was more a matter of personal taste than quality. And the stories I did like, I liked very much.
Rating: 8/10

Published by St. Martin’s Griffin

The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination: Original Short Fiction for the Modern Evil Genius (2013) edited by John Joseph Adams

mad-scientists-guide-to-world-dominationThis is the third anthology I’ve read by John Joseph Adams, and I must say that he has a good rack record for creating anthologies with stories I really like. He also has a good mix of stories, some of which I am guaranteed not to like, but that’s okay, because it’s good to read stuff I don’t normally read, and if I really don’t like a story, I can always skip on to the next (even though I rarely do that).

The stories I liked best in this anthology were the straight-up cackling Evil Overlord sort (you know that list, right?), because they were funny. The ones I liked least tended to be the more serious ones, because, well, evil in its true form exists in the world, and it’s generally funny at all.

...

“Rocks Fall” was unexpected, in that it didn’t feel like a Naomi Novik story. A super hero and super villain are trapped by a rock fall, and this is their conversation while they are trapped. I liked the story , even if I found it rather depressing.

...

Aside from the anthology ending on several depressing notes, this was all-in-all a varied and very good collection of stories, with something for everyone. After all, the stories I disliked were not bad, they were just not my type of story.
Rating: 8/10

Published by Tor Books

 

 

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