Empire of Ivory

I believe I will keep buying these Temeraire books. Each book supplies a satisfying dose of Naomi Novik’s intriguing and even brilliant premise: an alternate history fantasy of dragons helping out in the Napoleonic Wars. But oh, the skittering plot!

I really did care about the (slow) story problem: the plague infecting the marvelous dragons — but couldn’t believe the resolution. . . and I wearied of the Africa scenes where Captain Laurence suffers an ignominious capture. Nevertheless, Novik’s writing is so good that I just say “oh bugger the plot, I’m just happy to have more of Temeraire.” Remarkable, isn’t it? A slow, disjointed plot, and who cares? Yet the characters are so much fun, and dragon Temeraire has so much personality, including ferocious loyalty, miserly behavior about jewels, charming naïveté, martial courage and thin-skinned sensibilities. Every scene he’s in lights up. All the dragons are delightfully jealous and protective of their riders, which leads me to:

Favorite moment: a female member of the aerial corp undergoes a hasty marriage ship board. The preacher says something like: “Anyone who knows a reason why this man and woman should not be joined should object now. . .” and up from the water next to the prow pops the head and long neck of the bride’s dragon, saying petulantly, “Mayn’t I?” The bride growls, “Certainly not!”  The dragon sulks off.

So I’m buyin’ the next one. Hope it’s got more of a plot, but if not, bugger it.

2 Responses

  1. Kali Lightfoot says:

    I was glad to read your comments here because I had a similar experience with book 3, got about halfway back to the battle from China — across the deserts, etc. and got so bored with the journey that I never finished it. A friend had warned me that the 3rd book was a bit of a slog. But I will read #4 for the same reasons that you keep buying them, I love the premise, Temeraire is great, good writing, interesting social/cultural situations. A bit stumbly in the plot.

  2. Kay says:

    In my opinion Book 4 is a bit more successful plot-wise, so you’re stepping up to a better book next time. I never did quite get what the story problem was in The Black Powder War. I suppose that the author had to get them back to England, and decided to make a book out of it. (Ouch, that’s pretty damning.) This isn’t the first time I’ve loved a book where the plot was exasperating. We read for more than plot.

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