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Naomi Novik – Empire of Ivory (and giveaway!)

July 24, 2009

89. Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik (2007)
Temeraire, Book 4

Read my review of:
– Book 1, His Majesty’s Dragon
– Book 2, Throne of Jade
– Book 3, Black Powder War

Length: 416 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction; Fantasy

Started: 15 July 2009
Finished: 22 July 2009

Where did it come from? Barnes & Noble, thanks to a holiday giftcard.
Why do I have it? I knew after reading the first book that I’d be reading the rest of the series.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 19 January 2009
Verdict? Keeper.

You think being sick
is bad? Be glad you’re not a
twenty-ton dragon.

Summary: Temeraire, Laurence, and his crew return to England following the battle in Prussia, only to find the reason that no support had come from the British aviators: a terrible consumptive disease has ravaged the ranks of British dragons, leaving most of Temeraire’s friends unable to fly, let alone fight. When circumstances indicate that a cure may be found in Africa, several of the dragons take transport to Capetown. However, they must press into the interior forests in order to find what they seek, and face the unknowable dangers that lurk in the heart of the Dark Continent.

Review: There are some books that are safe to pick up to read for half an hour before bedtime. This is not one of them. I should have known better than to pick it up when I needed to be sleeping in the first place, but I got so sucked into the last 150 pages that I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish it… and it ends on such a cliffhanger that it took a major force of will not to dive immediately into Victory of Eagles.

While the first book of the series remains my favorite, this one is running a close second. It’s packed with exciting adventures, compelling peril, lovable characters, thought-provoking treatment of issues like slavery and colonialism, and plenty of humor and charm. It improves on the previous volume in two ways: first, no big battles (plenty of fighting, but no endless descriptions of troop movements and military strategics.) Second, it’s less episodic than previous novels; or, rather, it’s still episodic, but the pieces flow together much more smoothly than they did in Black Powder War. The language is wonderful as always, mimicking period style while somehow remaining much easier to read… which is a good thing when you find yourself compulsively reading into the wee hours of the morning. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: The series as a whole is becoming a must-read for fantasy fans, and a must-try for historical fiction fans. I can’t really recommend reading them out of order or as standalones, but it’s nice to see that the series isn’t declining in quality, as can happen so often in longer fantasy series.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Links: Naomi Novik’s website, Naomi Novik’s LibraryThing profile

Other Reviews: Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review, Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, The Deckled Edge, Dear Author, Book Nut, Jenny’s Books
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: “Send up another, damn you, send them all up, at once if you have to,” Laurence said savagely to poor Calloway, who did not deserve to be sworn at: the gunner was firing off the flares so quickly his hands were scorched black, skin cracking and peeling to bright red where some powder had spilled onto his fingers, he was not stopping to wipe them clean before setting each flare to the match.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 179: “Keynes came over and sat down heavily on the log beside Laurence, mopping his sweating red face with a kerchief, and said disgruntled, “Enough, enough of this casting ourselves into alt; have none of you learnt your lesson?”” – in the first octave above the treble staff; in this case I’d say it means high-pitched excitement.
  • p. 187: “Dorset sliced open the breeches with a large catling intended for use on the delicate layered membranes of dragon wings, maneuvering the tip deftly, and performed a skillful ligature of the pumping vein; afterwards he wrapped the neckcloth several times around the thigh.” – A double-edged, sharp-pointed dismembering knife.
  • p. 200: “He was carrying a long, slim-hafted assegai, the blade narrow and spade-shaped, and over his other shoulder was slung a rather skinny antelope.” – the slender javelin or spear of the Bantu-speaking people of southern Africa.
  • p. 250: “At last he left off, and cast his eyes southward, sitting up on his haunches like a coat of arms: a dragon sejant erect, gules; then slowly he settled himself back down; he spoke to her once more, and pointedly shut his eyes.” – in heraldry, an animal represented in a sitting posture.
  • p. 382: “…the quarrel of the two powers must deliver it to their respective allies also, and cupidity amongst such a widened number of keepers lead to its eventual dispersal.” – eager or excessive desire, esp. to possess something; greed; avarice.
  • p. 392: “… a dish of tea was brought him, which he sniffed suspiciously and then disdained, and a glass of cold sillery, which Laurence did not; …” – Either a wine from Sillery, in the Champagne region of France, or possibly a drink made from that wine mixed with sweetened cream.


Now, onto the giveaway: I’ve got a spare copy of the trade-paperback of Empire of Ivory (this cover) laying around the house, that I’d be happy to pass on to one of you. The reason I have a spare copy is a) because I got confused as to the titles of book 4 and book 5, and thought I was finding a really good deal on a book I didn’t already have; and b) because I shouldn’t be allowed near BookCloseouts at any time, let alone when I’ve had a cocktail or two.

However, my stupidity is your gain! No fancy rules this time, just mention in your comment that you want to be entered (and make sure your e-mail address on the comment form is valid), and I’ll draw a winner on Monday, so that I can get it mailed off before I move. Open worldwide.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. stareway permalink
    July 24, 2009 10:03 am

    Wow, the book sounds interesting. I want to be entered into the giveaway.

  2. July 24, 2009 10:15 pm

    This is a series that I would really like to catch-up in this summer. I have it, so don’t enter me. :)

  3. July 24, 2009 11:52 pm

    I still haven’t gotten to His Majesty’s Dragon, although I know exactly which pile it’s on. So . . . don’t start it at night, eh? Okay, got it. Thanks for the warning. Much appreciated! :)

  4. Rose Red permalink
    July 25, 2009 6:02 am

    Enter me into the giveaway. This book sounds really interesting. If you say it’s a keeper I will probably agree!

  5. etirv permalink
    July 25, 2009 6:33 pm

    Count me in!!!!

  6. Sarah permalink
    July 26, 2009 3:14 pm

    I’ve been meaning to read these books anyway so having the fourth one would be a good reason to pick up the first! Thanks for the giveaway!

  7. Josephine Marie permalink
    July 26, 2009 5:07 pm

    Please enter me.

  8. July 26, 2009 6:05 pm

    Hi! I’d love to be entered into this giveaway! Thanks

  9. Zahra Alley permalink
    July 26, 2009 10:21 pm

    I’d like to enter, please! Thanks!

  10. Raelena permalink
    July 27, 2009 12:23 am

    count me in please!

  11. etirv permalink
    July 28, 2009 3:32 pm

    I would like to be entered, thank you!


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