Given, I only had like fifteen pages and finished early in the day. Still, if it hadn't been Temeraire, it's doubtful I would have done even that much non-fandom reading. (And, no, I don't quite consider this fandom because it has books only; I feel fangirl-y about this, but Fandom Wednesday is going to be dedicated to reading that is both fandom related and that is often looked down upon. Media tie-ins, popular culture studies, and comics. I may or may not read more comics, and so forth, outside of Fandom Wednesday, but I started this for a couple reasons. Today is the day new comics come out, and I want to celebrate that as I call Wednesdays the Happiest Day of the Week. I also want to give myself one day to allow myself to read both comics and media tie-ins, to indulge in the study of popular culture, and to read media tie-ins like The Trials of Optimus Prime which are for young kids, not that well written and I read as pure brain candy. Keep in mind, some tie-ins are excellent: Rocket and Groot was a brilliant business satire, and some do both nail the characters and have something important to add about our world. Some do not do this, but I enjoy reading them anyway, and I'm skewing more towards those this Wednesday.)
That first paragraph was just to give you an idea of what Fandom Wednesday means to me; while I'll obviously be a little fluid on this, finishing books I've almost completed, or enjoy that much, I won't be doing it often. I want this to be a day for me, where I read what I want and what everyone else things won't matter. It's a whole self-care thing, along with trying to keep my comic pile under wraps. (If I let too many pile up, it starts to look like a chore getting through them, and makes me feel pressure to do so. That's where I am now, and it's part of why I'm starting this up.) Fandom Wednesday is going to be important to me - and I won't be breaking the rules of Fandom Wednesday that often.
Temeraire calls to me. I'm allowing it on the first Fandom Wednesday for a couple reasons. I really want to power through this series before Readercon, I love these characters, and this world, so much that I feel like a Temeraire fangirl, I particularly wanted to power through this book because of the general hopelessness in it and I only had a couple pages left. I will be dedicating the rest of the day to fandom things.
This was almost a three-and-a-half or four star book. It started off much like the other two in a very general sense: the characters were just as well drawn, were in character, and while things were grim during their war against Napoleon Bonaparte, there was always a sense of camaraderie and hopefulness that didn't make this series overwhelmingly hopeless. Looking at Novik's notes at the back, I understand why this book veered towards hopelessness: she did a lot of research and tried to keep this historically correct. Brava to her for that. I also understand what that kind of situation will do the morale of troops, and understand why they were so downcast. However, it was all overwhelmingly gloomy at times. I'm glad that Temeraire's crew never really lost their connection, more of a familial one than anything, but it was so depressing, it made me depressed and anxious. It was painful to read at times, and yet compelling anyway. The character growth and the plot were all perfect: Novik skillfully weaved everything in and didn't lose sense of the characters to serve the plot, nor did the plot overwhelm the characters.
This was never going to be rated lower than three-and-a-half stars. But I wavered between that and something higher at points. Nothing really changed: the war scenes have been brutal from the beginning. They are no more or no less so here. Some war scenes are more brutal, and others less so. It all depends on what type of battle they're all fighting and how desperate they are, and how uneven the fight is. Basically, it fits the scene instead of being constrained by a sense of 'a fight should be this brutal or not.' It's organic, and the problem is that it doesn't get more brutal - it just seems so due to the unevenness and due to how poorly things go in this book. The loss of morale and the bitterness of some defeats brings everyone low and seems to highlight how awful some of these things truly are. It gets overwhelming, and I'm not sure how, but Novik manages to balance it with a little optimism most times.
That being said, I'm not sure it was possible in this book. And I'm still not happy with how it was in the end. Still, this is her third book and given how much I love all these books - yes, including Black Powder War - this seems like a minor gripe, especially given that it may have been a catch-22. Novik did what she could with the history she has, and is aware of this issue. She mentions it in some of the darkest places in this book, where Laurence recognizes how low morale is.
It's also saved right at the end: a character is introduced who not only made me laugh, and brought a little lightness into this book, but was also effortlessly charming. She, in fact, made me feel so much less gloomy about this whole book that she brought the rating way, way up. It's worth slogging through the worst parts to get to her.
I almost gave this book a five star rating due to Temeraire and her, in fact. But the truth is that this did have a weaker spot than the other two books. I couldn't really rate it quite as highly as them. I do, however, have high hopes for the next book, which I wasn't really sure about after three-fourths of this book. Huzzah!