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review 2017-07-24 04:34
Review: League of Dragons (Temeraire Book 9 of 9!)
League of Dragons: A Novel of Temeraire - Naomi Novik

Well, that’s it.  The last book in the Temeraire series!  I thought the ending was satisfying.  It wasn’t particularly surprising, maybe, but I was happy with how things ended up and I enjoyed the last book as much as I had enjoyed the previous books.  The rest of this review consists of general, spoiler-free comments on the series as a whole.

 

I really enjoyed the whole series even though, in retrospect, it lacked some of the things that are most likely to earn my enthusiasm for a book.  In particular, Novik used a straight-forward and consistent story-telling style.  There were surprises here and there, but this isn’t a twisty story with an intricate plot that keeps you confused and anxious to learn what the heck is going on.  I do normally prefer a twistier story, but it held my interest well anyway.  I would be surprised though if somebody who isn’t crazy for the books from the beginning were to change their mind if they tried to keep reading.  The things that made the series enjoyable for me from the start are mostly the same things that sustained my interest through to the end.

 

Novik writes action scenes well, and she also does very well with making characters likeable and sympathetic.  She writes the interactions between characters well too.  I was happy that there wasn’t much romance in the series; I think that would have taken away from the more interesting relationships and been more a source of annoyance than anything.  There isn’t anything too deep here, but I liked the theme of duty versus morality that showed up throughout the series, forcing our characters to decide which should take precedence when those two things were in conflict and to deal with the consequences of their choices.  Even though the series is set during a war, it has a fairly light tone.  Bad and discouraging things happen, but there’s also a decent amount of humor and optimism. 

 

I plan to keep an eye out for future books the author publishes, and I’ll read the new anthology (Golden Age and Other Stories) sooner or later.  Right now I only see a $25 hardcover available for pre-order so I’ll either borrow it from the library if it’s available, or I’ll purchase it when there’s a reasonably-priced Kindle edition available.

 

Next Book

A standalone fantasy book from the 80’s called Weaveworld by Clive Barker.  This is one of those books on my list that I bought on sale a while back and know absolutely nothing about, so I look forward to being surprised.  Hopefully in a pleasant way, but we’ll see. :)

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review 2017-07-22 15:55
Review: Blood of Tyrants (Temeraire Book 8 of 9)
Blood of Tyrants - Naomi Novik

Blood of Tyrants is the eighth and penultimate book in the Temeraire series.  I enjoyed it equally as much as the previous books, although a little more unevenly.  I was fully engrossed for the first 75% or so, but I occasionally felt restless toward the end.

 

Some of the early events, though occasionally frustrating, really highlighted Laurence’s character growth throughout the series, and Temeraire’s too.  I was also happy to see my favorite secondary character show back up.

 

This book doesn’t exactly end on a cliff hanger, but it did feel a little less wrapped-up than the previous books, setting the stage for the final events coming up next.  I look forward to finding out how the series ends.

 

Next Book

League of Dragons by Naomi Novik, the last book in the Temeraire series, not counting the anthology due out next month.

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review 2017-07-16 22:18
Review: Crucible of Gold (Temeraire Book 7 of 9)
Crucible of Gold (Temeraire) - Naomi Novik

This is the seventh book in the Temeraire series.  I enjoyed it a lot, on about the same level as the previous books, and definitely more than the sixth one.  Unlike the last book, there weren’t as many unlikeable characters and I think that helped.  I don’t have too much else to write about -- just a couple comments within the spoiler tags.

 

 

I expect that Riley isn’t really dead and will show back up sooner or later.  When a fairly significant character dies, it’s usually made more obvious and definite.  I won’t be terribly disappointed if I'm mistaken; I don’t much care one way or another except for the sake of the characters who do care.  I haven’t cared much for him since his conflicts with Laurence in the earlier books.

 

I thought Granby was better developed in this book.  I enjoyed learning more about him and seeing him play a slightly more prominent role in the story.  I also was very happy to see him finally put his foot down with Iskierka.  I hope he doesn’t back down in the remaining books.

 

(spoiler show)

 

Even though it took me 9 days to read this, it was only a reflection of my work schedule and not of my enjoyment of the book.  I was on a business trip for a little over a week, with many 16-18 hour work days.  I read most of this book within three days; the rest of the days involved reading the same paragraphs over and over with my eyes while my brain thought about work until I gave up the attempt. :)

 

Next Book

Blood of Tyrants by Naomi Novik, the next book in the Temeraire series.

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review 2017-07-03 00:20
Review: Tongues of Serpents (Temeraire Book 6 of 9)
Tongues of Serpents - Naomi Novik

Tongues of Serpents is the sixth book in the Temeraire series.  For me, this was the weakest in the series so far.  It wasn’t a bad book, and there wasn’t any particular aspect of it that I disliked, but it didn’t hold my attention as well as the previous books.  I think one big reason was because I disliked so many of the secondary characters.  There were still some good secondary characters around, but they didn’t get that much page time. 

 

But just because I liked this book less, doesn’t mean I disliked it.  There were still plenty of great moments, and this book had an interesting setting that I enjoyed reading about.  The middle part held my interest quite well and several sections had me anxious to learn what would happen next.  There was also a new character introduced who was fun to read about. 

 

I have a few more spoiler-ish comments within the spoiler tags:

 

I thought Iskierka was a little less annoying in this book, but I think that’s just because Caesar and Rankin were even more annoying than she was.  I guess I should have expected Rankin to show back up eventually, but I wasn’t at all happy to see him, and he provides plenty of annoyance in this book.  At least Caesar seems to be more than a match for him, but Caesar is pretty annoying himself.

 

I did love the new dragon, Kulingile, who came from the smallest egg.  I was invested in his story after he hatched, and I was curious about him even before he hatched.  I suspected the smallest egg would end up being something interesting.  It was also nice to have a newly hatched dragon in the party who wasn’t completely obnoxious, unlike Iskierka and Caesar.

 

I also really like Tharkay, which is hard to justify when he gets so little page time.  Even when he’s with the characters the entire time, we see so little of him that sometimes I forget he’s there.  I wish he was in the books more, but I’m glad he keeps showing up.  He seems like the more sensible and reliable character, even more so than the main characters, despite his initial appearance to the contrary.  Authors tend to enjoy sacrificing some well-liked secondary character for emotional impact; I hope Tharkay doesn’t suffer that fate.

(spoiler show)

 

 

Next Book

A standalone book called The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon.  I’ve never read anything by Chabon and, happily, I don’t know anything at all about the book.  It was on a list that many of my reading selections come from, and it went on sale not too long ago, so I slotted it into the schedule as one of my series-break books.  After this, I plan to finish up the last three Temeraire books.

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review 2017-06-25 21:05
Review: Empire of Ivory (Temeraire Book 4 of 9)
Empire of Ivory - Naomi Novik

Going just by the story, the characters, and my general entertainment throughout most of this book, I would have rated this at five stars.  I’m giving it 4.5 stars, the same as the last two books, but I’m rounding down to 4 on Goodreads whereas I rounded the previous two up to 5.  The reason I'm rating it so much lower, in spite of enjoying it so much, is that there were a couple things that particularly annoyed me, one being what I consider to be a major story discrepancy.  More details are in the spoiler tags further below.

 

Aside from that, I thought the story was very entertaining.  I enjoyed it at least as much as the first book, and slightly more than the second and third.  I was especially engrossed by the end, and I’m eager to start reading the next book.  Unlike the previous books, this one ended with quite a cliff hanger and I look forward to finding out how Laurence and Temeraire will get themselves out of their current predicament.

 

The rest of my comments include some spoilers for this book and also for the previous three, so I’ll put them in spoiler tags:

 

The discrepancy that bothered me so much was the way everybody completely ignored Temeraire’s history with the disease.  Early on, when Laurence first learns that all the dragons are sick, he comments that they’d “had word” of the illness.  This was true enough, I guess.  In book two, when the courier dragon Volly landed on their ship to deliver messages, Volly was sick and his captain James said “half the dragons are moaning and sniffling about”.  So, yes, they “had word”.  They also had a nice little exchange of dragon germs.

 

Temeraire caught that same illness, about a week after Volly had left.  In this fourth book, at around 28%, there’s finally a mention of Temeraire’s own illness, but everybody still seems to doubt the connection.  Nobody mentions that Temeraire caught it after being exposed to one of the sick dragons.  The connection seems like it should have been obvious, if only to Laurence and the dragon surgeon Keynes who had been with them.  It seemed to me like Novik cheated, trying to drag things out for dramatic effect at the sacrifice of logic and consistency.

 

A more minor thing that niggled at me was the misrepresentation of where Laurence’s wealth came from.  Novik really downplayed how much of it came from his capture of Temeraire’s egg and the subsequent harnessing.  We’re told that the Admiralty pays little for the capture of a dragon compared to that of a ship, and that “Laurence had established a handsome capital while still a naval officer.”  These things are technically true, but presented in a misleading way.  Laurence didn’t capture a dragon, he captured an egg, and most of his wealth came from that bounty rather than from the capture of the ship itself, which admittedly happened while he was “still a naval officer”. 

 

Along those same lines, Temeraire also mentions in this book that Laurence bought his breastplate with the money he earned from taking the French ship, but he knows the money came from his egg.  In book one Laurence told him, after presenting the gift to him, that “it is quite your due, you know, for the better part of it comes from the bounty for our having taken your egg from the French.”  So again, everything stated is technically true, because the egg came from the ship, but presented in a way that seems intentionally misleading.  Maybe Novik was afraid reminding readers of that aspect of things would take away from the anti-slavery message in this book, or maybe I just read too much into it, but it seems odd that she would remind readers of some aspects of Laurence’s capital but avoid mentioning the most relevant aspect at the same time.

(spoiler show)

 

 

Next Book

Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik, the fifth book in the Temeraire series.

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