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review 2017-07-13 01:48
Love it!
Crucible of Gold (Temeraire) - Naomi Novik,Naomi Novik

There's so much going on here, and I kinda love Iskierka, and Granby's standing up to her finally!

 

The Inca, the ways the balance of power shift, and the way Novik balances action, characters, and humor is pretty amazing.   

 

Love, love, love.   I don't really want to write a long review so I can finish up my mini review flood now that my computer is up and running again - as in I can recharge it again - so I can finish Blood of Tyrants, which is one of my favorite books in the series.

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review 2017-05-05 23:20
Yaaaaay!
Tongues of Serpents - Naomi Novik

It took me two months to read this, because comics, depression, anxiety, and the fact that for a huge chunk of this comic everyone gets really hot.   And I'm not talking sexy, here.   No robot dragons.   Just a whole lot of sweating and thirst.   And I mean, obviously hyperbole, but jeebus, I needed something to happen!   Much like in her other books, Novik brings on the action fast and furious when it comes time for all that, but jeebus the first half of this book. 

 

And all my whining is highly unfair: I still love Temeraire, and I love how views the world.   They were, in fairness, trying to find something very precious they had lost, and while I found it boring, I still wanted to spend more time with these characters. 

 

And as always, the ending saved this from a lower star rating.   Enough happens between the characters to make this a very, very. very long character study of them all and how they get along.  Enough happens to certain characters that I loved them for that I was willing to overlook some of the faults in this novel - like the long, boring journey's where, like, nothing happens.  

 

Enough happens in the ending to set up the next book.   But, jeebus.   I need a break.   Oh, look, the Transformers/GI Joe crossover.   The one that I've been sitting on because I'm not very fond of the series, but new Transformers stuff so you know I'm going to read it.  I need at least that before I start on this series again.

 

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review 2017-02-26 15:42
Love, love, love this series!
Binti: Home - Nnedi Okorafor

This book fills in some plot holes from book one.   And I'm not going to pressure anyone into reading this if they were unhappy with book one: the truth is that it shouldn't have really worked the way she set it up.   Binti is a little advanced, I think, for any of her people, so the accusation of Mary Sue may be presented here.   (It's not really the case.   She's a genius, yes, but she still struggles with fitting into her tribe, finding her place in the world, and not everyone in her family approves of what she does.   She's certainly not good at everything, and if just being a genius is all it takes to be a Mary Sue, well, then, something is wrong with that term.   That something is the targeting of smart, powerful women.)

 

This novella fits into the world: the first was all about the science fiction elements and far more action-heavy.   This novella not only goes back home, but stops to give Binti some times to breathe.   It's not that it slacks off, either.  If anything, it presses the question of tribe, tribal connection, and what it means to be HImba.   It puts familial tension at the forefront for much of the time, and includes fantastical and science-fiction elements as needed. 

 

That being said, this is one of those oddities.  Most series have a very, very familiar feel in my mind.   That is, they balance action and humor and warmth and tend to stick to that.   They don't veer so sharply in the second novel, at least, and even Black Powder War, the anomaly in Temeraire, felt far more like the first two books than this did to Binti.   And as much as I loved Binti, I loved this novel.   Binti set up the world for this series, set the characters, timing, place, and the world.   Home just dug into all those and allowed us to explore them more fully.  Much like Temeraire, I look back and am surprised at how much felt like every day life (meals, walking, talking) and yet was fully entrancing.   

 

More than that, I really love reading about other cultures from someone like Okorafor: she's of Nigerian descent, she's a professor of creative writing, and she travels, often to Nigeria according to her biography at the end of this book.  What I mean is that researches, even her own history, and this is probably why her portrayal of tribal life feels so... effortless.   It feels realistic, and unlike other books in which it feels that it breaks at some points, Binti's struggles with her tribe, her tribal way of life, feel present all the time.   Even when she's not home, even when she's focusing on other things, it all comes back to her life as a Himba.   Of course, I don't really know that much about this - which is why I find reading about it so fascinating - but it feels more real in the little details than most other books I've read.   In the same way that G. Willow Wilson, convert to the Muslim faith and writer of Muslim superhero, Ms. Marvel, has little details that I think would be glossed over by someone outside the faith, this has little details, ever present, that make this lifestyle feel more real, more solid, to me. 

 

I'm interested in seeing where Binti's story goes next.   I can't believe I have to wait until September, but I'm willing to wait.  I would rather have a polished story than something rushed, so while I do moan, I also appreciate that the author has a life outside of writing Binti, and that she lives her life while also writing these, and making sure they're gems.   

 

I'll be continuing with The Night Masquerade - the subtitle to the next book - and beyond should there be more in this series, no matter how long they take to come out in the future. 

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review 2017-02-22 20:35
Broke with Fandom Wednesday to finish this!
Black Powder War - Naomi Novik

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!

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review 2017-02-14 20:16
Yes! All the yes!
His Majesty's Dragon - Naomi Novik

The problem with this book is how compulsively readable it is; I have so much angst about not having book three yet - and I'm only a couple pages into book two.   I suspect I'll have book two read today and then I'll need, need, book three.   And I was talking to someone earlier, who doesn't like fantasy or dragons, and I mentioned the other problem: Temeraire is such a likable color.   Smart as a whip, strong, sympathetic - both himself, as he rages against injustices, and to the character because of all this.   He's one of my all time favorite characters: human, dragon, or yeah, even robot.   He's full, richly layered, and I find myself constantly surprised by him.   

 

And I've spoken about this, but Laurence is his perfect match: they are both alike enough and different enough to work against each other.   They both share rages at injustices done, they are both honest to a fault, and they are both kind and caring, especially towards each other.    But whereas Laurence was brought up as the child of the high class of the time, Temeraire was not: he might have been harnessed by Laurence, but his natural curiosity trumps all else.   He asks questions that might make Laurence blush, but he truly wants to know.   Whereas Laurence couches his honestly behind a veil of politeness - when he feels its called for - Temeraire has no such instinct.   He is practical and sees no reason not to simply speak what's on his mind.   Also, Laurence is strictly bound by duty to country, but Temeraire sees his duty as simpler: to Laurence, and to his friends and allies.    

 

Termeraire grows, even in this book, to understand duty to country, but I think he still views it quite differently than Laurence.   I think they're more alike than not, with enough differences to make them not the same character, or even a template of the same character.   These differences cause tension at times, but not so much that it makes them a bad pairing.   I've spoken of Rocket and Groot, and how they better each other, and how they're better as characters with each other around.   I think it's the same principle: they both care about doing right, or at least stopping others from destroying the universe, despite Rocket's protests that he's a self-centered jerk.   They're different enough to bring both tension into the mix, and play off each other, but share much of the same values.   Groot brings Rocket's kinder side to the fore, and Rocket brings out Groot's protective instincts even more.   They're the perfect pair.   I didn't think that this novel would bring the same level of perfect pairings between characters to the mix, but Novik managed quite well. 

 

I've been describing this novel, quite simply, as the Napoleonic Wars with dragons.   And that's a simplistic description, but also what it is.   The melding of historical fiction and fantasy is perfectly balanced, however, especially since this feels very much like a, well, war.   The maneuvering, the politics, the war tactics, and even the sense of the brotherhood of soldiers: it all feels very present.   At the same time, the only real fantasy element is dragons: there's no other magic present, and the dragons feel very scientific.   They're studied by the scientists of the time, they're bred - and cross bred - and the appendix is even selections from one of the specialists' books on dragons, written to explain the process of breeding and how to tell apart the breeds and what they can do.   

 

The system of dragons is also rather simple and logical: they must be harnessed - which is exactly what it sounds like, put in a harness - before their first feeding or else they go feral.   Temeraire was supposed to be harnessed by someone else, and he refused, choosing Laurence.   Some hatchlings, depending on their level of intelligence, and who's around, may not have much of a choice; very often when they come out of the shell, the Aviators choose one person to go to be the Captain - or handler - of the dragon.   Each person who harasses the dragon is a Captain, and handler simply seems to be another term for a Captain who is also an Aviator - and thus has a dragon.   The dragon is loyal to its Captain, and the same tends to hold true.   For the dragons with longer life spans - like Temeraire - the Aviators even have a way of dealing with getting the dragon to accept another handler.  

 

In addition, Aviators are described as almost above the law: without the Aviators, Britain would have no dragons.   The dragons take so much time and energy to handle that the Aviators have virtually no prospects of marriage, or a life amongst any kind of society.   They tend to create their own little conclaves, and simply stay there, going into town for pleasure of various sorts, but never staying or living there.   While The Corps - the branch of the military that is made up of Aviators - may be a brotherhood of soldiers, indeed, they've dropped the formality.   They often look rumpled, due to how quickly they have to move, and the inability to pack properly.   Despite the fact that they could easily be considered the strongest branch of the military, they are looked down upon by society in general.  

 

And the fact that they are allowed to be above the law, to abandon the formalities of military life, speaks to this fact.   Without giving them these liberties, the Aviators might rebel - and take their dragons with them.   The British government could well manage its other branches, like the Navy, without giving their men such freedom; they cannot risk the Aviators.   

 

And here's the real reason I didn't read this earlier.  I hate war books.   Fucking hate them.   I flinched at scenes in this book, physically recoiling; it doesn't spare the reader from the brutality of war.   But despite me really not liking - even hating - these scenes, they were necessary.   War is the basis of this series.   It also goes a long way to explaining how the Aviators work, and why they work that way, as well as causing friction - will someone die or not - and keeping this book from being predictable since you know everyone will survive.   More importantly, it reinforces that sense of camaraderie between the soldiers. 

 

I ended up loving this book so much, despite me being 'no' on the war elements, and despite having a hit or miss record with dragon books.   I"d heard such good things, but they couldn't overcome my hesitancy to start this until now.    And I've come to be obsessed in a few short days!

 

I love the world, the characters, that Naomi Novik has created.   I especially love Temeraire and Laurence.  I would mention this, however.  I was bored by the very first chapter or so; it was only middling until Temeraire came into play.  However, I do feel that the first scenes were important in retrospect.   I also didn't realize how much of this felt like relatively normal things: chatting, reading, bathing even.   So much Temaraire bathing!   I didn't care.   It was still fascinating because the characters were so interesting.   

 

Love, love, love.   I'm writing a couple quick reviews, then moving onto book two. 

 

 

 

 

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