Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik

Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik is the fourth book in the Temeraire series. The Napoleonic war is being fought out with dragons. Ivory continues on directly after the events of Black Powder War, the Prussians have collapsed Lawrence and Temeraire just managed to escape. On their return to England they learn that the dragons have been struck down with an illness. Temeraire seems to have immunity to it which they believe is the result of eating something on an earlier trip to Africa. A small group is sent to Africa to determine what it was and bring it back. While looking they are captured by an African kingdom and must try to escape. The book concludes with Lawrence having to make an ethical choice. It sets up a nice cliffhanger but I don't really buy the response of the people who receive the benefit of his decision. Trying not to give anything away....

Novik is quite inventive or it comes to adding the dragons into the era. Where she's a little less successful is in making the aviators culture real. There is a subplot involving one of the female aviators being knocked up. This leads to the should she get married or not discussion which comes off sounding like a couple of women's studies professors showed up in early 19th century England. She also drinks alcohol while pregnant. Considering that I doubt from the tone of the series the child will be FAS I find this in rather poor taste.

The fifth book has been released I'll be picking it up. For the most part I liked this except for the pregnancy business. If you're interested in alternate history with some fantasy elements you could do much worse than the series.


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