Onward with Temeraire, this time into the depths of the African continent!
Today I’m writing four reviews, covering Books 4-7, so it’s all a little overlap-y, but one of the wonderful thing about what Naomi Novik is doing with this series is that she’s truly writing stand-alone books that also happen to build on each other.
So, this one, Empire of Ivory, which is Book 4 of currently 8 in the series, takes our heroes, Will Laurence the human and Temeraire the wonderful dragon on a trip back to Africa to search for a cure for the consumption that is killing British dragons. It’s also an opportunity to explore some history of the slave trade in the early 19th century, and the associated layers and layers of politics. It’s easy to side with Laurence and Temeraire, who of course are on the right side of history – as they are in everything… if I’m being honest, I do, occasionally, accuse them in my mind of being vaguely Mary Sue-ish in their total unimpeachability on all counts, ever.
This one, while a little scary at times, was a fairly comfortable read because there is almost no dragon-on-dragon violence, which has become the stomach-turniest side of the series for me.
And I absolutely freaking love meeting dragons from different countries. There’s really something special about this universe, and I know I’ve discussed this in past reviews, but the complexity and specificity that she applies to folding dragons into our true history and world culture is pretty spectacular.
I also love that there are two versions of “bad guys,” in this story. There are the dragons from Central Africa who kidnap Laurence and the humans he’s traveling with, as retribution for the humans they have lost to the slave trade, a complicated version of villainy because it’s a sympathetic position. But then there are the humans who decide to resort to plague warfare against the rest of the dragons on earth just to win a war, and that’s so black-and-white, good vs bad, that it’s easy to root for Laurence and Temeraire, whose fortunes keep getting lower as their stars keep rising.