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4.2 out of 5 stars29
4.2 out of 5 stars
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Last year, Naomi Novik burst into the fantasy scene with three highly entertaining novels which earned her the John W. Campbell Award. Temeraire/His Majesty's Dragon, Throne of Jade, and Black Powder War were a veritable breath of fresh air in an otherwise often stagnating genre, each installment showing more potential than its predecessor. Using the Napoleonic Wars as a backdrop, Novik revitalized the oldest cliché in fantasy -- the dragons. And in so doing, she created something fresh, hip and extremely original.

Hence, it was somewhat of a tall order to follow this up. Indeed, Empire of Ivory needed to live up to the high expectations generated by the first three volumes in the series. And once more, Naomi Novik, writing with the skills of a veteran and with remarkable panache, rose to the occasion!

A tragedy has struck His Majesty's Aerial Corps. An epidemic of unknown origin is decimating the dragons' fleet, forcing most of the survivors into quarantine. Which leaves England virtually defenseless against Bonaparte's encroaching armies. As France's sorties become bolder and more frequent with each passing day, it's up to Laurence and Temeraire, along with a few uninfected dragons, to find a cure to the deadly contagion. Their mission takes them to distant Africa, where they believe a cure might be discovered. Yet in the heart of that mysterious continent lies a secret which could change everything. . .

Once again, Novik builds on existing storylines and comes up with a number of fascinating new plotlines. In previous reviews I claimed that some facets of Novik's earlier Temeraire novels hinted at a lot more depth than meets the eye. And Empire of Ivory demonstrates that it is indeed the case, and no doubt about it.

I must admit that I feared that this series would become a bit formulaic and episodic in style and tone, with Temeraire and Laurence coming through at the end of every book. Well, let's just say that Naomi Novik disabused me of that notion with this one. The author has quite a few surprises up her sleeve, which Empire of Ivory proves beyond the shadow of a doubt.

My only complaint lies in the fact that this novel ends with a major cliffhanger. Don't get me wrong: This one is as self-contained as the previous volumes. But I hate the fact that I now have to wait a year before discovering what happens next, especially in light of that ending! Incidentally, the next volume will be published in hardcover (at least in North America).

With four interesting and entertaining novels under her belt, there is no question that Naomi Novik is for real. And with such accessible books, it won't be long before she surpasses Anne McCaffrey as the "dragon lady."

Highly recommended.
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on 28 December 2007
In terms of writing, I would rank it either on the same level or slightly below Black Powder War. Better than Throne of Jade but nowhere near Temeraire. It does feel rushed, then first part was mostly me yelling at the characters for being so thick and there was a lot of repetition. Out of a four hundred page book, it took them more than 100 pages for them to actually get the Africa, meaning that a sea voyage of several months had to be cut to barley 15 pages. In comparison it's better than the hundreds of pages dwelling on that in Throne of Jade, but I do think it should have been longer, dwelling more on Harcourt and Riley's relationship, and the tension between Lawrence and Riley, and perhaps developing Erasmus' character a bit more.

The Africa chapters were pretty good on the other hand, the search for the mushroom was well done, giving a sense of tension without taking so long as to get dull. I liked that finding the mushroom wasn't even half the struggle, that they still needed to find more, and how the cave full of mushrooms was turned into a plot point. I thought some of the confrontations were a bit rushed, but the ideas in that blew the book straight out of the doldrums. They was incredible. I loved how the dragons had been incorperated so seamlessly into African culture, and the little fragment at the back of the book was wonderful. Equally, the mention that the Inca empire is still alive and well due to the dragons has me squeeing.

Once again, I deeply admire how Novik makes every character that Lawrence and Temeraire come into conflict with so believably sympathetic. I am a bit annoyed that al the characters she kills are those that won't be missed. However, she does at least kill them realistically and it's always a shock.
And once again, I love how Novik deals with the problems of a Nepoleonic setting, the institutionalised rascism and sexism, by making them part of the plot. The inclusion of the Abolitionalists in this book not only enrich the setting, but also provide a nice comparison with Dragon Rights that were rather neglected in BPW.

Oh Lawrence, Lawrence, you brave, honourable idiot. Like Temeraire, I want to hug you and kick you in equal amounts. *hugs*

All in all, a fairly good book, getting better and better as you go along. The first part is mediocer, the second part is good but with some drawbacks, and the third is just plain fantastic. It's not mistake that the third is also the shortest. Novik needs to learn not to pad her writing too much.
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on 16 November 2014
Disappointing and the last one of this series that I will read. I loved the first two books but think that in three and four she has sacrificed exploration of her themes and characterization for movement and overly long descriptions. The journey to China in book 2 made sense but now she seems to be manipulating her characters to move them round the world. The sad thing is there are great ideas in the books but often they aren't explored enough. The African tribes relationships with dragons for example.

Also as someone who loves history I am concerned that her deliberate manipulation of real events, e.g. Nelson not dying at Trafalgar, could actually confuse people who don't know these facts. I realise it's a fantasy book and that's fine and fun but if she's going to use historical events and dates they have to be right in my view.

I shall miss Temeraire and Laurence but I don't think I can suffer through another one of these unsatisfying books
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 June 2011
When i picked this book up it was in the hope that naomi had managed to keep going a series that is both action packed and filled with great characters, and to start with i was worried, the action was not there, what was there though, was a new depth to the characters, a real depth of sadness and despair for Captain william laurence that really carried over to the reader, but was also counter balanced by the intelligence but naivety of Temeraire and his dragon friends.

And for those that dont care about that and just want the not worry, when it does arrive it does so in spades.
As usual i finished the book in about 24 hours and was left really looking forward to the next, and that the only pointer i need to know its been a great book, if a little slower and has the potential for the series to be flogged a little too hard...maybe more concentration on the books rather than the movies??
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The fourth part in Naomi's epic Temeraire series (Or His Majesties Dragon if youre in the US) and one that gets back more to the flavour of the first two with the last feeling a bit more like a filler to me. Cracking read and if you know a fan of Dragon fiction and they've not heard of this series then it's a must buy, especially for fans of Anne McCaffrey.

Wonderfully written with the continual growth of the characters both personally and emotionally, especially the complex dragon/rider relationship between the two principle protagonists. Idealistic, alternative fantasy fiction topped off with enough writing talent to keep the reader more than satisfied and demonstrates why Naomi is so popular amongst critics and fans alike, with the film rights having been bought by Peter Jackson.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 January 2012
Laurence and Temeraire are finally back in Britain after their long travels - but all is not well with their friends, dragon and human. The pair are forced to take off to Africa - and make a very tough decision that affects their lives at the most profound level...

I really love these books, and it's a delight to be back in the company of Temeraire's companions, especially grumpy, enormous Maximus. I felt that this book, in particular, really raises the emotional stakes for our friends, with some hard decisions being taken on the sides of both Laurence and Temeraire.

I really don't want to say any more about the plot which would spoil things for other readers. Suffice to say these are brilliantly written books with real heart and soul. The relationship between Laurence and Temeraire is wonderfully realised, with some very underplayed but incredibly moving scenes towards the end.

More, perhaps, that the other books in the series, this ends on a bit of a cliffhanger so it's well worth having the next instalment (Victory of Eagles (Temeraire 5) ready for the moment you finish this. I can't get enough of this series - highly recommended.
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on 23 January 2011
By the time I began reading `Empire of Ivory' it had been two years since I'd read the previous novel in the Temeraire series, `Black Powder War'. I'd all but forgotten most of the characters, not to mention precisely where the story left off. So I was more than a little disappointed that the author began this book by making no effort to reacquaint readers with the on-going story. Instead, it picks up (I assume) exactly where the previous book left off, and with no exposition provided for readers.

I can't quite understand how `Empire of Ivory' has garnered so many positive reviews, when so little happens in this book. But I could have forgiven the lack of any plot points besides a flu-like virus sweeping His Majesty's dragon populous had the author (during a four-hundred-page novel, which any other writer would have made the basis for no more than two chapters) taken advantage of that to work on character development. William Laurence is the character whom the author treats most like a protagonist, but very little of the events in the story are actually told from his perspective, so I found myself longing constantly for the author to assert him. Whether he'd impressed, disappointed or surprised me I didn't really care, if only he'd performed some function other than to act as scenery to an even blander story, I wouldn't have felt as cheated.

As has been a criticism of the Temeraire novels in the past, the editing continues to be sub-standard. This is a shame, especially since Novik often demonstrates a superbly articulate and dynamic turn-of-phrase, which sadly falls flat when the reader must re-read a sentence in order to have it ring true due to poor editing.

Before I read this Temeraire novel, I had the opportunity to read a short story by Novik, entitled `Seven Years From Home', which was quite brilliant. One of the most original and cleverly written short stories I'd read in a long while. I mention this because Naomi Novik is easily among the best of the current crop of talented fantasy writers around at the moment. All the more reason in my view for her to wrap-up the Temeraire novels sooner rather than later, because if `Black Powder War' and `Empire of Ivory' are any evidence, the novels she's producing seem to me to be of greater benefit to her than to her readers.

Despite the above, I enjoyed reading this book to some extent. Perhaps because I know having read the early works how engaging these characters can be when the author sees fit to create situations in which they are challenged. Maybe also because the author cultivates a sense of loyalty in her readers to these characters that prevents the discarding of them too quickly, even when they're woefully uninteresting. But even that may prove to be insufficient stimulus for myself and other readers in upcoming novels, if the general negative opinion of the next two books in the series, `Victory of Eagles' and `Tongues of Serpents' is to be believed. I can't say for sure, since I haven't read them, but if my patience is stretched thin by book four, I wonder if I'll even be making an effort to pick up those books.

In the context of the series and in comparison to the previous novel, `Empire of Ivory' isn't any worse than `Black Powder War', but it is, for me personally, the second book in a row that fails to deliver the experience promised by this author's debut. So, even though I wish it weren't, it has to be 2 stars.
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on 20 June 2013
Still well written, engaging and entertaining.

I tend to devour these books, with the strange side effect that I find myself talking like Captain Lawrence for a day or so after.
I think my favourite thing about the books (other than the dragons) is that Naomi has so succesfully brought to life a 19th centure Englishman, with the ridiculous patriotism and unconcious prejudice that entails. And then challenges these through the voice of Temeraire. Its masterfully done.
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on 29 June 2014
I am thoroughly enjoying this series. Yet again, total edge- of-the-seat stuff, with a great exchanger at the end. Cannot wait to get started on the next one!

This series should definitely be made into a film or TV series. I reckon it as good as Game of Thrones.
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on 21 January 2013
All the books in this series have been most enjoyable. Of course one has to like dragons, which actually are depicted as having quite human characteristics, so each one is as diverse as the humans in the book. Well worth the read
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