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4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 21 November 2010
This is the fourth book in Naomi Novik's historical fantasy series set during the time of the Napoleonic wars and they really do need to be read in order.

One of the things I enjoy about this series is the way that Novik highlights the issue of equality throughout the books and in Empire of Ivory this theme was even more prominent. Part of the plot involves time spent on the African continent and the issue of human slavery highlights the similar issues surrounding the military's use and treatment of sentient, intelligent dragons who enjoy discussing problems of higher mathematics as essentially glorified war horses.

One of the details of Novik's fantasy world is that one particular breed of dragons will only accept female handlers. This caused a bit of a problem in the 18th/19th centuries and so the dragon corps have long had to accept women being captains in the corps. This means Novik can bend history to create some strong female characters in fairly exciting roles and there are several amusing scenes where you watch other parts of the military trying to cope with a woman not 'knowing her place'.

I think my only (minor) complaint is that it's too easy for the reader to decide who is right with the issues of equality. It's obvious to the reader that women are just as capable of men, that human slavery is morally wrong and that the dragons should be treated more as equals of their human teams when the dragons as intelligent as a lot of humans. I think what I'm saying is that I would like there to be more of a grey area. These issues (male/female equality and the issue of human slavery) were not clear cut to people of the time however obvious the 'right' answers might be to us today. I would like there to be something in these stories to challenge me more on a personal level.

Having said that, this series has been great fun so far and after the cliffhanger ending of book 4 I am longing to see what happens to Laurence and Temaraire next.
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on 4 February 2009
The "Temeraire" series is continued in exceptional fashion by this novel.

The period detail and "feel" in the writing remains incredible, with the wonderful use of 18th-century language and spelling one of the highlights. It is impossible not to be drawn into an 18th-century mindset as one reads, which becomes astonishing as the books continue to voyage far from the hegemonies of the time, this time into the Africa of the height of the slave trade, in company with a pregnant female aviator, a slave-owning sea captain and a missionary family of freed slaves.

The central feature of this novel, as of all the others, is of course that between Temeraire and Will Laurence, and the achievement of crafting what is essentially a romance between an 18th-century naval officer and a non-human of great intelligence and clear vision is hardly possible to underestimate. The relationship throws into sharp relief human prejudices and can hardly fail to make any reader re-evaluate all the relationships of their own life in comparison.

The sensitive and intricate characterisation and sheer intelligence and level of invention displayed in this novel is, as ever, nothing if not breathtaking.
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on 11 May 2010
Interesting reading the other reviews on this novel. Having read books 1 & 2 in the Temeraire Series I really wanted to read the rest so got 3 & 4 to take with me on holiday to South Africa recently, I really enjoyed reading the Empire of Ivory actually in the country that it's set, it doesn't make a difference to the quality of the novel but it does make the memories of it more visceral.

I don't think it's quite as strong as the first 3 (hence the 4 stars rather than 5) but it's still a breath of fresh air in a stagnating genre. I love the interplay between using the Dragons as a vehicle of war as well as balancing the fact that they are sentient, intelligent creatures too and the moral dilemma about expecting a huge creature to do it's duty when they have been essentially pressed into service etc etc.

I really love reading them and look forward to the rest of the books in the series - it could be in danger of over running BUT there would be nothing wrong in writing fresh trilogies of adventures or the like set in the same era (similar to Robin Hobb's Rainwild books maybe?)

So - read them, you won't be dissapointed!
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on 21 January 2011
Some women love chick lit, but the Temeraire books are my own literary equivalent of munching on a family sized bar of chocolate as a mood booster. They're uplifting, beautifully written, and not too mentally taxing - but for me, it's Nolvik's fully realised concept of dragon-lore and dragon life that makes these books so special. As ever, she's written a swashbuckling adventure that will thrill anyone who enjoyed books like Treasure Island or Coral Island as a kid. With extra dragons! Loved the cliffhanger at the end and can't wait to see how that works out. It would be nice to see the stuffy but loveable Laurence finding love at some point, or at least developing a fully explored romantic entanglement (something Nolvik seems to shy away from), but his dragon Temeraire is as adorable as ever, the descriptions of exotic lands and military combat as vivid, and the historical detail as realistic. It's almost enough to have you believing dragons actually exist...
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on 4 January 2008
Firstly this novel is a positive continuation of the Temeraire series. The action continues nearly immediately from the end of the book 3 and after this initial adrenalin rush, it moves into a more sedate pace to Regency politics before the main journey to the Cape colony begins. The author develops some new characters, Lord Nelson and Mrs. Erasmus whilst of course the dragons are as engaging as always. Also the alternative history has really started to deviate from ours with very interesting twists.

However, Mrs. Novik seems unable to resist the urge to write cliff-hanger endings. As well, she seems to be trying to mould the character of Capt. Laurence from an 18th century sea/dragon-farer to a more post-modern ethical character, which I might question. But in summary, I am counting down to the release of the next book of dragon adventures.
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on 14 February 2009
This is a continuation of Naomi Novik's "Temeraire" series, combining an Anne MacCaffery style of fantasy with an exploration of how real historical events would have been altered by the existence of such creatures. The author has a fine grasp for detail and characterisation, and the historical basis has clearly been carefully developed.
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on 26 October 2015
Still great and superb.
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on 21 January 2015
Great Reading
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on 10 January 2012
A great set of books each story is complete in itself but makes you want to read the next one - excellent delivery
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on 9 August 2014
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