Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Empire of Ivory

The fourth book the in the Temeraire series. Empire of Ivory, picks up right where The Gunpowder Wars left off, with Temeraire and Laurence on the fly with rescued Prussian soldiers. They make it home to England only to discover a terrible disaster has befallen the Aerial Corp. A disease has stricken the dragons leaving England vulnerable to invasion and Temeraire and the newly recruited dragons are now the only aerial defense against Napoleon. When the Corp realizes Temeraire’s illness during the voyage to China may hold the key to a cure, Temeraire and several of the sickest are dispatched to Africa in a last ditch effort to save the dragons. The search for a cure in the African interior lands them in far more trouble than they bargained for, however, the real trial awaits them at home.
My biggest complaint about Empire and the prior books is Novik’s tendency to intersperse description with a single piece of dialogue. It's as if she can’t explain something by description alone and must therefore throw in extra character dialogue to explain. Frankly, it's a bit annoying. Also like the earlier books, Empire has a problem with its naiveté. Novik likes to use the dragons to explore issues of morality such as slavery and nationalism but rarely is there any real meaningful debate.
That being said, Empire of Ivory is the best book since His Majesty’s Dragon. The drawbacks I mentioned above are somewhat less in evidence in Empire than in the previous books. The pace is steadier and better handled with fewer plodding moments creating better tension than Throne of Jade. Plotting is also more thought out so the book lacks the some of the dullness of The Gunpowder Wars. A major bonus is that Empire has a creativity not seen since the first book. The adventure into the African interior was well researched and gave the book a unique flavor. Plus, the climax of the ending, while not exactly a cliffhanger, has a boldness I thought refreshing.
Final rating 8/10.

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