Saturday, July 17, 2010

Review: Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik

Following on from the events of the previous book Laurence and Temeraire arrive back in Britain in tow with the Prussian survivors with Napoleon now firmly in control of the continent. While they were away a flu-like virus has devastated Britain’s dragon population, the only reason the nation hasn't fallen yet is that Napoleon is ignorant of this news. Tememaire and his band of untrained feral dragons are tasked with patrolling the entirety of Britain. Following an accident Temeraire is exposed to the quarantined dragons but surprisingly does not fall sick. Laurence surmises that his dragon must have developed an immunity, recalling that Temeraire had fallen sick while on route to China but had recovered after a stopover in The Cape Colony. Laurence, Temeraire and the remainder of his sick squadron are despatched to Cape Town in the hope that the cure might be found there, if not then Britain is as good as doomed as the dragons begin to die.

One thing Novik has done extremely well throughout this series is to show that both sides are not faultless in the Napoleonic war. It would have been easy to portray the French as evil conquerors and the British as faultless and noble but thankfully Novik has avoided this trap. This book marks the best example of this and the conflict that Laurence, who is both fiercely loyal to his country and has a strong sense of right and wrong, experiences when his superiors discuss the possibility of using biological warfare was masterful. Without giving too much away the finale of this book was excellent. My only criticism is about one of the aspects of these books that seems to be becoming formulaic. In the two previous novels the protagonists find themselves captives of a foreign culture and have to escape around the middle of the book. This again happens here and I hope Novik does not overuse this plot devise.

Overall this is another strong offering in an excellent series, highly recommended. 8.25/10

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