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REVIEW: Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik

Dear Ms Novik,

I’m so glad I waited until now to read “Empire of Ivory” even though I’ve had a copy in my hot little hands, well actually piled on top of my TBR heap by my computer, for months now. Something told me to wait, to keep it in reserve until closer to the date when book five will be released. But after the emotional roller coaster of this book, I think I’ll need a little while to process, digest and prepare myself for what’s in store for Laurence and Temeraire.

Empire of Ivory	Naomi NovikI can’t imagine anyone being able to just pick up the series at this point without having read books 1-3. There’s so much history all ready. So many great characters we’ve met, so much world building you’ve already – for lack of a better term – built up. I think new readers would be floundering as well as missing so much of the richness that makes reading these books such a delight.

The journey of Temeraire and his crew from China is at last over – and from my last letter you know that I found parts of that just a little bit slow. Now they’re finally in sight of England’s coast and as bewildered as I was as to why they’ve seen no other dragons on patrol much less received any response to their flares sent up in desperation as the French dragons harry them across the Channel. The news they finally learn is heartbreaking as well as ominous. How can the entire British Aerial Corps be saved? How can news of what’s happened be kept from Napoleon and an invasion be held off? And once there’s the faintest hope, will the desperate efforts of Lily, Temeraire and the other dragons of their formation be in time?

I applaud you for not holding back in terms of danger and intensity in this alternate reality of the Napoleonic wars. It’s easy, while reading books that stick to what really happened, to be aware of the outcome of battles and not worry too much. You keep readers on their toes by inserting new battles and changing not only this war but subtlety altering much of world history – as evinced by the details of Africa and Laurence’s throw away line about Peru and the Incas. While reading these books I can never totally relax since for each hard won two steps forward, you seem to delight in dragging everyone back at least a full step if not more.

With the return to England, we get to see more dragons and once again witness the devotion between them and their captains and crew. It’s something I had missed in “Black Powder War.” Of necessity we also get more politics and, to my regret, I must say that parts of the story in England and again in Africa – while rich in detail – did tend to bog down again in perhaps too many descriptions. The pace at times lost its intensity.

However, once back in England things picked up nicely. At least until the meeting with the Naval Lords when I was as appalled as the other dragon captains at what had been done. Really, Laurence and Temeraire’s actions after that were inevitable given Laurence’s sense of honor and Temeraire’s sensitivity as a thinking being. And the results are what has left me wrung dry and likely to lose sleep while awaiting the next book. Oh you evil woman. What will happen to Laurence? What will poor Temeraire do? And can I possibly survive until I know? Guess I have no choice but to hope we get an arc way before the publication date of “Victory of Eagles.” B+


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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.


  1. Marg
    Jun 18, 2008 @ 05:49:49

    I really enjoy this series. I am very pleased that there is not long to go now before the next book is out!

  2. Natalie
    Jun 18, 2008 @ 05:58:20

    I’ve only read book 1, you mean it’s a series? Oh hallelujah! Now I just have to see if it’s printed here in OZ.

  3. Marg
    Jun 18, 2008 @ 06:22:39

    Natalie, they have definitely been available in Oz, and fortunately only the first one has a different title so they shouldn’t be too hard to track down!

  4. Jayne
    Jun 18, 2008 @ 06:58:36

    Yep, the next book is due out July 8th. How do I know the exact date? It’s printed on our arc! Haha! Bliss, joy, boasting — it has arrived and is in my hot little hands. I’m stroking the cover as I type. ;)

  5. Dayna
    Jun 18, 2008 @ 08:30:26

    lol Jayne, you tease!

    My eleven year old son is completely hooked on these books. I bought the first for myself, read it, and he picked it up. The next day we had to buy books 2 and 3…which I still haven’t read. They’re on HIS bookshelf.

  6. Jayne
    Jun 18, 2008 @ 08:35:38

    Young people getting hooked on books! I love it. Dayna, you’ve made my morning.

  7. Chicklet
    Jun 18, 2008 @ 09:08:32

    *squirms impatiently* July 8th?! How ever will I cope until then?

  8. DS
    Jun 18, 2008 @ 11:57:01

    I need another long trip. I have the first four in audio book form and have only listened to the first two. A ten hour drive somewhere should get me through book three and I can catch up with 4 on the way back. I should probably send these books to my nephew (16). I owe him a present anyway.

  9. Sarai
    Jun 18, 2008 @ 13:06:36

    This has seriously become my favorite fantasy series. I can’t wait for the next one! Great review!

  10. Belinda
    Jun 18, 2008 @ 13:39:28

    I’m another big fan of this series, with July 8th inked on my calendar. I’m very, very jealous of Jayne’s ARC.

  11. Marg
    Jun 18, 2008 @ 14:58:06

    Yep, the next book is due out July 8th. How do I know the exact date? It's printed on our arc! Haha! Bliss, joy, boasting -‘ it has arrived and is in my hot little hands. I'm stroking the cover as I type. ;)

    Now you are just being mean! I am very jealous.

  12. MB
    Jun 18, 2008 @ 16:50:40

    These books are absolutely smashingly good!

  13. Jennie
    Jun 18, 2008 @ 19:32:15

    I am half eagerness and half trepidation in regards to the next book in the series – after the events of Empire of Ivory, I’m so worried about poor Laurence and Temeraire! Novik really manages to emotionally engage me to a degree that I would not have thought possible, given that the relationship in the books is between a man and his dragon.

  14. Dawnell
    Jun 23, 2008 @ 20:55:43

    **biting nails til 8 July ** I am soooo worried about Laurence and what Temeraire might do if he is seriously injured or even *gasp* killed….

  15. Sandra
    Jul 07, 2008 @ 12:51:39

    Anyone who likes the Temeraire series might also like the Halcyon Blythe series by James M. Ward (Tor). So far there are only two books: Midshipwizard HB and Dragonfrigatewizard HB, but I think there will be more. As you can guess from the titles, it mixes wizards and dragons ( of a unique sort) in an 18th Century fantasy world. Many reviewers describe it as “Horatio Hornblower meets Harry Potter”.

  16. Naomi Novik – Empire of Ivory (and giveaway!) « Fyrefly’s Book Blog
    Jul 24, 2009 @ 07:48:06

    […] Reviews: Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review, Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, The Deckled Edge, Dear Author, Book Nut, Jenny’s Books Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and […]

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