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REVIEW: Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik

Warning: may include spoilers

Dear Ms Novik,

After finishing “Empire of Ivory,” I wondered where you’d take me in the follow up book. Answer: through the wringer. “Victory of Eagles” sees Temeraire and his captain Will Laurence having to face the results of their actions – seen as treasonous by most of the military – which ended “Ivory.”

Victory of Eagles	Naomi NovikI mentioned how while reading the series, one needs to be alert to the major and minor changes you’ve made to the actual history of the times. Unlike Patrick O’Brian’s famous Aubrey and Maturin books or countless others written in the same vein, the Temeraire books don’t stick exactly to what really happened. And with this story, history is not merely bent, it’s twisted like a pretzel.

Things start out slowly with Temeraire sinking into mental and physical despondency in the breeding ground in Wales. After what he and Laurence do to save the dragons of Europe and the world, the two are separated upon their return to England. Laurence knows what he faces while Temeraire only slowly begins to understand just how the military views what they did. Laurence is now a condemned traitor, kept alive only to assure that Temeraire will behave himself, stay in the breeding grounds and provide the nation with more dragon eggs. Temeraire has to amuse himself by quoting passages from the Principia Mathematica to ward off his boredom. But unknown to his keepers, he’s been let in on a way to learn news of the outside world. And what he learns horrifies him.

Yes, Laurence is alive but living a life of misery on the prison ships anchored on the Thames. That is until the French finally begin their invasion of England. Using state of the art tactics, they neutralize many of the Naval vessels while sinking others. When Temeraire is told Laurence’s ship went down with all hands, his willingness to stay a prisoner in Wales ends. Instead he organizes and leads the other dragons there in defense of the nation. After all, they’re intelligent, they know war tactics. Who needs to be in harness to fight for one’s homeland?

I enjoyed watching Temeraire’s natal steps towards becoming a Whig politician. Sure he wants to fight but he has to persuade the others that it’s the right thing to do after the French land on English soil. And it’s not an easy task once the other dragons begin to learn how the French honor the rights of their Armee de l’Aire. Temeraire himself sometimes has a hard time overcoming his own qualms due to his knowledge of how the dragons of China live as well as what he saw while in France. In those countries, dragons are not feared, as in England, but are treated with dignity and respect. And given treasure!

Soon, the dragons learn first hand how the invasion will change their lives as the French begin to secure their position around London following the disastrous defeat of the English Army. I admire how you make me believe in the events you invent. The quick rally to fight for London, the way the French manage to position their troops for the counterstroke, the realization that a general retreat to Scotland is the only hope to preserve what’s left of the English forces, how it’s the dragons who work out the method used to transport the French so quickly all over England and how they manage a 19th century equivalent of the evacuation of Dunkirk.

This book has quite a bit more action than we’ve seen in the past few stories yet you manage to work in a nice bit on the ethics of war. The price asked of the dragons and their crews grows to horrific proportions. Yes, it’s in defense of the nation and the people of England but asking them to forgo their honor exacts a terrible price even as it finally begins to even the odds and force Napoleon towards the battle Wellesley devises to rid England of the Corsican invader.

And speaking of Wellesley, I adore his foul mouthed blunt speaking and brilliant strategizing. It’s so in character with the famous quotes he made in real life and the battles he engineered. As well, the sly nod to Patrick O’Brian was a delight to read. I loved the fact that we get to read more about the strong bonds between the dragons and their captains and crews. Plus we get to see Temeraire’s love of flash and glitter.

Temeraire was pleased that, to his eye, their own force was much the handsomer. A great many of the Frenchmen he could spy wore long drab coats, with scarcely a touch of color, and otherwise were largely in white breeches and white shirts – none too clean, Temeraire noted – with very ordinary dark blue coats. He much preferred the vivid red coats which dominated their own army. They had also several companies of soldiers in the center in colorful and patterned skirts, instead of plain breeches; and of course their flag was by far the more interesting.

While I was reading the book, I wondered ahead what would follow. With Napoleon’s crushing defeat and the taint of treason still clinging to Laurence and Temeraire, what could they do next and where would they be allowed to go? But once again, I needn’t have worried as their fate is decided in a way that stays close to military discipline as well as to the historical events of the times. Now having finished the heart pounding excitement of “Victory of Eagles,” I only wonder how I’m going to last until next year. Write quickly. B+

~Jayne

Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo

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.

42 Comments

  1. Marg
    Jul 07, 2008 @ 05:08:45

    I haven’t read a word of this review other than to check the grade, but I have to say….I want this soooo badly!

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  2. Jayne
    Jul 07, 2008 @ 05:27:48

    Marg, is it being released in Australia tomorrow? Or are they making you wait?

    ReplyReply

  3. Marg
    Jul 07, 2008 @ 05:58:43

    Well it’s not tomorrow. It’s not even on any of the websites for any of the major Australian chains, which makes me think that it is going to be a while yet.

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  4. Jayne
    Jul 07, 2008 @ 06:43:33

    Not even…not yet…it isn’t even…..I’m flabberghasted. Is Australia the redheaded stepchild of the reading world? On various Amazon sites, it’s listed as being released tomorrow in France, Germany, Japan, Canada and the US. If you order via amazon.uk, it looks like you’ll have to wait til August. o-O okay. I didn’t check China.

    Marg, I feel for you. I truly do.

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  5. Jayne
    Jul 07, 2008 @ 06:45:16

    At least the ebook price is cheaper than the hardcover price.

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  6. Marg
    Jul 07, 2008 @ 07:09:12

    If only I had an ebook reader!

    Actually, sometimes we are behind other countries, but other times we are in front. For example, the latest Philippa Gregory has been out here for a couple of months, but it isn’t out anywhere else for another 2 months. We tend to get certain authors like Jennifer Donnelly and Paullina Simons earlier than most places, but sometimes we don’t. Like this time :-(

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  7. dayna
    Jul 07, 2008 @ 08:37:42

    I really hope I’m not stirring the pot…but you seemed to like this one quite a bit, Jayne, with none of the ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ I usually see in reviews here which explain the B+ vs perhaps an A…. Would it be rude to ask you to elaborate a bit on what might not have worked for you?

    It’s not entirely idle curiosity, either…My 11 year old has devoured each of the books in this series, and your reviews give me a jumping-off point for discussing them with him. “Oh, I read a review which said…what do you think?” especially since I haven’t been trusted yet with his copies to read for myself.

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  8. nath
    Jul 07, 2008 @ 10:35:33

    Hi Jayne… I have two questions… one might be spoilerish, but I kind of need to know… So, are Temeraire and Laurence reunited?!?! ^_^; also, what does Whig mean? I’m glad you enjoyed it… I can’t wait for my copy to arrive!!

    and I hurt for you, Marg!

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  9. Jayne
    Jul 07, 2008 @ 10:38:16

    Weeeeell, there were a few parts that were a teensy bit depressing such as when Laurence and Temeraire were separated at the beginning of the book and the difficult choice that Laurence has to make later on about the orders that Wellesley gives him and the other dragon captains. But other than that, no there’s not one thing I can point to and say, “that’s why a B+ and not an A.” Sometimes it’s just a gut feeling that I go by.

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  10. Jayne
    Jul 07, 2008 @ 10:42:36

    nath – Whig party – By the first half of the 19th century, however, the Whig political programme came to encompass not only the supremacy of parliament over the monarch and support for free trade, but the abolition of slavery, and, significantly, expansion of the franchise (suffrage). Eventually the Whigs would evolve into the Liberal Party (while the Tories became the Conservative Party).

    S
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    Yes, they are reunited about – oh, I’d say – roughly 1/4 of the way into the book.

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  11. Ellen Hartman
    Jul 07, 2008 @ 11:34:39

    Dayna–I have an 11 year old voracious reader at home. So glad you left your comment because I’m going to check this series out immediately. I have a lot of trouble keeping my guy in books, especially now that he’s growing out of some kids writers but is still young enough that any hint of a kissing scene disgusts him.

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  12. Jayne
    Jul 07, 2008 @ 12:34:52

    Ellen, don’t worry. There’s no kissing. But the relationship between Laurence and Temeraire – or for that matter any of the dragons and their captains – is wonderful to read. They are true friends and companions.

    There’s a funny bit about Lily’s thoughts on Catherine’s ‘egg.’

    “Yes, the egg is hatched,” Lily was saying, “but it is not much use to anyone: only lies there and squalls all day, and I do not like the way it smells, not,” she added loyally, “that any of that is Catherine’s fault: I am sure that awful sailor is to blame. I ought never have let him marry her, and now she cannot even make him divorce her.”

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  13. SonomaLass
    Jul 07, 2008 @ 17:26:34

    Thanks for the review, Jayne; nice balance here as regards “spoilers.” I have trouble imagining that any of the books in this series will be the enthusiastic “A” with me that the first one was, just because the first time into the whole world was so amazing. There was a wonder and a thrill from first learning about dragons that puts that first book on a pedestal, at least for me.

    I might buy the ebook so I can read it NOW, and then buy the paperback later to add to my set. I have too many sets already that are half paperback and half hardcover. I wish I could make myself wait (so as to shorted the gap between this book and the next), but I know I can’t. Naomi Novik is a good example of how hard it is to wait for the next book, even though I’d rather she take a whole year in order to make it the best it can be than rush it out in six months. Really. It’s just hard.

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  14. Jayne
    Jul 07, 2008 @ 18:12:05

    I have trouble imagining that any of the books in this series will be the enthusiastic “A” with me that the first one was, just because the first time into the whole world was so amazing. There was a wonder and a thrill from first learning about dragons that puts that first book on a pedestal, at least for me.

    Yeah, yeah! What she said. I do remember the wonder and awe of discovering this new series, of getting to know Temeraire and watching as he and Laurence forge a bond beyond co-workers, beyond military service – watching as they become best of friends despite the occasional argument, watching Laurence learn that Temeraire is so much more than a mere thing like the ships he had served on in his Naval career but an intelligent, sentient being.

    I might buy the ebook so I can read it NOW, and then buy the paperback later to add to my set. I have too many sets already that are half paperback and half hardcover. I wish I could make myself wait (so as to shorted the gap between this book and the next), but I know I can't. Naomi Novik is a good example of how hard it is to wait for the next book, even though I'd rather she take a whole year in order to make it the best it can be than rush it out in six months. Really. It's just hard.

    I plan to buy a paperback copy when it comes out. I adore the US covers of the first 4 books and confess that as nice as the hardcover edition is, I want a cover that fits in with the past ones. I did take my time reading “Black Powder War” and “Ivory” but after the cliff hanger ending of “Ivory,” I couldn’t wait to begin this one.

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  15. dayna
    Jul 07, 2008 @ 20:27:04

    Thank you so much, Jayne and SonomaLass! I do understand how familiarity with the world can make subsequent books less…remarkable…although, in this case, I don’t know myself because lil rotter won’t let me read his books. (never mind the first one in his ‘collection’ is mine!)

    Ellen, good luck with finding books! I’m hoping to have Bookworm guestblog with me on Friday with some book suggestions for Boys who like to read fantasy but have to ask “is this a kissing book” before they do…

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  16. Ellen Hartman
    Jul 07, 2008 @ 21:10:39

    Dayna–where would a person find this oh-so-timely-for-me blog? Can I put in a special request for recommendations of books with LOTS of pages, preferably paperback? I’m going broke keeping this kid in books.

    ;-)
    Ellen

    P.S. We are now in possession of the first Novik book. Let the reading commence!

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  17. MobiBooker
    Jul 08, 2008 @ 01:55:06

    *squee* Just downloaded it…. I’ve been waiting for this one!!!

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  18. Jayne
    Jul 08, 2008 @ 04:57:11

    I told Dayna this after her comment on the “Ivory” review, but it does my heart good to read about kids who love to read. After all the depressing reports stating that fewer and fewer children and adults are reading now, comments like this are nice to see.

    After thinking a bit about the kissing stuff, I should say that there is a relationship that Laurence has with one of the other dragon captains. There is a breed of dragon, the longwings, that takes better to female captains. This is something the Aerial Corp tries to keep quiet about as it’s shocking to most civilians. Since dragons live so much longer than humans, captaincy of a dragon is often ‘passed down’ to a son, or in the case of a longwing, to a daughter. And since they don’t want many outsiders knowing about women in the Corps, there are often relationships that develop among the flyers.

    Novik infers that Laurence and Jane – ahem – enjoy themselves together but there’s nothing at all like a typical romance novel scene in any of the books.

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  19. (Jān)
    Jul 08, 2008 @ 07:17:21

    For years fantasies were pretty much sold with an audience of boys in mind, so a lot of the older stuff out there would probably keep the kids happy, as long as they read at a high school/ YA level. Just looking at my shelves and remember what my brother and I loved:

    LeGuin’s Earthsea Trilogy
    Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising series
    McCaffrey’s Pern books (slight sexualization in there; is actually ScF with fantasy trappings)
    Robert Asprins MythAdventure series (silly books)
    Orson Scott Card’s Seventh Son/Alvin Maker series
    Dave Duncan’s King’s Daggers
    Roger Zelazny’s Amber series
    Robert E Howard’s Conan stories
    Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar series (there is a rape in that, but not graphic)
    Tad Williams Tailchaser’s Song
    Brian Jacques Redwall series
    Garth Nix’s Abhorsen / Old Kingdom trilogy
    Weis/Hickman’s YA Dragonlance books

    Those are all books my brother liked, and while there may be a kiss or two in them somewhere, the focus is on adventure.

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  20. Jayne
    Jul 08, 2008 @ 09:37:27

    Thanks for the suggestions Jan! And since they’re older, seems like you could probably spring for used copies of the first book in the series to see if your sons will like them.

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  21. (Jān)
    Jul 08, 2008 @ 10:43:00

    All of these are out there in plentiful numbers used. And some, like Pern and Dragonslance, segue into adult series so he can keep reading. :)

    ReplyReply

  22. Ellen Hartman
    Jul 08, 2008 @ 12:18:54

    Thanks for the recommendations. I know a bunch of those books are already lying around my library! I’ll have to go back and see what is what in terms of content.

    Jayne–this bookworm kid of mine had a lot of trouble learning to read. It about broke my heart when it looked like reading wasn’t going to become pleasant or easy for him. Luckily his issues got resolved and he reads like a champ now. I hate thinking about people not reading. :-( Books have always meant so much to me.

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  23. SonomaLass
    Jul 08, 2008 @ 12:56:53

    Good suggestions, all. My littlest guy is now 15, and half a foot taller than I am (with no sign of stopping). He has always been a fantasy reader, but when he was younger, he could rarely stomach romance in his reading. Even Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles, a favorite series with all four of my kids, made him wince, although he read it anyway (in spite of the mushy stuff). He also liked Madeline L’Engle and Edward Eager, along with Susan Cooper, because the kids in those books were too young for romance.

    He bought me the Temeraire boxed set for Christmas — I had borrowed the first one from the library and loved it, but had yet to read the others. He plans to borrow them as soon as he finishes his summer reading for his sophomore honors courses.

    My boys aren’t as voracious about reading as my girls are, and none of them are like I was/still am. Video games, in particular, occupy what I would have considered prime reading time. But when I look at some of their peers and friends, who NEVER read for pleasure, I figure I’m a lucky mom.

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  24. Julia Sullivan
    Jul 09, 2008 @ 11:08:32

    Unlike Patrick O'Brian's famous Aubrey and Maturin books or countless others written in the same vein, the Temeraire books don't stick exactly to what really happened.

    I love O’Brian, but his books hardly “stick exactly to what really happened.” 1813 didn’t have three summers, for instance.

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  25. Jayne
    Jul 09, 2008 @ 14:21:25

    Yeah but O’Brian didn’t have Napoleon actually invade England, either. [grin]

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  26. SonomaLass
    Jul 09, 2008 @ 14:55:41

    I got it! I got the PDF version, so I can read it on my laptop, knowing that I will want the paperback later for my set. Then I sat reading last night until far too late — “what are you working on?” they ask; little do they know.

    I think I got almost halfway through last night. I can’t wait for them to get to Scotland — they are headed for my personal stomping grounds! I’m going to have to slow down to savor, or I will have withdrawal pains and be mad at myself for “binge-ing.” That only happens with really good books.

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  27. Dayna
    Jul 09, 2008 @ 22:19:14

    Hey Ellen, I was worried I was being too…um…lookitme…in that post *wince* I’ll be blogging at http://www.thenoveltygirls.com on Friday with Bookworm about our summer reading lists.

    For a quick recommendation, though, have you tried the Bartameus (sp?) Trilogy? I’m blanking on the author, and Bookworm is in bed, but we’ll post it on Friday for certain. He’s also read Gena Showater’s RedHanded (which again, I have not) and informed me giddily it had the word ‘sexy’ in it, AFTER he read it.
    I gave Gena trouble for that, but I think she stopped listening after “Another squeeing fankid is born”.

    Jayne…I’d um…go on about my kids all day if I could *blush* I did tell Bookworm about your comment, and he grinned so wide I could see the space where one of his molars is missing. He was also very glad to hear you liked The Temeraire books.

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  28. Jayne
    Jul 10, 2008 @ 05:58:35

    Dayna, for stuff like this – specifically about books – we don’t care if you list links or tell people about it here. And I recall some of my mother’s books and reading with wide eyed amazement when words like ‘sexy’ were used. Whoa! Adult words!

    Ellen, I’m glad things finally ‘clicked’ reading-wise for your son. I hope you can find more reading material for him from Dayna’s blogging site.

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  29. Jayne
    Jul 10, 2008 @ 06:00:25

    Sonomalass – did you manage to slow down and savor or did you gulp it in two readings?

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  30. SonomaLass
    Jul 12, 2008 @ 02:23:05

    *blush* I gulped. Two sessions; finished the book about 48 hours after I bought it. I TRIED to savor, but the action moved too fast.

    [Mild spoiler warning]

    I thought they were going to spend more time in Scotland, in and around Loch Laggan. We spend a lot of time in that part of the country, and I was planning to slowly savor the vision of Laurence and Temeraire in surroundings I know and love so well. Alas, they didn’t hang about in familiar territory, and my strategy to slow down my reading, well, failed.

    That said, I really enjoyed the book, and I would agree with Jane’s B+ grade. It’s as good as any but the first one (and that with the caveat that the first one has novelty as a huge advantage), and I’m definitely excited to continue with the series. I like where it’s going, and I’m optimistic about the events in next book (which certainly hasn’t always been the case in this series — it’s a measure of how good Novik’s writing is that I come back eagerly, even when I anticipate sadness).

    I will go more slowly and savor when I read it again!

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  31. Jayne
    Jul 13, 2008 @ 08:26:12

    Book 1 seems to have had the most time in Scotland.

    and I'm definitely excited to continue with the series. I like where it's going, and I'm optimistic about the events in next book (which certainly hasn't always been the case in this series -’ it's a measure of how good Novik's writing is that I come back eagerly, even when I anticipate sadness).

    I don’t see how Temeraire and Laurence could have regained their status in situ. As far as most of the British military is concerned, they are traitors and
    .
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    spoilers
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    could never had stayed in England. I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing Temeraire and Iskierka in Australia – since it doesn’t have any native dragons. I wonder if a) she’ll ever get an egg from him and if she does b) what traits the offspring will have.

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  32. Lois Baron
    Jul 15, 2008 @ 00:26:04

    I just finished the book. The ending battle is brilliant, but I found that Laurence’s situation depressed me quite a bit, and

    spoiler….

    I wasn’t crazy about them being shipped off to New South Walesm. Granted, there was no relief for Laurence’s situation in England, but what are they going to do in Australia?? I just read Kate Grenville’s The Secret River about this man who after a miserable, poverty-stricken childhood gets sentenced to New South Wales and don’t feel very uplifted by New South Wales in general.

    What is with the punctuation in this book?? Has anyone ever seen such a mishmash of colons, semicolons, and commas?

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  33. Jayne
    Jul 15, 2008 @ 09:35:29

    I just finished the book. The ending battle is brilliant, but I found that Laurence's situation depressed me quite a bit, and

    Yes, the battle is great. This is something that I think Novik excels at.

    spoiler….

    I wasn't crazy about them being shipped off to New South Walesm. Granted, there was no relief for Laurence's situation in England, but what are they going to do in Australia?? I just read Kate Grenville's The Secret River about this man who after a miserable, poverty-stricken childhood gets sentenced to New South Wales and don't feel very uplifted by New South Wales in general.

    Yeah but…not too many other places they could have gone. If they’d stayed in England, it would probably have been back to what they were enduring before the invasion – or something not much better. And Laurence knows, in his heart, that he can never go home again. Not after what happened with the scavenging parties. I recall reading something about how the Romans used to do something similar. They’d ravage the countryside but leave the headmen and their families alone so as to cause resentment amongst the populace.

    What is with the punctuation in this book?? Has anyone ever seen such a mishmash of colons, semicolons, and commas?

    LOL, her editor mentioned that. I had noticed it a bit in the previous books but it did seem overwhelming in this one. When I was reading, I didn’t take the time to bookmark any examples and couldn’t find the worst ones I had seen so decided, when I was writing my review, not to mention any.

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  34. Rory
    Apr 19, 2009 @ 03:17:46

    Hopefully something will happen on the boat and they will be wisked off to some other place or Temeraire decides to go back to China. And why I say this is because there is NOTHING in Australia besides kangaroos and random aboriginals (and this is coming from an Australian).

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  35. Jayne
    Apr 19, 2009 @ 17:51:08

    Perhaps they’ll have encounters with the dragons of the Incans. Or run into a volcanic eruption. Since Novik alters history along with adding dragons, anything’s possible.

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  36. Marg
    Apr 19, 2009 @ 18:52:11

    No Incans in Australia! I don’t know, I think that at least partially set in Australia could be interesting given that it the time of settlement.

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  37. Jayne
    Apr 20, 2009 @ 05:51:07

    No, no. Not what I meant. I thought perhaps as they rounded the Cape Horn, they might run into some South American dragons.

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  38. Jayne
    Apr 20, 2009 @ 06:21:49

    And I’m so bummed. A check of her website didn’t list any new book out soon so I skipped over to her LJ. And she said she’s due to turn it in to her editor in August and who knows when it will be out!! Whaaaaa.

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  39. Marg
    Apr 20, 2009 @ 07:05:45

    Yes, some adventure around the Cape Horn would be interesting! There does seem to be quite a long gap between books this time around! Who knows if there is a reason – maybe something to do with the movie although I haven’t seen much more about that either really.

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  40. Jayne
    Apr 20, 2009 @ 07:53:57

    At least she’s working on the next one. Will have to just tap my foot impatiently and mutter under my breath as Temeraire does.

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