Today's book review is Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik.
This is the fourth book in the Temeraire series. While I suppose the events in this book would mostly make sense on their own, I definitely recommend starting from the beginning.
This is quite an impressive story. Starting from a crisis that explains some events left naggingly unexplained at the end of Black Powder War, we dance through an impressive series of adventures to a point where things seem to have been safely concluded, only for another terrible thing to happen, and our heroes prove themselves truly heroic, but arguably foolish, with a cliffhanger that leaves this reader very frustrated that the next volume hasn't yet been published. I fear that Ms. Novik is starting to face the dilemma of writing an alternate history series -- the more important stuff starts happening in the alternate universe, the less one can rely on history to guide events and the more one must make up. Even accepting the starting premise that the Napoleonic world was pretty much the same, except that dragons were part of history too, things have to continue to evolve. She manages to bring major new elements into the overall story sufficiently successfully this time that it would be interesting to watch how long she can keep it going, even if the actual characters weren't so engaging that I'm absolutely desperate to find out how it works out.
I'm still too infatuated with Temeraire to trust my objectivity, but I think the overall craft is getting better. It still has imperfections, but I really enjoy the ride. 9 out of 10.
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