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Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik
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Empire of Ivory (2008)

by Naomi Novik

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Temeraire (4)

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Showing 1-5 of 85 (next | show all)
Going just by the story, the characters, and my general entertainment throughout most of this book, I would have rated this at five stars. I’m giving it 4.5 stars, the same as the last two books, but I’m rounding down to 4 on Goodreads whereas I rounded the previous two up to 5. The reason I'm rating it so much lower, in spite of enjoying it so much, is that there were a couple things that particularly annoyed me, one being what I consider to be a major story discrepancy. More details are in the spoiler tags further below.

Aside from that, I thought the story was very entertaining. I enjoyed it at least as much as the first book, and slightly more than the second and third. I was especially engrossed by the end, and I’m eager to start reading the next book. Unlike the previous books, this one ended with quite a cliff hanger and I look forward to finding out how Laurence and Temeraire will get themselves out of their current predicament.

The rest of my comments include some spoilers for this book and also for the previous three, so I’ll put them in spoiler tags:
The discrepancy that bothered me so much was the way everybody completely ignored Temeraire’s history with the disease. Early on, when Laurence first learns that all the dragons are sick, he comments that they’d “had word” of the illness. This was true enough, I guess. In book two, when the courier dragon Volly landed on their ship to deliver messages, Volly was sick and his captain James said “half the dragons are moaning and sniffling about”. So, yes, they “had word”. They also had a nice little exchange of dragon germs.

Temeraire caught that same illness, about a week after Volly had left. In this fourth book, at around 28%, there’s finally a mention of Temeraire’s own illness, but everybody still seems to doubt the connection. Nobody mentions that Temeraire caught it after being exposed to one of the sick dragons. The connection seems like it should have been obvious, if only to Laurence and the dragon surgeon Keynes who had been with them. It seemed to me like Novik cheated, trying to drag things out for dramatic effect at the sacrifice of logic and consistency.

A more minor thing that niggled at me was the misrepresentation of where Laurence’s wealth came from. Novik really downplayed how much of it came from his capture of Temeraire’s egg and the subsequent harnessing. We’re told that the Admiralty pays little for the capture of a dragon compared to that of a ship, and that “Laurence had established a handsome capital while still a naval officer.” These things are technically true, but presented in a misleading way. Laurence didn’t capture a dragon, he captured an egg, and most of his wealth came from that bounty rather than from the capture of the ship itself, which admittedly happened while he was “still a naval officer”.

Along those same lines, Temeraire also mentions in this book that Laurence bought his breastplate with the money he earned from taking the French ship, but he knows the money came from his egg. In book one Laurence told him, after presenting the gift to him, that “it is quite your due, you know, for the better part of it comes from the bounty for our having taken your egg from the French.” So again, everything stated is technically true, because the egg came from the ship, but presented in a way that seems intentionally misleading. Maybe Novik was afraid reminding readers of that aspect of things would take away from the anti-slavery message in this book, or maybe I just read too much into it, but it seems odd that she would remind readers of some aspects of Laurence’s capital but avoid mentioning the most relevant aspect at the same time.
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1 vote YouKneeK | Jun 25, 2017 |
dragons of England are all sick. Temeraire isn't. They figure it must be something he ate in Africa on his journey back from China. Bunch of sick dragons go to Africa. Find a cure. Laurence and others are captured by a tribe of Africans and taken prisoner. The tribe of humans and dragons wipes out all European towns along the coast. Laurence and others escape to England. English infect rest of European dragons, now that they have a cure. Laurence and Temeraire go to France with the cure. Ends with Laurence and Temeraire preparing to head back to England to face court-martial for treason.

Ok, Novik is a history buff.It shows. Once again, the dragons are given very little character developement time. They are almost just a sideshow to allow Novik to probe into alternate history. I don't care 2 bits about most of what goes on in the human society, I want dragons! And Novik insists of slogging through the human society and dragging us along. ( )
1 vote BookstoogeLT | Dec 10, 2016 |
Travelling the world with dragons. This installment sends our team to Africa, and their colonialist attitude gets them in very hot water with the natives - the dragon natives that is. ( )
  2wonderY | Dec 5, 2016 |
This fourth instalment shares the Temeraire traits of episodic adventures, a slow-building plot and a rush of blood at the climax, but is back to the levels of emotional engagement that made Throne of Jade such a joy for me – albeit with even fewer quiet moments for feelings to recover. It beat me to an emotional pulp and ended on a cliffhanger (be warned: you will not want to be left without book 5 to hand when you finish).

Excellent stuff - between the emotional rollercoaster and the unflinching side-eye at colonialism, slavery, politics and the agency of women in this alternate history, this is probably my favourite Temeraire to date.

Full review. ( )
  imyril | Oct 8, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Naomi Novikprimary authorall editionscalculated
Davidson, AndrewCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harman, DominicCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Francesca, may we always flee lions together.
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"Send up another, damn you, send them all up, at once if you have to,” Laurence said savagely to poor Calloway, who did not deserve to be sworn at: the gunner was firing off the flares so quickly his hands were scorched black, skin cracking and peeling to bright red where some powder had spilled onto his fingers; he was not stopping to wipe them clean before setting each flare to the match.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345496876, Mass Market Paperback)

“A new writer is soaring on the wings of a dragon.”
–The New York Times

“Enthralling reading–it’s like Jane Austen playing Dungeons & Dragons with Eragon’s Christopher Paolini.”
–Time, on His Majesty’s Dragon


Tragedy has struck His Majesty’s Aerial Corps, whose magnificent fleet of fighting dragons and their human captains valiantly defend England’s shores against the encroaching armies of Napoleon Bonaparte. An epidemic of unknown origin and no known cure is decimating the noble dragons’ ranks–forcing the hopelessly stricken into quarantine. Now only Temeraire and a pack of newly recruited dragons remain uninfected–and stand as the only means of an airborne defense against France’s ever bolder sorties.
Bonaparte’s dragons are already harrowing Britain’s ships at sea. Only one recourse remains: Temeraire and his captain, Will Laurence, must take wing to Africa, whose shores may hold the cure to the mysterious and deadly contagion. On this mission there is no time to waste, and no telling what lies in store beyond the horizon or for those left behind to wait, hope, and hold the line.


“A gripping adventure full of rich detail and the impossible wonder of gilded fantasy.”
–Entertainment Weekly, on His Majesty’s Dragon

“A thrilling fantasy . . . All hail Naomi Novik.”
–The Washington Post Book World, on His Majesty’s Dragon

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:33 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Tragedy has struck His Majesty's Aerial Corps, as an epidemic of unknown origin and no known cure is decimating the dragons' ranks. Only Temeraire and a pack of newly recruited dragons remain uninfected and must stand as the only means of airborne defense against France's ever bolder sorties. As Bonaparte's dragons harrow Britain's ships, Temeraire and his captain, Will Laurence, take wing to Africa in search of a cure for the deadly contagion.… (more)

» see all 7 descriptions

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