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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik

Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Adult
Genre: Fantasy, Historical fiction
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Del Rey
Release date: September 25, 2007

Series:  Temeraire #4

Source: Library

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

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.

This is possibly the most anxiety-ridden book so far in the series as all of Britain's dragons except Temeraire are in danger of being wiped out by an aggressive epidemic. With the war still ongoing, the only defense keeping Napoleon out without the dragons is the Navy, and even then, with Napoleon's and Lien's ingenious tactics, war could soon come onto British shores. Leaving the willful Iskierka and Arkady's band of ferals (with the translation help of Tharkay and Granby) to defend all of Britain from Napoleon by air, Temeraire and his cohort must travel back to Africa in hopes of finding a cure for the draconian disease.

Book 2, Throne of Jade actually introduces quite a bit that surfaces in this novel. Quick recap: on route to China, Temeraire took suddenly ill, but with the help of the Chinese cooks who were unafraid to use whatever means to feed him as possible, they managed to find something that cured his illness. That same illness spread to Britain and amplified (Temeraire not having the illness long enough to observe the full scope and devastation of the disease), and now all the British dragons face wasting decay and death. The cure, thought to be an odd, smelly mushroom, is virtually unknown and thus, their search is made 1,000x harder by the language barrier, unknown name and unknown description over all the continent of Africa. Having traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, Temeraire's and Laurence's job is to find that cure and test it on their friends, Lily, Maximus etc. (his wingmates from previous novels) before sending it back to Britain.

Laurence and his fellows bring with them two former slaves: Joseph Erasmus, an African missionary and his wife Hannah, and their two young daughters. Since they are onboard the Allegiance with Captain Riley again, this brings up another key theme/conflict from Throne of Jade: slavery and human rights/dragon rights. Though slavery is condemned by Laurence (and Temeraire), it still exists in Britain and other countries and upheld in British law though there has been a movement for some time to abolish it. Riley's family are slave owners, and this creates tension between the naval officers and Laurence and some of his airmen. Slavers have been increasing their raids of African villages from the coast and moving inward. While they are in pursuit of the mushrooms and harvesting a large cache, Laurence and some other captains and crew, including the newly pregnant Catherine Harcourt and former slave Hannah Erasmus, are captured by African natives. Here they directly see the effects slavery has had on the African villages and their dragons, and though Laurence is against it, they still must pay the price for being associated. It forces everyone, human and dragon alike, to confront their perceptions of slavery, and even Britain suffers the devastating consequences in the end. Will our heroes make it out of Africa alive? I couldn't predict any part of the way this ended (!), and I'm sure the mind-blowing outcome will come into play in a later novel.

This one made me laugh, cry, and bite my nails with anxiety since there are a plethora of awful possibilities just waiting to happen... Onward to more reading!

Kara is a teen librarian living in the southeastern US with her husband (who listens to books), young daughter (who sleeps with books), and dog (who tastes the books). She loves all sorts of books, but mostly YA, and will never catch up to all of the wonderful things to read.


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