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Friday, December 15, 2017

Crucible of Gold by Naomi Novik

Crucible of Gold by Naomi Novik

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Adult
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Del Rey
Release date: April 30, 2013

Series:  Temeraire, #7

Source: Library

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

Former Aerial Corps captain Will Laurence and his faithful dragon, Temeraire, have been put out to pasture in Australia—and it seems their part in the war has ended just when they are needed most. The French have invaded Spain, forged an alliance with Africa’s powerful Tswana empire, and brought revolution to Brazil. With Britain’s last desperate hope of defeating Napoleon in peril, the government that sidelined Laurence swiftly offers to reinstate him, convinced that he’s the best man to enter the fray and negotiate peace. So the pair embark for Brazil, only to meet with a string of unmitigated disasters that forces them to make an unexpected landing in the hostile territory of the Incan empire. With the success of the mission balanced on a razor’s edge, an old enemy appears and threatens to tip the scales toward ruin. Yet even in the midst of disaster, opportunity may lurk—for one bold enough to grasp it.

Our heroes are out of the Land Down Under! Because the Tswana have invaded Brazil intent on reclaiming their people kidnapped into slavery, Laurence and Temeraire and their very depleted crew have been reinstated into the Aerial Corps, and now, joined by Iskierka and Kulingile and their crews, they travel on a diplomatic mission to Brazil on the Allegiance, accompanied by their old friends Captain Riley and Arthur Hammond, the former ambassador to the Chinese. On the way, they meet a storm and disaster, leading to a close brush with death and capture by the French who are on their way to the Incan Empire. Iskierka befriends an Incan dragon, and the French feel threatened enough to abandon them on an island in the Pacific. When they finally reach the Incan Empire, they discover the Incan customs about dragons challenge all of their previously held beliefs. Here, Incan dragons are, like the Tswana dragons, caretakers of their people, but other dragons steal people too, hoarding them like men frequently do with Incan gold. Temeraire, Iskierka and Kulingile, since they are carrying men from the Allegiance, are met with high status. Iskierka's impulsiveness lands her in a battle over a man she's stolen and this eventually leads them to the Incan ruler. Through Iskierka's wiles, she proposes an alliance and an absurd marriage.

In the past, we've seen dragons owned as property, dragons as weapons, dragons as independent "people", and dragons as ancestors reborn, but a new attitude is one of dragons as herdsmen -- literally, herding men and whole families. This has intriguing consequences and spurs more philosophical talk amongst Temeraire and Laurence.

To the stoic sensibilities of the British, Iskierka's proposal of a marriage to Granby is preposterous. She even doesn't consider Granby's own wishes, which normally the dragons act with great care to their human partners. However, it is not as if Iskierka has ever behaved with sensibility and empathy towards her much chagrined captain. . . She frequently runs right over whatever advice he gives and stubbornly does what she wants, his will or no. But not this time. Granby finally asserts some authority and it's refreshing to finally see Iskierka getting a dose of humility and consideration. Though she is a wonderful dragon, her attitude can be insufferable!

Another conflict pops up as Iskierka attracts attention from a high-placed Incan dragon and there's talk of romance and eggs. Temeraire, consequently with Iskierka being allowed to be their representation to the Inca, gets a healthy helping of jealousy and confronts his irritation and feelings towards Iskierka, who has always wanted to have an egg with Temeraire. We will have to see if anything plays out in this thread in the next novel. (!!)

Speaking of romance, Demane and Emily Roland's affection has been noticed, and Laurence feels a sort of fatherly guilt at letting Emily, who without being the heir to Excidium, should possess a chaperone and proper gentlewoman etiquette. He pays for a chaperone to accompany them, and this is a sort of side farce in itself, as naturally, Roland wants nothing to do with feminine frippery and formalities. (I just love Roland.)

Lastly, the real reason they're in South America -- to stop/negotiate with the Tswana -- doesn't happen until the last quarter of the book. Most of the action is at sea, on an island, and through the Incan territory. I will say, this last bit is resolved with ingenuity though it feels rushed. There is also another former character spotting as the former Mrs. Erasmus pops up when they meet the Tswana.

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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