Cameron's Reviews > Empire of Ivory

Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik
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Apr 25, 12

really liked it
bookshelves: reviewed
Read from April 17 to 23, 2012

Empire of Ivory is the most focused on telling a personal story and the least focused on large scale action scenes when put up against its predecessors in this series. This is good, as while this series hasn't struggled with making the story feel intimate as of yet, there was still some room for improvement (though not much). This is also bad though, as the improved intimacy seems to have come at the cost of some of the epic action that I love about this series. Despite that, though, the book still holds up under the pressure of its imaginative and exciting forerunners rather well.

Thematically similar to Throne of Jade, the fourth installment of the Temeraire series concentrates on civil liberties, but to a much larger extent than before. Both the treatment of dragons and actual human slaves are a large focal point of the novel. In addition, marriage, gender roles, family structure, honor, and loyalty are all commented on within the book's pages. This book has a lot to say, but it doesn't get bogged down with doing so. Nothing is forced, nor does any message or comment feel out of place. The story keeps moving forward, with all of these aspects natural consequences of the circumstances. It gives the book meaning, without making it seem heavy handed.

As for the story itself, a contagion is wreaking havoc among His Majesty's Aeriel Corp, putting to rest many dragons and leaving Britain vulnerable to attack or invasion. Laurence and the seemingly immune Temeraire, being the only two of the corp fit to do anything, are off to find a cure. This brings them into contact with fierce feral dragons, less than hospitable African tribes, and a rapidly depleting time limit. While the action here isn't nearly of the same scale as in the previous novels, that doesn't mean that it isn't entertaining. Action scenes are well constructed and exciting, if lacking in the creativity Novik has shown in the past, and the ever-present threat of the disease adds a sense of urgency to every page which really keeps things moving.

The only major downside to this book is that it all feels like setup. Things are accomplished, yes, but it all feels very minor and in service to some large build up that there won't be a payoff for. Not in this novel, at least. The cliffhanger ending pretty much cements that feeling and confirms that you'll have to buy the next book to feel like anything significant was accomplished. I was going to buy the next one anyway, but it's still disappointing.

The Temeraire series continues to deliver rock solid entertainment and the weaknesses this entry possesses are forgivable when placed next to its strengths. The leading duo are a joy to read about as usual, and the book's story almost never drags throughout it's duration, something I feel the previous novels struggle with. Empire of Ivory is a great novel just shy of 5 star territory. Easily recommendable.
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