Category Archives: Series Challenge

Summer of Series: “A Wizard of Earthsea”

A Wizard of Earthsea (The Earthsea Cycle, #1) A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
For some reason, growing up I never got around to reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s “A Wizard of Earthsea.” Part of it could be that I heard it compared to the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, a series that I couldn’t quite plow my way through, despite multiple attempts as a younger reader. And part of it could have been that I was enamored with the tie-in novels for “Doctor Who” and “Star Trek,” that I never got around to some of the other original stories from the genre.

When ads began running for an “Earthsea” mini-series a few years ago on SciFi, I admit I was tempted to pick up the books, if only so I could say how the movie wasn’t as good as the books. But then I recalled how tedious I’d found “The Dispossessed” and decided against it, writing off the series as probably more of the same.

Finally, years later, I’ve finally got around to the first book of the series. I decided I’d approach it with an open mind, hoping for the best. After all, my favorite Tolkein is the book he wrote targeted for children (“The Hobbit”) so it’s possible that Le Guin could improve when writing a novel and series aimed at young adults and children.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that I came away from “A Wizard of Earthsea” liking Le Guin more than I did when I started. On a positive note, I didn’t find myself not wanting to read her works ever again as I did when I finished “The Dispossessed” and I’m actually curious to read the second installment of the series.

Dury is the son of a bronze-smith whose mother died in childbirth. From an early age, Dury shows an aptitude for magic, training with his aunt, the village witch and then apprenticing with a powerful wizard. In the world of Earthsea, people and things are given one name upon their birth and later given their true name in a coming-of-age ceremony that signals their journey into adulthood. Dury becomes Ged.

As an apprentice, Ged is proud of his magical powers and eager to learn more. He’s a bit impulsive and impatience in the early stages, leading to his leaving his original master and heading out to the school for magic in Roke. He carries with him a letter from his former master saying that he could be one of the greatest wizards of all time. Ged finds out this when he reads the letter to the overseer of the academy who is slowly going blind.

This knowledge leads Ged to become a bit more arrogant in his assumptions about his power. During a duel with a fellow rival, Ged calls up a dark spiri that also brngs a black mass which attacks Ged, scarring him for life. Ged hovers between life and death while the nameless evil shadow roams Earthsea. Ged finally recovers and receives his yew staff, embodying his achievement of magehood.

If you’re worried that I’m revealing a lot of plot details from the book, don’t be. Most of what happens in those paragraphs takes place within the first 40 or so pages of the novel. “Earthsea” is one of those stories that is a blink and you’ll miss it for the plot developments. Le Guin really packs the story in, giving little or no time to readers to catch their breath, despite the fact that large chunks of time are passing during the story.

As Ged heads out into the world, he realizes what he’s done and what he’s called up is something that will haunt and pursue him until he can find a way to defeat it. This leads to Ged going from place to place, trying to avoid the future that is bearing down on him.

“Earthsea” is a coming of age story for Ged. Watching him grow from a prideful young boy into a fearful young man is a fascinating journey as is his decision about what must be done to stop the forces pursuing him. And while Ged is reasonably well developed over the course of the novel, a lot of the other characters aren’t given much time or drop out of the story once their purpose to the plot is complete. It’s a bit frustrating at times or maybe it’s that I’m too used to the current fantasy-writing conventions where every character has his or her own backstory for pages on end, even if it’s not required by the plot. There has to be a reasonable middle ground, doesn’t there?

One interesting aspect to the story is the power that learning the true name of things has. I’ve seen this element in a variety of genre stories and it’s fascinating to see it incorporated here. Ged uses it to bind a dragon and make it agree not to attack a village and the power of knowing the true names of things is a fascinating one. It’s something I hope we’ll explore more in future books.

The problem with the book is the pacing. Le Guin leaps from one plot to the next with little or no time for reflection. I don’t necessarily want to see pages upon pages of Terry Goodkind-like summing up the plot by reflecting on what’s happened until now in the story, but I’d also like to feel like what’s going on is having some kind of greater impact on Ged. We do see him growing and he does change in many ways over the course of the book, but I found myself feeling like the story was too plot dependent by the time I got to the final confrontation. A bit of character work in there would have been welcomed.

However, Le Guin does avoid the temptation to make Ged go through too much of a change over the course of the story. He does learn from his errors and while he becomes more tempered as the story grows along, he still is prone to making the same mistakes. Often times, he gambles on things and he loses as often as he wins. He wins early in the story, holding off an attack on his village but overuses his powers. He also wins in researching the name of the dragon and it pays off. However, he also gambles and is pushed into it by others (it’s interesting to note how Ged is easily persuaded to push his powers by females) and it doesn’t always pay off. His being tricked by the daughter of the village witch and the magical duel are both prime examples.

“A Wizard of Earthsea” is a good book, but not a great one. I wonder if I’d read it at an earlier age if I might have been a bit fonder of it.

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Summer Series Challenge: “An Autumn War”

An Autumn War (Long Price Quartet, #3) An Autumn War by Daniel Abraham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Since the end of “A Betrayal in Winter,” reluctant leader Otah Machi has tried to make some changes in the way the city of Machi is rule. He’s taken only one wife who has given him two children. Otah would like to easily hand off the reigns of leadership to his son, Danat when the time comes, but Danat’s poor health could mean the child will die before that can happen. It would leave a vacuum in the top leadership role and lead to potentially more chaos than when Otah took over the throne.

Things get a bit more complicated with Liat returns to his life with her son Niyat in tow. In spite of claims that Niyatti is the poet Matti’s son, all appearances say he is the son of Otah and could be in line for succession. If Otah chooses to acknowledge him as a son and put him in line for the throne.

As if that weren’t enough, a Galt general by the name of Balasar Gice is stirring up trouble to the north. He has a poet of his own and audacious plan to invade and conquer his neighbors to the south. Balasar plans to remove the security blanket that has kept Galt at bay all these years–the andats. Liat brings news of the troop movements by Balasar and the Galts and while Otah struggles over the decision to use the andats or not to wipe out the Galts, Balasar puts him plan into motion, destroying all the andats and leaving the country open to conquest.

“An Autumn Campaign” is the third installment in Daniel Abraham’s “Long Price Quartet” and it may be the best so far. Abraham takes seeds from each of the first two books and weaves them together into an engrossing story that is rich both in well developed character and an engrossing narrative. The novel is one that finds the pigeons coming home to roost as it were with events and actions from the first two novels having consequences and a major impact on developments here. Abraham also keeps the story interesting by allowing us to see both sides of the coming conflict and lets us understand that while war is brewing, both sides have legitimate claims, fears and grievances in the upcoming battle. It’d be easy to make the Galts one-note bad guys but Abraham avoids this. The first two books found them off-stage a bit, pulling strings and maneuvering politically. Here we spend significant portions of the book getting their world-view and the novel is a richer experience for it.

The disappearance of the andats is a major turning point in the series and leads to another turning point for the series. Maati and his fellow poet struggle to find a way to bind a new andat to reset the balance of power and wipe out the Galts. But what Maati creates and the ramifications of it leave the book on a compelling cliffhanger and open up the door to a fascinating end to the series.

It’s nice to see a series that seems to have a thought-out storyline before the first chapters are committed to paper. As I’ve said before, one of my biggest frustrations with fantasy series is the lack of closure some will have, simply running on for pages and novels on end in an attempt to pad out a series for maximum profit. “The Long Price Quartet” shows the value of having a clearly defined beginning, middle and end to a story and while I’m sure Abraham has some surprises in store for the final book, just like every other surprise he’s thrown in the series so far, they’ll all be well sewn into the story either based on our knowledge of the characters or the established rules of the universe.

Reading “Autumn” I was struck again by how Abraham grounds his fantasy universe in familiar elements of our own. One particular thread that struck me is the mentions of food in the books so far. It’s not a stopping to describe some luxurious and exotic feast. Instead it’s details of the names of food, the sights, smells and tastes of them and having the characters stop to enjoy a meal or wine or tea. It’s seemingly minor, but it has a huge impact in helping the world seem a bit more real and interesting.

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Summer Series Challenge: “A Betrayal in Winter” by Daniel Abraham

A Betrayal in Winter (Long Price Quartet, #2) My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Opening fifteen years after the events of “A Shadow in Summer,” the second installment in the Long Price Quartet opens with the death of one of the Khai’s sons, a signal that the battle for succession among his sons has begun. In Daniel Abraham’s political system, the Khai’s sons all fight and kill each other for the right to take over the throne when their father dies (similar to rising in rank in the classic “Star Trek” episode, ‘Mirror, Mirror’) while the women are either dismissed back to their original home (in the case of the wives) or married off for political gain (in the case of the daughters).

The first death sends two sons into hiding, fearing that it’s their long-lost brother Otah returning from the shadows to inherit the throne. Otah vanished in disgrace but could be mounting a comeback, they fear and they could be the next targets. Maati is sent to the city to investigate the claim and to possibly flush Otah out into the open. Maati is one of the few who would recognize Otah from their dealings in the first novel and is facing a change to win a bit of redemption of his own. His failures in the first novel have left him in disgrace, even to the point of losing Liat.

In many ways, the political maneuvering at the heart of “A Betrayal in Winter” reminded me of the plots within plots of Frank Herbert’s “Dune.” The reader is clued in early on to who is really behind the plot to take out the brothers and seize power and watching as strings are pulled and things begin to unravel because they don’t go according to plan is fascinating. The central schemer is the Khai’s daugher Idaan, who wants to marry for love not just to win political points for her father. To this end, she arranges to maneuver the situation and marry Adrah, the son of a powerful rival political family and one who has powerful connections to forces in a neighboring country. Watching the duo plot and scheme is one of the novel’s more fascinating storylines as is watching the best laid plans of both slowly become more and more complex and complicated. At several points, things don’t go exactly according to plan, leading to some interesting shifts mid-stream to cover their track and assure the intended outcome.

Of course, this puts a strain on their relationship and watching it slowly come unraveled is another fascinating development over the course of the story.

By skipping ahead fifteen years, Abraham has allowed the story, characters and universe of “The Long Price Quartet” to grow, develop and change naturally, while still leaving much of what we came to know about them from the first book in place. Otah wants only to cut all ties with his past, only to once again see his attempts to distance himself from who he was catch up to him with unintended consequences. Maati is also haunted by his failures, but still isn’t willing to compromise on certain things, including his defying orders to return once most of the evidence points to Otah’s involvement in the political maneuverings to take over as Khai. Abraham fills in enough of the details of what the characters have been doing to satisfy readers but leaves out a few other tantalizing details so as to hopefully keep things interesting in the next two installments. (I’m dying to know what happened to Liat and her child after she and Maati went their separate ways.)

As all good sequels should, “A Betrayal in Winter” takes the foundation from the first novel and builds on it, expanding the characters and universe in the series. It’s a story that you could read without having first picked up “Summer” though some of the references would be lost on you and the nuances of the characters might not be there. Again, the story is one that’s self contained but there are seeds of a richer tapestry being developed here and one that continues to intrigue me. It’s a sequel that’s as good if not better than the original and one that sets up some intriguing possibilities for the next installment.

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Summer Series Challenge: “A Shadow in Summer” by Daniel Abraham

A Shadow in Summer (Long Price Quartet, #1) My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“A Shadow in Summer” has been on my to-be-read radar for quite a while now even though I can’t quite recall exactly why I put it on the list. But when Jaws Read Too began her Summer of Series program, I looked over at the first installment in the series, sitting on my to be read pile, mocking me mercilessly and decided it was a good time to commit not only to reading the first book, but also the entire “Long Price Quartet” series as well.

So, I pulled the book out of the pile, cracked open the pages and began to read.

And, again, tried to recall what it was that drew me to the book in the first place. I think part of it was a desire to sample more fantasy novels and to sample series that actually had a chance of being finished sometime within my lifetime.

Reading “A Shadow in Summer,” it appears that Daniel Abraham had not only a plan for this book, but also his entire series. And, thankfully, this is an entry in a series that has a definitive plot arc that is resolved by the end of the book. Yes, there are still some threads left open for future development, but it doesn’t feel like a massive build-up to a cliffhanger or a 300 page preview for book two in the series.

Instead what Abraham has done is set up a remarkably believable world with some well rounded, interesting characters. Yes, there is a magical system at work here, but reading “Summer” I was reminded of Laura Anne Gilman’s “Flesh and Fire” where the magical system was more limited and while there are powerful people within the magical system created here, it can’t always be used as a way to easily get out of a situation (aka the equivalent of the sonic screwdriver on “Doctor Who” where its use is defined by whatever situation the script needs to get the Doctor out of without too much effort). The system is also one that the world we’re reading about is built around and it has implications both positive and negative to all the various players we see inhabiting the book.

In this world, poets are powerful men who can create andats for a specific purpose. The novel includes one called Seedless who can remove the seeds from things, which is vital to the economy of the setting here. The city is dependent on the cotton crop and the ease of removing seeds is necessity for daily life and the economic survival of the city. But the power extends beyond just the removal of seeds from various plants and into the arena of being able to remove an unwanted pregnancy.

And that plot forms the basis for the political maneuvering that drives much of what unfolds in “Summer.” In many ways, the unfolding story is one that can be deceptively slow moving, allowing for the full implications of what’s really going on to slowly occur to the characters involved and the reader. Abraham clearly assumes an intelligence by his reader and doesn’t have page upon page of infodumps that can bog down many of the bigger fantasy names (I’m looking at your Terry Goodkind). He also avoids the habit of excessive recapping of events and having characters ponder what’s gone on before in minuscule detail. The characters do reflect on what’s happen, but it feels more authentic and real than I saw in another fantasy book I plowed my way through last summer that could have been shorter had we not had a recap or a character reflection every ten pages.

Thankfully, the novel is also inhabited by a set of fully realized characters, all of whom you’ll like and dislike to various degrees as the novel progresses. Abraham takes the tactic of having the characters who serve as the antagonists for the story clearly believe that the story is presenting them as heroes and the novel works better for that. And his presentation of characters as having both noble and un-noble qualities is a nice touch.

And, again, it resolves the main storyline of the novel by the time the last page is turned, even though we have some indication of where things could head for the next novel and possibly the rest of the series.

In short, it’s a successful standalone novel and a successful start to an intriguing new series.

If you want to read Jawas review, you can HERE.


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“Crosscut” by Meg Gardiner

In the fourth Evan Dalaney novel, Evan returns to China Lake for her high school reunion and discovers that the death toll among her classmates is unusually high. After two classmates are brutally murdered, Evan suspects something is up and begins to piece together what might be killing her classmates.

It all stems back to a day when the group took a field trip to the local Navy base and were exposed to some kind of experiment. The results are still haunting and affecting the group to this day and it also created a serial killer who is hunting down the people on the trip and slowly eliminating them. Evan is forced to dig into her past to find answers and to try and stop the killer before he or she kills again. And when Evan discovers she’s pregnant, things become even more urgent.

As a check your brain at the door and just enjoy the ride, “Crosscut” works well. But the problems of having a first-person perspective begin to break through as the novel progresses. The story requires that some events unfold outside of Evan’s viewpoint and Meg Gardiner shows us those events. It’s all about upping the suspence quotient, but unfortunately it proves distracting in the novel’s final third. Gardiner is forced to jump between three perspectives in the novel’s final pages and it makes the ending seem a bit forced and overly melodramatic.

But the elements that come before it make it worth enduring some clunky writing in the final pages. The story unfolds at a quick pace that keeps the pages turning and will hook you right in. The overall conspiracy nature of what’s going on is fascinating and done well enough to keep you guessing about certain elements, all the way up to the final revelations.

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Series Challenge: “Jericho Point” by Meg Gardiner

After hitting a series high point with “Mission Canyon,” the Evan Delaney series comes back to earth a bit with the third installment in the series.

After two books to introduce Evan and her world to us, Meg Gardiner puts Evan and readers through the wringer in “Jericho Point.” Evan finds out she’s the victim of identity theft and the lead suspect is her fiancee’s younger brother. Things get messy for Evan when the local loan shark starts calling in a loan made her in name and one of the suspects washes up on the beach, the apparent victim of a murder.

“Jericho Point” starts at a furious pace and never lets up, which may be part of the problem facing the book. We start the story on the run and it takes a few chapters to really figure out who everyone is and how they relate to the mystery plot slowly unfolding in the story. There’s a huge amount of plot thrust on readers in the first fifty pages and while I don’t want to sit around and read a plot summary of the first two books, it would be nice to have a moment or two to get warmed up before events start coming fast and furious.

The book proceeds at a good clip with Evan being put through the wringer both physically and emotionally. Eventually, the elements begin to slowly unravel as the pieces begin to fall into place. Readers are treated to some details before Evan, to both add to the suspense and, in some ways, take away from the driving force of the narrative in the last third of the book. And it’s the last third of the book where the problems really come into play. Things suddenly go into hyperdrive with logic and reason thrown out the window. Yes, the mystery fits together in the end, but there are still some things in the final third of the book that come about simply to service the plot and not actually to move things forward in a natural way. I ended up spending the last third of the book rolling my eyes far too many times and wondering how much more we could pile on before things reached a resolution.

Not a good sign.

I wanted to love this novel a lot more than I did. The first two-thirds are good, the last third will leave you scratching your head.

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Series Challenge: “White Night” by Jim Butcher

The ninth Harry Dresden novel is the series riches and most densely plotted to date–and the first in the series I can’t recommend to someone coming to the series cold.

Not that this is a bad thing.  It’s a great thing for readers of the Dresden Files.  While Jim Butcher does deliver payoffs and resolutions in his previous eight books, here in “White Night” he steps that up a notch, bringing back old friends and enemies to Harry Dresden’s world all while building on several key plotlines from the last several novels as the war between the various supernatural factions begins to reach a boiling point and Harry Dresden is, once again, at the center of it all.

If you’re coming into this cold, you’ll be thorougly confused.  If you’ve read the previous eight books, you’re probably going to eat this up with a spoon, eagerly turning the pages, waiting for the next development to hit. 

Murphy calls Harry in on a case that may or may not have supernatural undercurrents.  Harry discovers a message that only he could find and begins to look into a series of similar deaths.   Finding the same message, hidden in the same way, Harry suspects a serial killer is on the loose in the supernatural community.  The problem: the number one suspect is his half-brother Thomas. 

Harry is convinced Thomas isn’t the killer, but the evidence is pretty damning.  Harry begins to pull at the threads and uncovers someone or something targeting women of a Wiccan order.  They’ve already asked for help from Harry’s first love, Elaine, who is now a private eye in Los Angeles who investigates the supernatural.  

All of this we find in the first hundred or so pages and that’s just when it gets interesting.  Butcher weaves together a complex, fascinating story with Harry firmly at the center, trying to find the pieces of the puzzle and prove the innocence of his half-brother.   In the midst of al this, we learn about the politics of the current battle between the Red Court and the White Council and how Harry fits into a plan to possibly tip the balance.  Along the way, we meet old enemies and have call backs to the first novel in the series.   

About the only thing I found frustrating about this novel is that in the last book, Harry determined a secret group was plotting within the power ranks of the White Council.  And while this development is brought up, we never get any movement toward discovering who or what is behind this and what their agenda is.   I realize that Butcher may be setting up some things for future installments, but a revelation this big seems a bit difficult to only pay lip service to in the story.

But that’s the only detraction I can find in this superb entry in the Dresden series.  Butcher keeps getting better and better, continuing to keep the Dresden Files as one of the must reads on my bookshelf.

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Series Challenge: “Proven Guilty” by Jim Butcher

The eighth novel in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files centers around scary things happening at a horror covention–and no, I don’t just mean the con-funk from devotees who don’t bathe for several days.

Harry is pulled into an investigation of strange monsters attacking people around town, all of it centering at the local horror convention. The setting allows Butcher to lovingly poke fun at fan conventions but also to pay homage to them.

Before you know it, Harry’s on the track of greater conspiracies and the situation is a lot more deadly and dangerous than it would at first appear. Or to put it another way–just another day in the life of Harry Dresden.

After the previous installment of the Dresden Files proved a bit of a disappoinment (it felt stretched a bit for a larger page count), Jim Butcher returns to form with the longest Dresden Files novels so far and the most densely packed and plotted. But, as always, he keeps the novel and its allusions accessible to new readers while rewarding long time fans of this superbly done series. Add to it Harry’s growing suspicions about the war between various supernatural forces, some hints about the past and some shocking implications for the future of the series and you’ve got one of the best novels in what I consider to be the best currently running fantasy series on the market today.

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Series Challenge: Dead Beat by Jim Butcher

Harry Dresden’s universe keeps expanding with the seventh installment of The Dresden Files, “Dead Beat.”  I read somewhere that Jim Butcher takes a lot of joy in putting his hero through the wringer and no where is that more true than in this book.  Harry is beaten up physically and emotionally over the course of a novel that expands the on-going conflict between the Red and White councils, puts Harry at the center of a conflict to bring forth a god-like being and pushes some of the on-going plotlines of the series forward in an interesting fashion.

Harry’s hired to find a lost book.  Well, maybe hired is the wrong word.  More like blackmailed in order to keep his friend, Karin Murphy out of trouble.  Harry agrees, not realizing what he’s getting himself into.  Things quickly go from bad to worse for Dresden as the story unfolds. 

“Dead Beat” finds Dresden become more world-weary from his battles with various demons, mosnters and villians, but he’s still the same guy we met back in “Storm Front.”  He’s a good man, trying to make the right choices, no matter how tempting the lure of the dark path might be.  The story is an epic, sweeping one that will draw you in from the first page and keep the pages turning until the last one is done.  Then, you’ll be eager and anxious for the next installment, especially give some of the series-changing events that happen here.

And while it’s good, I didn’t find “Dead Beat” as great as the last several installments of the series. Part of that may be that missing elements of Murphy, who is off in Hawaii during these events. 

That said, this is still the best fantasy series in print today and well worth the time.


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To Be Read Challenge June books

Star Trek: Titan – Sword of Damocles by Geoffrey Thorne

Star Trek novels used to be about whatever crew you were reading about showing up at a planet, finding something wacky and then spending the novel solving whatever crisis they stumbled across.   You could jump in and out of the Trek novels without much knowledge of prior events beyond which characters you were reading about this week.  Rarely did the novels build on one another and create some type of overall cohesive storyline or continuity.

Then came New Frontier and changed the equation.  Now it seems as if every Trek novels wants to tie-in to either an on-going series or the entire novel line as a whole.  And as with all things Trek, there are some that do it well (New Frontier, DS9) and some that just don’t quite spark my interest (Voyager).  Somewhere in the middle are the voyages of the Titan, a spin-off from Next Generation featuring the adventures of Captain William T. Riker and his crew.  The Titan is an explortion vessel and after spending the first three books dealing with the fall-out of Nemesis, “Sword of Damocles” finally feels as if it’s the first official stand-alone episode of this new series.

Not that you can’t or shouldn’t have read the first three to get everything that’s going on here.  There are some subplots that will be richer if you know the background, but on the whole this is the first truly independent Titan novel and the best of the series to date.  The Titan explores a region of space that disrupts the ability to generate a warp bubble and power the ship. Finding a nearby planet is the culprit, Titan sends a shuttle (they work out some technobabble way to get there) to investigate and ask the planet’s inhabitants to cease their experiments in order to allow the ship to go free.  The storyline opens up some real-world implications in the application of the Prime Directive that are far more compelling than a lot of the standard Trek episodes that look at if a captain and ship have the right to interfere or not.  The argument that it’s a nice policy until it bites you out on the frontier is fascinating.

The story does involve time travel, paradoxes and the notion of fate and destiny.  However, in a story that could easily have been muddles under the weight of its various eras, paradoxes and solutions, the story stays straight-forward and it’s easy to figure out where the characters are and what is happening.  The only bad part is that solution becomes fairly evident early on in the crisis and plays out pretty much as you’d expect for a Trek novel.

That’s not say it’s a bad thing. There’s a comfort in the obvious solutions of Trek novels at times and this one is no exception.

Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik

The fourth installment in the Temeraire series starts off slowly but ends with a bang and on a cliffhanger than almost made me glad I waited so long to read this one. (The fifth installment hits bookstores next week).

Lawrence and Temeraire reutrn from China to find Britian’s dragon population suffering a terrible plague that is weakening and threatening to kill them.  The problem is complicated by Napolean’s attempts and threats to cross the channel and invade the heart of the British Empire.  

Temeraire, back from China and having seen the attitude show toward dragons there, comes back wanting to generate more respect for his dragon brothers and sisters.  Lawrence’s family induces him to use his new-found celebrity becuase of his work with Temeraire to become the front man for an anti-slavery movement with the British empire.  Lawrence is not happy about this and only reluctantly agrees, seeing that the way the slaves are treated is much as how dragons are treated in his own country.

Temeraire is immune to the disease, leading to the hope that the African contintent contains a cure.  Lawrence lead an expedition to find a cure and save the British fleet before Napolean invades.

And that’s just the first half of the story.  The first half of the novel seems a bit slow until you get to the second half and Novik begins reap what she’s sown in the first half of the story.  The last half of this book flew by in one sitting as Lawrence and Temeraire are forced to make a series of choices based on their conscience, leading to a lot of jaw-dropping moments and a genuine series-changing decision in the final hundred or so page.  The book also ends on a cliffhanger, which Novik says was just where the story told her to stop and wasn’t an attempt to sell more of her next story.   I believe her because the central conflict of this story is over and to rush the consequences of decisions made here would be to short-change readers and fans.

It does, however, make for one of the best cliffhangers to a book I’ve read in a long time.

After two novels that while good, weren’t quite as great as His Majesty’s Dragon, Empire of Ivory is a return to form for this series. 


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