Tag Archives: dragons

Book Review: Black Powder War (Temeraire #3) by Naomi Novik

5 Apr

BlackPowderWarBlack Powder War picks up where Throne of Jade left off–in China, in the aftermath of the death of Prince Yongxing. As Temeraire and his crew are waiting for favorable winds to carry them home, orders arrive by a curious source to head at once to Istanbul where they are to pick up three valuable dragon eggs purchased by England. After a hasty and dangerous adventure across continents, they arrive in Istanbul to find the British Ambassador is dead and the authorities are none too eager to hand over what is rightfully the property of the British. To top it all, one of the eggs is close to hatching, and the crew must act before it is too late.

I took a bit of a break from Temeraire because to be honest, I wasn’t hugely impressed with the second book. My husband insisted it gets better, though, so for lack of other reading material, I picked up book three and I’m so glad I did! I liked this one even more than the first — same brilliant writing style, same wonderfully drawn characters (plus some new faces), and an even more interesting plot is a recipe for a book that will be thoroughly devoured by anyone who loves dragons as much as I do.

What entertains me most about these books is the diverse personalities of the dragons, of course, which I think is what got me down about Throne of Jade — for most of the book we only see Temeraire, and then some stuffy Chinese dragons who aren’t nearly as interesting as their British counterparts. In Black Powder War, we get to meet some ferals for the first time, plus the introduction of a certain fiery dragon who I cannot WAIT to read more about.

Plus, this story was a lot more fast-paced. The journey from China to Istanbul is much quicker and more full of adventure than the ship journey to China from England. And once they get there, there’s all sorts of covert operations they have to get up to–sneaking into harems and all that–and then that’s not the end of it; stealing across the border, they are further delayed, and you can sense the urgency of getting these eggs home in time.

I can’t wait to delve into the next installment. If you haven’t already checked Temeraire out, I suggest you do so!

Book Review: Throne of Jade (Temeraire #2) by Naomi Novik

25 Jan

Throne of JadeWhen Temeraire is summoned to China to help with trade negotiations there, Captain Laurence naturally goes with him. But as the long journey ensues, it becomes clear that Laurence is not the first choice of the Chinese. Threats and assassination attempts, hidden behind a veil of polite ceremony, make Laurence all the more convinced that he and Temeraire need to return home. However, dragons are treated much differently in China than they are in England, and Temeraire might want to stay…

I’ll be honest, I didn’t like this book nearly as much as the first. The writing was as perfectly wonderful as it was before, and I loved the interaction between Temeraire and Laurence and watching their relationship unfold, and I felt immersed in the Napoleonic era, but the plot just didn’t do it for me.

The beginning felt promising: we’re going to China! Except it takes practically a year to get to China, and boy does the book let you know it. China didn’t actually show up until the last third of the book, and so the time spent there was rushed. I would have much rather skipped a lot of time at sea, which bored me a bit anyway, and spent more time discovering things in China. It was so interesting, the differences in the treatment of dragons, and I would have loved to explore those differences more in-depth, with more interactions with these other dragons.

That said, it’s not a bad read and I’m told the remaining books are just as brilliant as the first, so I’ll be continuing the series at some point soon!

Book Review: His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire #1) by Naomi Novik

29 Nov

Temeraire1The Napoleonic Wars are in full swing, with a twist: warriors on valiant dragons patrol the skies, engaging in aerial battles that could determine the outcome of the war. Captain Laurence of the Reliant, one of the ships of the British Royal Navy, never expected the direction his life would take after capturing a French vessel. On board was a dragon egg, and it was ready to hatch. Laurence manages to harness the dragon, which he names Temeraire, and together they must train to fight against the French troops. But training isn’t easy when Napoleon will do anything to make sure his dragon egg returns to him–even if it’s already hatched!

I had seen this book (and the rest of the series) around for several years and never thought to read it because it was an “adult book” and I tend to prefer YA for its typically quick and to-the-point style. But my husband started reading this series shortly before we left for Europe and raved about it, so I thought I’d give it a go and I wasn’t disappointed. Honestly, I’m surprised more of my friends haven’t read this and I highly recommend that they do! First of all, Napoleonic Wars with dragons? Yes, please.

The book does contain quite a bit of history and I feel like the voice was spot-on for the time period. The reader is immersed in the life of the very respectable Captain Laurence and his views will likely make you chuckle from time-to-time with how much he stands on ceremony. The battles are a mix of real and imagined (I mean, some of them kind of have to be–dragons and all that!).

Loved how different areas of the world had different breeds of dragons. Temeraire was easily my favorite character. Dragons in this world can speak straight out of the shell, but that doesn’t mean they have all the answers. Temeraire is a hugely intelligent dragon with the curiosity of a cat, and while some of the topics he chooses to question are rather deep or technical–mathematics, why the sea is not owned by man but land is–others become downright hysterical when posed to upright Laurence. After all, why DO men enjoy whores?

Temeraire and Laurence are explored most thoroughly in this first book, with a wide cast of characters circling around them who I hope are developed more in subsequent books. I’m particularly intrigued by Catherine and the Rolands (because yes, women can ride dragons, too!). I will admit that I was a bit bored by the battle scenes, not because they weren’t well-written, but because that’s my reading style–I love character interaction, not necessarily action. My husband LOVED the battle scenes because that’s what he enjoys. Either way, the battle scenes don’t make up the bulk of the book and it was still thoroughly enjoyable to me. This was a really excellent start to a series and I can’t wait to read the rest. Cal assures me that each one is just as good as the last! Highly recommend to all who enjoy fantasy, and particularly to Dragonriders of Pern fans as there were some similarities.

Did this book catch your interest? Check it out here!

Book Review: The Long Way by Michael Corbin Ray and Therese Vannier

4 Jan

Image**This review is based on a NetGalley e-reader copy of the book, which I received for free in exchange for an honest review.

Chi-Yen lives in war-torn China. Working as a servant in an opium den and brothel, she is determined to escape what seems fated: to become a prostitute like her mother, and serve these foreign men in other ways. Opportunity strikes when she is ordered by a dying man to protect an ornate box at all costs. With Tam Sin-Feng and his master, opium addict Liu Kun, Chi-Yen breaks free of what is expected of her and journeys to America, but not without a few surprises. Unleashing a real, flesh-and-blood dragon, Chi-Yen attracts the attention of Englishman Malvenue, who will stop at nothing to control the beast, even if it means killing whoever crosses his path.

This book is wonderfully written, with nitty gritty descriptions that will plop you straight into 19th century China and Wild West America. The first few pages took my breath away as the authors somehow made this dirty, war-torn Chinese town beautiful. You won’t want for details here, and you will be able to tell that research has gone into this book. The settings are wholly believable, never sugar-coated; the sea voyage from China to California is not an epic adventure but a journey made in horrible conditions and a high chance of death.

Heroine Chi-Yen was refreshing at the start. At twelve years old, she had a realistic view of the world and dealt with blows as they came. Her sarcasm when accepting punishments, her head-strong attitude, ability to see what needs to be done and go after it, her awareness and ability to survive–all of that rounded her into a likable character that will make readers eager to follow her adventures.

With wonderful descriptions and a lovable main character, not to mention the fantastical addition of a dragon, the first half of this book kept me turning pages and wanting to know what happened next. It set up the plot to turn into something epic.

The second half is what knocked a few stars off my review. Suddenly, years passed in just a few sentences. Chi-Yen turned 24. While we get a synopsis of what happened in all those years, she was very much changed, leaving the reader jarred. While we finally get to spend more time with the dragon, the reason for the dragon’s existence, why Chi-Yen was able to hatch it, and why the evil Malvenue wanted it so bad all went unexplained. The plot moved quickly after this, reading more like a summary of events than a full novel, and leaving me wondering what the whole point of the plot actually was. If it was to defeat Malvenue–well, that happened, but again, in a matter of sentences.

Point of view suddenly switched to Malvenue and Sin-Feng, and these switches were in odd places, jumping back in time to account for their version of events after we’d heard about it already from Chi-Yen. 

Basically, the whole second half read like a different book entirely from the first, and while the same feeling of being in 19th century America remained, complete with references to important historical events, it was not as enjoyable and left me with a “meh” sort of feeling about the whole thing. It was like they had too much planned and needed more room to tell the story, but opted instead to cut things out.

There is a reference to a possible sequel at the end, so, all that said, I probably will pick it up when it’s released because I enjoyed the first half of this book immensely. It’s worth a read for that alone, and I’d recommend it to fans of historical fantasy.

Book Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

25 Feb

Days before the dragon Ardmagar is due to arrive to celebrate 40 years of peace, the prince’s headless body is found, and the people suspect a dragon did it. With humans already on edge around dragonkind–even those in their saarantras, or human, state–the death of Prince Rufus creates more problems for the guards whose duty it is to keep the Ardmagar and dragonkind safe. Plots and rumors of assassination attempts abound, quietly dragging Music Mistress Seraphina into the foray.

A young woman wrapped in her own secrets, Seraphina together with Prince Lucian and Princess Glisselda work together to preserve the peace. Facing down dragons, a steely dagger, dancing, and a gossip-hungry governess, Seraphina stumbles through her history, her mind, and the mystery, to come to one conclusion: love is not a disease.

Perhaps one of my more cryptic summaries, but accurate nonetheless. I barely remember reading the back of the book when I found it in a discount bookstore–I picked it up after recognizing the title as something I marked “to-read” on Goodreads–and I loved the reveal of Seraphina’s secret after those first few chapters, not seeing it coming at all.

On my copy of the book, there are two recommendations from authors. One from Christopher Paolini, recommending it as well-written with interesting dragons–an opinion which, my apologies to any fans, I took with a grain of salt given my personal opinion of his books, which isn’t very high. The second was a simple one from Tamora Pierce stating simply, “I love this book!” which is enough for me to purchase any book at all, supposing it’s written in past tense.

Seraphina did not disappoint. I’ve picked up so many books recently that I haven’t had the concentration or will to finish, and this was like a breath of fresh air. Beautifully written with gorgeous descriptions of a wintry, magical castle scene. Sentences about music I could hear as if it played in my ear; luscious gowns, playful balls, the grit and grime of the exiled knights’ cave–all of which I could see quite clearly in my mind’s eye.

I was astounded by the characters’ ability to grow–particularly Princess Glisselda who I hated the first time I met her, and adored by the last page. Lucian and Seraphina herself change, too, but more subtly. I think several of the dragons in their saarantras form were always the same, but they allow a deeper view into their suppressed emotions by the end of the book.

As for plot–the author had me fooled. At least, pretty much. I followed the characters’ every thought, which is probably a pretty silly thing to do, but both Seraphina and Lucian were so rational and so correct for so long that–well, why wouldn’t I believe their hunches? I did have the perpetrator pegged as an accessory rather than a mere annoyance by the latter half of the novel, but still. I’m usually spot on and it excites me when I’m not.

My only real complaint is an issue of what may have been edited-out continuity. I’m not entirely sure Seraphina ever divulged certain information in her teacher, Orma. I’ll leave out the information in question as it’s the result of another sub-plot I think would be more interesting to find out on your own. But I felt this information should have been divulged. At any rate, the secret is out by the end and is mentioned to Orma, who–heavily sedated he might be–didn’t seem to blink an eyelash. Part of me wonders if I missed the revelation somehow–I was interrupted quite a bit around the section where Seraphina makes the discovery–but I thought it needed to be in there a bit more prominently if that was the case. Long, drawn out conversation. If any of you have read it and know what I’m talking about, please leave a comment and let me know if I need to go back and reread.

Realistically, though, that isn’t really part of the main plot, which I felt carried on smoothly, and, like I said, I was surprised by the end of it. This book ranks right up there with Bitterblue and The False Prince for me right now, and I’d recommend it to anyone who’d like something new to read. Luckily, the end is left wide open for a sequel, which I will have my eager hands on the moment it hits the shelves.

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