Tongues of Serpents: Naomi Novik

★★★½

Temeraire: Book VI

Speaking of dragons, it’s been ages since I caught up with Temeraire and his captain Laurence in Naomi Novik’s lovingly-created alternate Napoleonic history. Luckily the library had just the right book at the right time and so I plunged in with gusto. Novik’s novels choose a different part of the world each time, to add variety both to the adventures and to the kinds of creatures we encounter: for this is a world full of dragons, serpents and other strange creatures. And our heroes’ current location is home to some of the strangest creatures even without the blessing of fantasy: as the curtain rises, we find gentleman and dragon newly arrived in Australia, exiled as punishment for their supposed treason. But it’s a sensitive time in the colony and the sudden arrival of two dragons (not to mention three soon-to-hatch eggs) adds a new frisson to the prickly aftermath of the Rum Rebellion.

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Victory of Eagles: Naomi Novik

★★★★

Temeraire: Book V

Last weekend, at the Dorothy Dunnett Day meeting in London, I was chatting to Janet about Temeraire. She mentioned the central ‘moral dilemma’ of the series, which would have an effect on all the books that followed and, at the time, I couldn’t quite remember whether or not I’d reached this point. After all, I read the fourth Temeraire book in April 2014 and quite a lot has happened since then. However, I’d only read the first few pages of Victory of Eagles before I realised, with a jolt, what Janet had been talking about. Of course. The cure…

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Empire of Ivory: Naomi Novik

★★★★

Temeraire: Book IV

Returning to the Temeraire series after a few months’ absence, I’ve been delighted all over again by the combination of old-fashioned adventure and simply beautiful writing. I suspect that the appeal might begin to pall if you read this whole set of books in one go, but when taken at intervals between heavier or grittier books it has the effect of a reviving tonic. It’s impressive to reach the fourth book of a series and still not see any sign of the author’s spirit flagging. If anything, Novik writes with ever greater relish as she expands the boundaries of her world and, with her exquisite command of language, it’s always a pleasure to travel along with her.

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Black Powder War: Naomi Novik

★★★★

Temeraire: Book III

It’s been a long week at work and so I decided it was time for another Temeraire novel. This series has become my comfort reading of choice at the moment, as it so perfectly combines very good writing with spirited adventure. Opening a new Temeraire book is the literary equivalent of curling up with a warm blanket and a cup of tea. This, the third after Temeraire and Throne of Jade, reunites us with our heroes in China as they prepare to begin the long journey back home to England aboard the Allegiance. However, a destructive fire in the ship’s galley before they have even left port, coupled with the arrival of a dogeared but urgent letter from their commander, forces Laurence to change his original plans.

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Temeraire: Naomi Novik

★★★★

Temeraire: Book I

You know, it’s amazing how many different ways you can say, ‘Hornblower with dragons’. You can say it rather dismissively, as I did before actually reading the book, or you can say it with great excitement and added exclamation marks, as I did on finishing it. This was one of those cases where I’d made assumptions about a book beforehand – only to enjoy it much, much more than I’d expected to.

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