Empire of Ivory (Temeraire #4) by Naomi Novik
Finally, Laurence & Temeraire and company have arrived home after more than a year away. Also in tow are the feral dragons, Tharkay, the rescued Huguenots and the baby dragon, Iskierka. The home front has markedly changed though and not for the good. Temeraire’s fellow dragons that were left behind in England have been hit by an epidemic, some kind of dragon consumption. The consumption has killed some and left others badly weakened, one of which is Maximus, who will not last much longer without a cure. Also of consequence is the fact that England is desperately trying to keep Bonaparte from getting wind of the dragons’ sickness. Laurence is also quite interested to see that his father’s political friends are beginning the parliamentary campaign to abolish slavery. Somewhat to his consternation, Laurence also finds that his foreign adoption has been a bit embellished and he is somewhat of a celebrity.
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The side issues in Black Powder War have now been brought to the forefront. Temeraire is still in a huff that the dragons in England are not treated with the same reverence as the dragons in China. He despairs of a return to the boredom of patrolling the English Channel, especially in the company of the feral dragons that Tharkay recruited, as they have been behaving badly. They desperately need Tharkay’s help in settling the feral dragons into the Corps, but with the other dragons sick they also need him to return to Turkestan and bring more feral dragons to Her Majesty’s service. Granby has his hands full with Iskierka, the baby dragon, who is quite a little hothead and hard to keep a handle on! Temeraire doesn’t need to worry about boredom for very long though. Laurence and Temeraire are sent to Capetown to seek a cure for the dragon sickness. Once in Africa, they run afoul of a tribal king and things will only get worse from there. They also bear up-close witness to the harrowing plight of the indigenous people as they are kidnapped by white men and forced into slavery.
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I still think this is a great series for kids. They will get to explore the world through the eyes of dragons and learn some history as they read along. Each book is an adventure. That being said, there are spots where I feel this series needs to be revved up a notch. I feel a little as if I’m on repeat when reviewing these books. The author covers a lot of territory so why does it seem like such slow going when I’m reading? The series has become very formulaic and I still find that I am not as big of fan of Novik as most fantasy readers. This series is good but for me it’s just not great. I must admit that for a small amount of time I had even confused Jane Roland with Catherine Harcourt, so I may have drifted off a bit somewhere along the line. It seems that Roland has become an admiral and Harcourt has been embroiled in a romantic relationship! Luckily, I do like both Will and Temeraire and I was charmed by the first book so I still want to see where this is going. The saving grace in these books is the utter charm of Temeraire which is why the series is named for him I guess! That’s good because I still have five books left to review. I am also hearing rumors that Peter Jackson holds the film rights and I like the idea that with the publication of the 9th book this series does come to an end. Some series just go on too long and I just don’t know if Novik can recapture that feeling of newness the premise had in the first book. I am crossing my fingers that I can be won over more completely.