Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik
- Empire of Ivory
- Naomi Novik
- Temeraire , #4
- Finished reading:
- 5th September, 2021
Might contain spoilers.
It’s hard to bear how the sickness brings low or outright kills so many dragons, particularly the familiar ones. Gong Su once again proves his worth by stimulating the dragons’ appetites. The British plan to spread the disease to all the French dragons is undiluted evil.
The ferals continue to be an engaging bunch. Lord Allendale and Wilberforce pick the wrong moment to try to use Laurence to influence public opinion, considering the tribulations of the dragons. Poor Reverend Erasmus: I dislike evangelicals of all stripes, but he sincerely and fervently tries to make the best of the hand he’s dealt, and he is rewarded with a meaningless, inglorious, quickly-forgotten death by the enemies of the same people who delivered evil unto him in the first place. On the other hand, I don’t understand Mrs. Erasmus. I know she’s meant to represent in some way the trauma of slavery, and to impress with her dignity in the face of all she experiences, but I find her to be something of a blank slate.
I understand that Riley is a good friend whom Laurence dislikes causing pain to. However, their falling out is in essence a disagreement between a person who believes Black people are human and a person who (implicitly) believes they aren’t, and it doesn’t sit well with me when the former feels guilty for hurting the feelings of the latter by disagreeing.
The dragons arguing mathematics that the humans struggle with is most amusing:
Many of these interested the company as little as Laurence had expected, but he was a little astonished in reading a sadly wearing treatise upon geometry to be interrupted by Messoria, who said sleepily, ‘Pray skip ahead a little; we do not need it proven, anyone can tell that it is perfectly correct,’ referring to great circles, and the notion that a curved course rather than a straight was the shortest distance for sailing, which had confused Laurence for a good week when he had been obliged to learn it for the Navy lieutenant’s examination.
Sutton shows a lot of restraint in only beating one of the children of the port with a switch after
dashed in and slapped his hand against Messoria’s side, like a game of tag, and startled
her out of a rare sound sleep. I would have shot him on the spot. Berkley’s not as silly as he
seems, considering how he deals with unhappy fishermen by offering to take them to Maximus himself
to voice their concerns. And Maximus trying to covertly sneak food because he’s tired of cooked meat
In a panic they burst out from the tents to discover Maximus attempting guiltily to sneak back into the parade grounds carrying, in his bloodied jaws, a spare ox. This he hurriedly swallowed down almost entire, on finding himself observed, and then pretended not to know what they were talking about, insisting he had only risen to stretch his legs and settle himself more comfortably. The dusty track of his dragging tail, spotted liberally with blood, led them to a nearby stable now half-collapsed.
Trust Catherine to completely bowl over Laurence with her untroubled frankness about Riley having
fathered her child, right after Laurence had grimly accepted that all the aviators would have to
jointly endure the curiosity of the world. Lily putting her head on the deck to ask her
Mayn’t I? when the minister invites onlookers to express any objections to Catherine and
Riley’s wedding is amusingly sweet.
Dulcia is a redoubtable debater:
‘Pray, how are we to see any mushrooms from the air?’ Chenery said. ‘You shall have a nice rest, and maybe eat something, and we will be back in a trice. We will manage quite well if we meet any lions; we have six guns with us, my dear.’
‘But what if there are seven lions?’ Dulcia said.
It makes sense that some people in this world would think of dragons as mystical creatures whom they are reborn as after death. It’s hardly unreasonable of the Tswana to want all white people dead, either, considering all they’ve been through at the hands of the Western powers, even if their methods seem brutal. One could imagine a different version of this series with them as the protagonists—carrying their own noble lineage and history, having been horrifically abused and exploited by colonizers—who rise up to triumphantly eradicate Cape Town before moving on to liberating the rest of the world.
Volly is a delight:
‘Temrer,’ Volly said happily, and butted him in the shoulder, then immediately cast a wistful eye on the cow.
‘Why, that is very good,’ Temeraire said. ‘When will it hatch?’
‘Novembrer,’ Volly said, delightedly.
Good on Jane for getting her well-deserved promotion. She certainly handles Iskierka cleverly enough. (Hooray for Granby’s captainship! He and Iskierka are sweet together.) Her vaguely amused but quite casual refusal of Laurence’s offer of marriage is amusing (and of course he didn’t understand before why she did certain things every time they were together…). Laurence’s confusion over the process of dragons having sex as opposed to siring eggs is natural and hilarious.
So begin Temeraire’s struggles to get pavilions for the dragons. I suppose it’s no surprise that Lien completely outclasses him in social graces and etiquette.
Next in series: Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik(#5 in Thoughts & Spoilers: Books: Temeraire (2006))