Top positive review
Africa, Here Comes Temeraire!
Reviewed in the United States on August 5, 2019
Empire of Ivory, Naomi Novik’s fourth book in His Majesty’s Dragon series, takes place where The Black Powder Wars left off.
The focus of the series is fighting Napoleon and his push to dominate all of Europe. The first three books also addressed the undercurrents of slavery and the treatment of Dragons. These two elements are present like a nagging wound, festering in the background.
Although Novik begins to veer away from history in this book, she manages to add historical events as they happened in Laurence’s timeline. For example, the war continues and parliament debates and passes an anti-slavery bill. When Laurence and Temeraire go to Africa (1807), they encounter abolitionists. Temeraire continues his uphill battle for dragons rights.
This book brings these things to a head and forces Laurence to make difficult decisions.
As always, I love these characters.
Jane Roland, Laurence’s love interest, is now Admiral at Dover. She’s a marvelous character. There aren’t many women in this story, but they are all strong and capable women. Jane is one of my favorites. She would do perfectly fine in the 21st century.
Laurence is shocked by her advancement but quickly recovers. The Admiralty appointed her because there was no one else. She turns out to be perfect for the job.
Tharkay, who was introduced in the last book, becomes more likable. I was on the fence about him before, but I’m squarely on his side now.
Iskierka, the dragon who hatched in Black Powder Wars, continues to be one of my favorite characters. She breathes fire, has an aggressive, demanding personality, and enough self-confidence for ten dragons. She continues to be a thorn in Temeraire’s side, which is always amusing.
It’s difficult to talk about the plot and not give away major parts of the story. There are a few things I can say.
Laurance and Temeraire do see action against Napoleons forces.
In Africa, they’ve been commissioned to find a cure for a disease that his killing dragons.
The plot is gripping and had me so involved in the story that I finished the book in record time. There were some nights of reading into the wee hours.
I found this book the most interesting so far. Novik is a master at blending the culture of the time into the story. She also unfolds several storylines that are related yet separate.
Jane works diligently to establish her place in a man’s world while fighting her superiors for every small forward progress. Laurence, raised by an abolitionist father, dislikes slavery. At every turn in this story, he encounters slavery, it’s results, and those fighting to end the bondage.
The Dragons have serious problems, and in many ways, they are little more than slaves themselves.
All these events come together and culminate when Laurence has to make a moral choice that has far-reaching effects for him and Temeraire.
I cheer him for making the right decision, but the price he has to pay breaks my heart.