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Empire of Ivory: A Novel of Temeraire
 
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Empire of Ivory: A Novel of Temeraire [Format Kindle]

Naomi Novik
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Chapter 1

Send up another, damn you, send them all up, at once if you have to,” Laurence said savagely to poor Calloway, who did not deserve to be sworn at: the gunner was firing off the flares so quickly his hands were scorched black, skin cracking and peeling to bright red where some powder had spilled onto his fingers; he was not stopping to wipe them clean before setting each flare to the match.

One of the little French dragons darted in again, slashing at Temeraire’s side, and five men fell screaming as a piece of the makeshift carrying-harness unraveled. They vanished at once beyond the lantern-light and were swallowed up in the dark; the long twisted rope of striped silk, a pillaged curtain, unfurled gently in the wind and went billowing down after them, threads trailing from the torn edges. A moan went through the other Prussian soldiers still clinging desperately to the harness, and after it followed a low angry muttering in German.

Any gratitude the soldiers might have felt for their rescue from the siege of Danzig had since been exhausted: three days flying through icy rain, no food but what they had crammed into their pockets in those final desperate moments, no rest but a few hours snatched along a cold and marshy stretch of the Dutch coast, and now this French patrol harrying them all this last endless night. Men so terrified might do anything in a panic; many of them had still their small-arms and swords, and there were more than a hundred of them crammed aboard, to the less than thirty of Temeraire’s own crew.

Laurence swept the sky again with his glass, straining for a glimpse of wings, an answering signal. They were in sight of shore, the night was clear: through his glass he saw the gleam of lights dotting the small harbors all along the Scottish coast, and below heard the steadily increasing roar of the surf. Their flares ought to have been plain to see all the way to Edinburgh; yet no reinforcements had come, not a single courier-beast even to investigate.

“Sir, that’s the last of them,” Calloway said, coughing through the grey smoke that wreathed his head, the flare whistling high and away. The powder-flash went off silently above their heads, casting the white scudding clouds into brilliant relief, reflecting from dragon scales in every direction: Temeraire all in black, the rest in gaudy colors muddied to shades of grey by the lurid blue light. The night was full of their wings: a dozen dragons turning their heads around to look back, their gleaming pupils narrowing; more coming on, all of them laden down with men, and the handful of small French patrol-dragons darting among them.

All seen in the flash of a moment, then the thunderclap crack and rumble sounded, only a little delayed, and the flare dying away drifted into blackness again. Laurence counted ten, and ten again; still there was no answer from the shore.

Emboldened, the French dragon came in once more. Temeraire aimed a swipe which would have knocked the little Pou-de-Ciel flat, but his attempt was very slow, for fear of dislodging any more of his passengers; their small enemy evaded with contemptuous ease and circled away to wait for his next chance.

“Laurence,” Temeraire said, looking round, “where are they all? Victoriatus is in Edinburgh; he at least ought to have come. After all, we helped him, when he was hurt; not that I need help, precisely, against these little dragons,” he added, straightening his neck with a crackle of popping joints, “but it is not very convenient to try and fight while we are carrying so many people.”

This was putting a braver face on the situation than it deserved: they could not very well defend themselves at all, and Temeraire was taking the worst of it, bleeding already from many small gashes along his side and flanks, which the crew could not bandage up, so cramped were they aboard.

“Only keep everyone moving towards the shore,” Laurence said; he had no better answer to give. “I cannot imagine the patrol will pursue us over land,” he added, but doubtfully; he would never have imagined a French patrol could come so near to shore as this, either, without challenge; and how he should manage to disembark a thousand frightened and exhausted men under bombardment he did not like to contemplate.

“I am trying; only they will keep stopping to fight,” Temeraire said wearily, and turned back to his work. Arkady and his rough band of mountain ferals found the small stinging attacks maddening, and they kept trying to turn around mid-air and go after the French patrol-dragons; in their contortions they were flinging off more of the hapless Prussian soldiers than the enemy could ever have accounted for. There was no malice in their carelessness: the wild dragons were unused to men except as the jealous guardians of flocks and herds, and they did not think of their passengers as anything more than an unusual burden; but with malice or none, the men were dying all the same. Temeraire could only prevent them by constant vigilance, and now he was hovering in place over the line of flight, cajoling and hissing by turns, encouraging the others to hurry onwards.

“No, no, Gherni,” Temeraire called out, and dashed forward to swat at the little blue-and-white feral: she had dropped onto the very back of a startled French Chasseur-Vocifère: a courier-beast of scarcely four tons, who could not bear up under even her slight weight and was sinking in the air despite the frantic beating of its wings. Gherni had already fixed her teeth in the French dragon’s neck and was now worrying it back and forth with savage vigor; meanwhile the Prussians clinging to her harness were all but drumming their heels on the heads of the French crew, crammed so tightly not a shot from the French side could fail of killing one of them.

In his efforts to dislodge her, Temeraire was left open, and the Pou-de-Ciel seized the fresh opportunity; this time daring enough to make an attempt at Temeraire’s back. His claws struck so near that Laurence saw the traces of Temeraire’s blood shining black on the curved edges as the French dragon lifted away again; his hand tightened on his pistol, uselessly.

“Oh, let me, let me!” Iskierka was straining furiously against the restraints which kept her lashed down to Temeraire’s back. The infant Kazilik would soon enough be a force to reckon with; as yet, however, scarcely a month out of the shell, she was too young and unpracticed to be a serious danger to anyone besides herself. They had tried as best they could to secure her, with straps and chains and lecturing, but the last she roundly ignored, and though she had been but irregularly fed these last few days, she had added another five feet of length overnight: neither straps nor chains were proving of much use in restraining her.

“Will you hold still, for all love?” Granby said despairingly; he was throwing his own weight against the straps to try and pull her head down. Allen and Harley, the young lookouts stationed on Temeraire’s shoulders, had to go scrambling out of the way to avoid being kicked as Granby was dragged stumbling from side to side by her efforts. Laurence loosened his buckles and climbed to his feet, bracing his heels against the strong ridge of muscle at the base of Temeraire’s neck. He caught Granby by the harness-belt when Iskierka’s thrashing swung him by again, and managed to hold him steady, but all the leather was strung tight as violin strings, trembling with the strain.

“But I can stop him!” she insisted, twisting her head sidelong as she tried to work free. Eager jets of flame were licking out of the sides of her jaws as she tried once again to lunge at the enemy dragon, but their Pou-de-Ciel attacker, small as he was, was still many times her size and too experienced to be frightened off by a little show of fire; he only jeered, backwinging to expose all of his speckled brown belly to her as a target in a gesture of insulting unconcern.

“Oh!” Iskierka coiled herself tightly with rage, the thin spiky protrusions all over her sinuous body jetting steam, and then with a mighty heave she reared herself up on her hindquarters. The straps jerked painfully out of Laurence’s grasp, and involuntarily he caught his hand back to his chest, the numb fingers curling over in reaction. Granby had been dragged into mid-air and was dangling from her thick neck-band, vainly, while she let loose a torrent of flame: thin and yellow-white, so hot the air about it seemed to twist and shrivel away, it made a fierce banner against the night sky.

But the French dragon had cleverly put himself before the wind, coming strong and from the east; now he folded his wings and dropped away, and the blistering flames were blown back against Temeraire’s flank. Temeraire, still scolding Gherni back into the line of flight, uttered a startled cry and jerked away while sparks scattered over the glossy blackness of his hide, perilously close to the carrying-harness of silk and linen and rope.

“Verfluchtes Untier! Wir werden noch alle verbrennen,” one of the Prussian officers yelled hoarsely, pointing at Iskierka, and fumbled with shaking hand in his bandolier for a cartridge.

“Enough there; put up that pistol,” Laurence roared at him through the speaking-trumpet; Lieutenant Ferris and a couple of the topmen hurriedly unlatched their harness-straps and let themselves down to wrestle it out of the officer’s hands. They could only reach the fellow by clambering over the other Prussian soldiers, however, and while too afraid to let go of the harness, the men were obstructing their passage in every other way, thrusting out elbows and hips with abrupt jerks, full of resentment and hostility.

Lieutenant Riggs was giving orders, distantly, towards the rear; “Fire!” he shouted, clear over the incre...

From Publishers Weekly

In Novik's earlier fantasies (His Majesty's Dragon, etc.), readers soared to Europe and Asia on the wings of an intriguing premise: How would the Napoleonic Wars have played out if dragons not only existed, but participated in the war effort? The fourth part of Novik's engrossing answer sweeps readers off to Africa, where the cure to the disease that has decimated England's dragon forces may be found. The African adventures of British captain Will Laurence, his dragon Temeraire and their bedraggled band of aerial corps make up the book's latter half, which showcases Novik's knack for weaving dragons and dragon lore into a vivid, well-researched historical tapestry. In Africa's wild interior, dragons shepherd and feed from elephant caravans while protecting the native villagers. This protection includes waging war against England's slave-seeking colonists, a clash that Laurence and his band may not escape unscathed. Novik fills the conflict's lead-up with lengthy meditations on dragon civil rights and England's abolition movement, making for a fitful, pedantic first half. But most will find the richness of Novik's developing world—and characters—to be worthy compensation for the slow start. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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5.0 étoiles sur 5 hsitoire et fantasy fiction 25 mars 2012
Format:Poche|Achat vérifié
J'ai eu ce livre par hasard et comme j'ai beaucoup aimé ce mélange d'histoire et de dragons, j'ai commandé les premiers volumes, à lire par des adultes et des enfants..
tout se passe pendant la période du premier empire français et la guerre avec l'Angleterre (vu du côté anglais) tout ceci avec de puissants et intelligents dragons.. on aurait rêvé qu'ils aient vraiment existé et pourquoi pas ??
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Amazon.com: 4.3 étoiles sur 5  112 commentaires
50 internautes sur 53 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A journey into the unknown heart of Africa, with startling results. 29 septembre 2007
Par Rebecca Huston - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Poche|Achat vérifié
I must admit, I haven't been this thrilled over a fantasy series since, oh, it must be the early 1990's. But ever since the first book in Naomi Novik's series about an alternate Earth where the Napoleonic Wars have taken to the skies, I've been hooked. Enough to where I dived right into the latest release as soon as it landed on my doorstep (after, of course, finishing what I had in hand first).

I simply had to know what happened next!

Picking right up where Black Powder War left off, this novel opens with a literal bang, as Temeraire with the pack of feral dragons are fighting off a French raiding party off the coast of Scotland. After a year abroad dealing with wandering in deserts, thrust into the middle of a battle with Napoleon, and discovering a foe that is more than a match for Temeraire, all that the dragon and his gallant companion, Captain Will Laurence are looking for is a well-earned rest.

But dire news is awaiting them on the ground. A mysterious illness has swept through the coverts of England and Scotland, striking down dragons and their crews alike. Only a few have managed to survive, and worst still, if the French were to discover that England is virtually undefended, all could be lost. Temeraire is fortunate enough to be unaffected by the disease, but even a Celestial dragon can't protect all of Britain...

Now with several old friends, Temeraire and Laurence are off to Africa to find an elusive cure in a desperate bid against time. Arriving in Capetown, in southern Africa, isn't without a few twists either -- Laurence discovers that his friendship with the new Captain of the Allegiance is shattered beyond repair when an African freedman and his family join them, with an intent to be missionaries. Other complications are in store as well, as Laurence finds himself questioning the role of colonialism and slavery, scattered among the hunt for the elusive cure.

But once they find that vital ingredient, trouble decends quickly as Laurence, Catherine Harcourt, Emily Roland and the others find out that Africa isn't nearly as primitive as they think. A fabulous kingdom lays in its heart, protected by dragons who have forged a unique bond with their people, and other surprises await.

New characters are introduced as well, and one that I enjoyed in particular is Mrs. Erasmus, the missionary's wife, who is to play quite a role in the upcoming story. Intriguing too are the two young boys that Laurence and Temeraire encounter as well with their very talented dog. It's a feature that I like about Novik's story so far, that she can take our preconcieved notions and twist them entirely into something new, without making it all too unbelievable.

She also isn't shy about showing bigotry and racism in all of their ugly twists. While happily, she doesn't dwell overly long on this, they do play an important part in the story, and when the novel builds to the climax where Laurence is questioning the morality of his superiors, the reader is going to find themselves wondering how all of this is going to be resolved. What this does, naturally, is to make the characters of Laurence and Temeraire all the more interesting, and keeps them from the trap that engulfs too many novelists -- that of making their heroes a touch too perfect.

By gum, I love it when authors get gutsy and daring with their work. The only real downside to this story is that I'm going to have to wait until 2008 when the next novel is due to be released. And I suspect that I'm not going to be the only reader left wondering what will happen next. For those who like their adventure novels to be packed full of thrills and a breakneck pace, this is one that you can really sink your teeth into. Be warned that several scenes in this novel are rather brutal in the content, and Novik isn't shy about character death either. I also urge the reader to go back and read the series in order if they haven't yet -- there isn't any sort of synopsis or guide, and a great deal of the interplay and knowledge relies on what happens in the first three books.

Four and half stars, boldly rounded up to five.

Heartily recommended.
20 internautes sur 22 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Great continuation of the series 16 octobre 2007
Par Mfitz... - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Poche|Achat vérifié
I have really enjoyed this series, and I liked this book a great deal. It ends with one heck of a cliffhanger. It has been taking a lot of hits in reviews because of that, and I have to admit my reaction when I got to the end was "How long am I going to have to wait to find out what happens?" But - don't let the cliffhanger keep you from snapping up this book.

One of the things I have liked best about the series is Temeraire's personality. He's altruistic and childish, brilliant and naive, in equal measures and very straightforward, never hesitating to speak his mind when he thinks some wrong needs to be righted. He thinks people should pay attention to his arguments because they are Right, not because he's a dragon the size of a battleship who could do them considerable harm if they cross him. A major sub-plot running through all the books is the maturing of his understanding of how the world works, and how to make changes in a world that's not perfect. It's both a loss of innocence and a coming of age thing and Novik does a nice job of handling it.

Will Laurence, on the other hand, is a mature Naval Officer when we meet him. He's not jaded, but he's seen the way the world really works, which is different than the way it should work, and just accepts that difference as a fact of life. He is a good person, but very much a man of his time, and there are some things he just does not question. Temeraire's idealism has been breaking down some of his assumptions about the way the world should be, and the power people have to changes things, from the very start of their friendship. That comes to a head at the end of the book, which is what leads to the cliffhanger.

Because of the major psychological jump Laurence makes at the end of the book, the cliffhanger is the perfectly correct emotional break point for the plot.

Am I steamed I have to wait to find out what happens- Yes.
Do I think the cliffhanger ruins the book - Not at all.
6 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Tremendous Letdown 25 novembre 2009
Par David R. Glier - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Poche
In Empire of Ivory, the author starts using dragons as a vehicle for early 19th century social criticism and the book falls flat.

Novik is falling prey to her own fiction. In her first book she whipped up a race of speaking beasts set in the Napoleonic Wars; belatedly she realized having another sapient race on the planet might make for some social changes. Up until this point, the Temeraire books had been more or less-parallel to our own history -with dragons.
In Empire of Ivory, however, she regresses into vilifying the British for the practice of Slavery (which she rewrites them into NOT abolishing in 1807) and for their senseless cruelty to dragons, and idolizes the enlightened China she has created. Napoleon's France, too, is now rewritten as a force for social equity! (nb: in actuality, he *revived* slavery, which had been abolished in the Revolution)

In the effort to discover a cure for a mysterious plague, the English discover a *completely* unknown, continent-spanning African Empire, ruled by a dragons -a sort of cross between Shaka's Zulu Kingdom and Mahdist Sudan set in the Congo. And, surprise, they're angry about the slave trade!
Now, I have a particular problem with the fictional Africans being -at the same time!- portrayed as a force of social justice both morally superior and more socially enlightened than the English, while ALSO being willfully close-minded murderers. More practically, if a kingdom were powerful enough to destroy EVERY white city from South Africa to Nigeria, how on earth was it unknown to the world? And how did it fall victim to the slave trade in the first place?
While it started out fascinating, the gaping plot holes and poor planning eventually boggled the mind.

The ending of the book is predictable, disgusting and pointless. Or rather, it is the inevitable result of the plot, but it is disgusting and pointless that the plot should have led in that direction. Nothing is resolved by the end of the book, and the reader is left dissatisfied with a sour taste in the mouth. Yes, I want to read more, but only so I can forget how horrible *this* book was.
6 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The Dragon Riders of Britannia Return! 8 octobre 2007
Par Mark R. Whittington - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Poche|Achat vérifié
Empire of Ivory is the latest volume of what is informally called "the Dragon Riders of Britannia" and, like the previous three, is a joy to read. The premise of the series is that dragons exist and coexist with humans. It is the height of the Napoleonic Wars and the great battles which are fought on land and sea are also fought in the air with each combatant nation deploying squadrons of dragons.

The changes that have been wrought are subtle, mainly having to do with dragons being a great equalizer between European countries and countries, such as China, which fell under European domination in our time line. For instance, the history of the slave trade takes an unexpected turn when an African kingdom shows up with its own dragons. There is reference to an Incan country, apparently unmolested by the Spaniards.

The great dragon Temeraire and his rider, Captain Will Laurence (a man with a far greater social consciousness than Hornblower or Aubrey), are faced with a crisis as a mysterious plague sweeps through the dragons upon which Britain depends for her defense. Their quest for a cure takes them to unexpected places, but in geography and in the human (and dragon) heart. Meanwhile, Napoleon and his undefeated legions await across the Channel.

There's loads of historical detail, with appearances by such people as Admiral Nelson (having survived Trafalgar) and the great reformer Wilberforce. The story, with the before mentioned cliffhanger, makes one aching for the next volume.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 New developments in the series give it even more depth -- goes beyond fantasy 1 novembre 2007
Par Nathan Andersen - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Poche
I read and enjoyed the preceding novels in the Temeraire series, but as the third one drew to a close I was starting to lose enthusiasm. This new and exciting volume in the series brought me back, and I'm eagerly anticipating the next one.

In the third volume of the series, the Napoleonic war and endless military action was increasingly dominating the story over the things that I found more interesting: the speculative history, in a parallel world where dragons existed; the education of a young dragon and his growing awareness of the injustice of his own situation; the parallels between slavery and the condition of dragons; the through and engaging presentation of the culture and manners and assumptions of the period. The battles are exciting but, at least for me, I was finding them a bit too much: like the descriptions of actual Quidditch matches in the Harry Potter series (that J.K. Rowling thankfully relegated to the background in the last few books) -- the first few are exciting but after a while I begin to feel I just want to know the outcome and move on with the story ... I know I may be in the minority on both of these fronts.

In any case, the latest edition has a lot more of exactly what I like from the series. A mysterious illness draws Temeraire and crew back to Africa for a longer and more dangerous visit, and along the way Temeraire's growing awareness of social and political matters forces Laurence to become more circumspect, to take a stand on issues about which he would prefer neutrality, and it gets him into heaps of trouble. British expansionism, and nationalistic appeals for unjust practices and military tactics, are seen as not the obvious goods they were sometimes taken to be. Slavery, sexism, colonialism, are all brought up as themes to be questioned in the course of the story -- and done so lightly and masterfully, similar to the ways in which J.K. Rowling deals with similar themes, and not with a heavy handed or moralizing approach that might be taken by lesser writers. I like novels to raise issues, but I don't like to be preached to by novelists, and Naomi Novik raises a wide range of issues in this novel without preaching and without losing track of an engaging set of events. This is definitely five star fantasy. I can't wait for the next one -- and given the dramatic ending of this volume the next one promises to begin in the thick of things.
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