Naomi Novik


Wyrd and Wonder is a month-long celebration of all things fantasy hosted by Lisa, Imyril, and Jorie. The list of daily prompts can be found here.

One of the main reasons of why I love fantasy are the wonderful unreal locations, the more different from my life, the better. I do also read books set in generic Medieval settings or modern urban cities but I always prefer more exotic locations. Oh, and except for Cogman’s series, all of them are complete.

Amber by Roger Zelazny
First seen in “Nine Princes in Amber”. In this universe, there a just two contrasting real worlds: Amber and Chaos. All other worlds are just reflections of them. So, the people of Amber, more specifically the royal family, can walk anywhere in those other worlds, called the Shadows. The Shadows can be, and are, anything: one world is our modern world, the next a Star Wars type science fiction world. Quite a few are far less developed agrarian worlds. And the characters travel to many of these in just one book. First book: “Nine Princes in Amber”

Discworld by Terry Pratchett
Being a whole world (on the back of a turtle) Discworld, too, has many locations. Perhaps my favorite is the city of Ankh-Morpork which is suspiciously similar to London.
It’s a walled city with the river Ankh running through it. And Pratchett says it so much better:
“A city like Ankh-Morpork was only two meals away from chaos at the best of times.”
“It wasn’t that the city was lawless. It had plenty of laws. It just didn’t offer many opportunities not to break them.”
“Throat took a deep breath of the thick city air. Real air. You would have to go a long way to find air that was realer than Ankh-Morpork air. You could tell just by breathing it that other people had been doing the same thing for thousands of years “
Most Discworld books are stand-alones and they can be read in any order. I love the city watch books (first one: “Guards! Guards!”) and the witches books (first one: “Equal Rites”).

Menzoberranzan by R. A. Salvatore
The vast underground city of the drow, or the dark elves, is led by the Matriarchs of the most powerful families who are also high priestesses of the spider goddess Lolth. They are an evil and cruel race whose city is full of schemers and terrible places.
Not all Drizzt books are set in Menzoberranzan but the Dark Elf trilogy is. It follows Drizzt’s childhood and struggle to escape the city: “Homeland”, “Exile”, and “Sojourn”.

Divine Cities series by Robert Jackson Bennett
In Bennett’s series, divine beings literally lived on the Continent. They influence pretty much everything in the lives of their people. They also enslaved the city without a god to defend it, Saypur. However, 75 years go the people of Saypur rebelled and found a way to killed the divinities. They conquered what was left of the Continent after the divinities died. Now, strange this are happening on the continent again. The series focuses on two cities Bulikov in the first and third book and Voortyashtan in the second book. These are cities where natural laws didn’t apply when their patron gods were alive and when they left, things changed dramatically.
The trilogy is “City of Stairs”, “City of Blades”, and “City of Miracles”.

Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman
Somewhat reminiscent of Amber, this universe has many, many alternate worlds. They have different levels of technology and they’re also on different scales in the chaos/order spectrum. In chaotic worlds, magic is possible and might even be more prominent than science. Chaos is personified by the Fae and order by dragons. They’re powerful and hostile to each other and the Librarians try to stay neutral between them. The Librarians can travel from world to world using their Library which seems to exist in the middle of the worlds.
The first book is “Invisible Library”.

Temeraire series by Naomi Novik
In this world, dragons are huge and used for aerial combat instead of any sorts of airplanes. The Napoleonic wars are still going strong with lots of dragons on both sides. In England, the Dragon Corps are scorned not just by the other military branches but especially by civilians. Most people thing that dragons are just animals to be used, even though they can talk and are clearly intelligent. The dragon characters are great! Also, different cultures view dragons very differently. For example, in China dragons are hugely respected and they’re part of society, unlike in England.
The first book is “His Majesty’s Dragon” (or “Temeraire” in UK).

Seattle in the Clockwork Century series by Cherie Priest
In this world, Seattle is a walled off-city where only the most desperate people live. The city has been tainted by gas which kills people and animates their bodies. The world around it has also changed, but I really enjoyed the claustrophobic Seattle when our heroine Briar Wilks must descent there, to look for her teenaged son. And added bonus is that Briar is a middle-aged heroine, who are still quite rare in fantasy.
The first book is “Boneshaker”.

Chief inspector Chen series by Liz Williams
While this series is set in the future, it has plenty of fantasy elements. Chen is a police officer in Singapore Three and he gets all the cases which have any supernatural elements. Soon enough, he gets a new partner Zhu Irsh, who is a demon from Chinese Hell. The case takes Chen to Hell. Even though most people don’t seem to really believe it, human souls (or at least the souls which lived and died in the Chinese culture because there are hints that European afterlife is somewhat different) go the Heaven or Hell according to how well the surviving members of the family have dealt with the Celestial and the Hellish bureaucracy. If the right permits are signed and offerings made, a soul should go to Heaven. However, it’s also possible to get special visas for a living human to visit Hell. Chen has one so that he can investigate cases.
The first book is “Snake Agent”.

Of course I must end this piece with one of the most weirdly wonderful fantasy worlds ever:
Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Full whimsy and delight, with a dash of more darker tones, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is deservedly a classic.

Oh dear, reminiscing about all this wonderful series, I now want to reread all of them. And I have such a huge stack of TBR books waiting.

The final Temeraire book.

Publication year: 2016
Format: print
Page count: 417 + an excerpt of Uprooted

What can I say? I started reading the series in 2009 lured in by the promise of dragons. And oh boy did this series deliver! I fell in love with Temeraire, Maximus, Excidium, Lily, and their captains. But all good things must come to an end and so it is with this series, too.

If you’ve enjoyed the series so far, I believe the ending won’t disappoint. It had some things which I expected, a few which I didn’t, and it’s bittersweet, much like the series as a whole. In fact, I kind of want to reread it now, knowing where things will lead.

I’m happy with this ending, although I’d love to see more of this world.

The 8th book in the series.


Publication year: 2013
Format: print
Page count: 432
Publisher: Del Ray

William Laurence washes up in a sea shore. He has no idea who he is and how he has gotten there. Fortunately, he’s saved by a local nobleman.

Meanwhile, Laurence’s dragon Temeraire, the dragon transport ship, and the rest of the dragons have problems. Laurence fell overboard during a storm and the ship was damaged. Temeraire wants to go immediately to look of his captain even though the nearest land mass is Japan which doesn’t allow foreigners. However, he has to help with the ship and Iskierka is having their egg and wants Temeraire to make sure it’s safe before he goes.

Back in Japan, Laurence has remembered his name… but doesn’t remember anything about the last eight years. He thinks that he’s still a ship’s captain and dealing with the very suspicious Japanese is difficult. Fortunately, he speaks Chinese and lots of the Japanese speak it, too. Laurence manages to escape but not without help and he meets the local dragons, too.

The book has three parts. The first is set in Japan, the second in China, and the third part returns our favorite dragons to the fight against Napoleon.

The amnesia forces Laurence to take a long hard look at his life and the people around him. This brings quite a lot of angst and slows the pace a lot. However, I quite liked the Japanese dragons and the clash of different sort of honor definitions and rules.

The rest of the book advances the overall plot and the book ends in a cliffhanger. And I have no idea when the next book might come out.

Overall I liked this book a lot. Amnesia plots are a bit hit or miss with me. They can be hilarious (Buffy’s “Tabula Rasa” comes to mind as well as Star Trek TNG “Conundrum”) but can also go very, very wrong. This is in between for me. Not hilarious at all, since it just brought more angst to, well, everyone and it seemed that Laurence is really unsatisfied with his life which is sad. Other things bring to humor to the book, though: Iskierka is jealous of Temeraire’s Chinese lover and it was fun for a few incidents but got old really fast.

The clash between cultures is always interesting and there are several cultures here compared to the British (and each other). Novik also references a few historical incidents which I almost always like.

The first part has a lot of introspection and so it’s pretty slow but the last third makes up with that when the dragons join the war effort again.

The seventh book in the series.

Publication year: 2012
Format: print
Page count: 325
Publisher: Del Ray

Laurence and his Celestial dragon Temeraire have been exiled in disgrace to Australia. After the events in the previous book, they are reconciled to live more or less peacefully there. However, the British government still needs them and Hammond is sent to Australia. It turns out that Napoleon has allied himself with the African Tswana tribe and has sent troops to South-America, too. The French are attacking Brazil (which is held by Britain’s ally Portugal) and there’s a concern that they are making inroads with the Inca. So, Britain sends Laurence and Temeraire to South-America because they have some experience the Tswana. Laurence guesses that the Tswana want to free the slaves which the Portuguese are keeping so he’s unhappy about the order.

Temeraire isn’t happy about following orders anymore but when Hammond reinstates Laurence as a Captain, Temeraire agrees to leave. So, Temeraire, Iskierka, and Kulingile are loaded into the familiar dragon transport ship Allegiance. Unfortunately, they are caught in a mighty storm and Allegiance sinks leaving the three dragons and some of their crews in the middle of sea.

This book is very similar in style to some of the other Temeraire books where we explore new areas of the world. Novik is very good at creating new cultures which have both dragons and humans in them, and I love to read about them. However, readers expecting some resolution with Napoleon’s forces, are going to be disappointed.

I adore the dragons and they are really the highlight this time, too. Temeraire and Iskierka have long been at odds with one another and more recently they’ve apparently developed some attraction to each other. I loved that Iskierka hasn’t become any softer because of it, if anything, she’s more obstinate and annoying than ever, especially to her poor Captain Granby. (I loved what Iskierka was scheming on behalf of her hapless captain!) Of course, both Iskierka and Temeraire are terribly young. In fact, Temeraire is only seven years old currently and Iskierka is a year younger!

I’m happy to continue with the series even though it seems that the next book centers on a trope I don’t much care for.

The sixth book in the Temeraire series.

Publication year: 2010
Page count: 355
Format: print
Publisher: Del Ray

After the events in the previous book, Victory of Eagles, Laurence and Temeraire were sent to Australia. Because of Temeraire, Laurence is treated differently than the other prisoners but almost all of the aviators and the officers resent him, except of Iskierka’s captain Granby, the young boys from Africa, and Laurence’s unofficial ensign Emily Roland.

After a long sea voyage, Temeraire, Iskierka, and the three eggs sent with them have arrived to Sydeny which turns out to be not only a small and shabby town but also under a mutiny. The prisoners have overthrown the current governor and are running the town themselves. The previous governor begs the newcomers to interfere and put him back in charge. However, both Grandy and Laurence refuse without direct orders, and so does the ship’s captain Riley. So, instead the newcomers have to deal with the rebel leaders and the haphazard order of Sydney.

Laurence and Temeraire are both frustrated since they have nothing to do and they hear that the war is escalating. The colony is also hard pressed to feed the huge dragons who have to settle for stringy kangaroos. When one of the rebel leaders suggest that the dragons and their captains might fly on an expedition into the unexplored (by British, at any case) interior of the continent to search for a better land to grow cattle, the dragons and the captains are eager to go. However, that proves to be more dangerous than they expected and not just because of the climate.

Before the expedition leaves, one of the three dragon eggs hatches. Even though the three eggs are thought to be of relatively little value, the Admirals sent some officers whom they thought would make good captains for the hatchlings. One of the officers was Rankin, from the first book, who was a dismal captain to the poor small Levitas. Temeraire objects to him strongly, especially after he learn that Rankin was going to force the hatchling to “choose” him. However, the hatchling chooses Rankin because he’s an earl’s son and rich. The new hatchling calls himself Caesar and complains quite a lot.

Temeraire carries the other two eggs with him during the expedition but the larger one is stolen despite his efforts. Quickly, the journey changes into a rescue operation.

Because the book is set in Australia, most of the familiar Corps characters don’t appear; we just hear from them through letters. Iskierka, Grandy, Tharkey, and the ensigns are the exception. In fact, the young ensigns are the focal point of a couple of sub plots, which I quite enjoyed. Rankin is a disagreeable character which brings needed conflict. He considers only Granby to be something of his social equal and calls Laurence Mr. Laurence quite pointedly. I didn’t know who to fell sorry for: the self-important Rankin or his greedy and selfish dragon. 🙂

Most of the book is devoted to exploring Australia and then to the rescue effort, so there aren’t big battles except at the end. I didn’t mind since I tend to like exploration more, anyway. There were a few things that I thought a bit too convenient, but not enough to really grumble about.

The aviators sometimes cross dragon breeds in order to get a better battle dragons, and I’ve wondered if the crossbreeds are always successful and if they aren’t what’s going to happen to them. The answer seems to be pretty bleak but I guess not really unexpected because the dragons aren’t considered really sentient or at least not human. (And my mind still boggles about the idea that a creature which can not only discuss matters intelligently but also read and write, not to be sentient.)

Laurence, and to some extent Temeraire, are again presented with moral dilemmas: first with the situation with the colony and later with having made friends among people who might become the enemy. Considering, who appallingly Laurence has been treated by Whitehall, I couldn’t blame them if they decided to show Whitehall the finger and settle in China.

This was again pretty different book from the previous ones but I liked it for the change of pace and I’m really curious to see what will come next. However, it ends is such a way that it’s possible to stop reading the series here. There was a mention is acknowledgments that there will be three more books.

The fifth book in the Temeraire-series. It starts again straight from the events at the end of the previous book

At the end of the Empire of Ivory, Temeraire and Laurence became traitors to England. Now, they are paying for it; Temeraire has been confined to the breeding grounds in Wales and is bored while Laurence is a prisoner aboard the warship Goliath.

There’s little to do in the breeding grounds but to sleep, eat, and mate, but Temeraire has decided to be at his best behavior so that the government won’t execute Laurence. None of the other dragons are interested in discussions and it’s very hard to get any news. The only thing the other dragons seem to be interested in, is taking over the nicest caves. But then Temeraire hears that Goliath has been sunk and Laurence with it. The Celestial decides to take matters into his own hands. Clearly, the humans aren’t doing a good job at fighting the French, so Temeraire encourages the other dragons to leave the breeding grounds and fight all by themselves.

As a member of the Aerial Corps, Laurence has met scorn before. But even then he was a member of a tightly knit soldier unit. As a traitor, Laurence is completely on his own. People he doesn’t know, and even some who he does know, insult him and treat him badly. For his part, Laurence feels that he deserves everything and doesn’t even try to defend himself. He knows that he’s only alive because the Admiralty has still some use for Temeraire and even so he could be executed at any moment.

However, soon the Admirals need Laurence as a dragon captain again because the French are moving in force. However, his sentence isn’t forgotten, just delayed.

There’s an interesting mix of old and new characters in the book. Most of the new characters are dragons. We finally meet a dragon who isn’t too keen on fighting and in fact finds it not quite rational. Once again, I also quite enjoyed Iskierka; the rash fire breathing dragon who just wants to fight and win more prizes for herself and her captain. She brings conflict where ever she goes.

Temeraire makes some headway in his quest for more rights to dragons. Many, especially the Admirals, consider it blackmail, though, so it remains to be seen if the rights will stay after war.

This book is rather grimmer than the previous ones. The French invade England and there’s a lot of fighting, some of it rather nasty. Laurence does his duty grimly and without his previous enjoyment. This makes also Temeraire unhappy and the dragon wonders if he has done something wrong. Yet, Novik’s writing style doesn’t change and there are even some comedic moments, such as Temeraire meeting a “dragon scholar” who insists that dragons are no more intelligent than dogs.

I also enjoyed the brief discussion where it was revealed that the treasonous act at the end of the previous book could have been done quietly and without any treason at all. But Laurence is such a noble man that he couldn’t have agreed to sneak around.

Again, there’s a twist at the end which changes the duo’s life and I’m very curious to see what happens next.

Definitely a good continuation to the series.

The fourth book in the Temeraire –series. It starts immediately after the previous book, Black Powder War.

Captain Will Laurence, his dragon Temeraire, and the dragon’s crew have been away from England for a year. Now, they are finally coming back home after their adventures in China. Laurence is expecting rest and seeing his friends in the Aerial Corps again. Temeraire is full of notions of how he’s going to further the lives and fortunes of dragons in England. However, they are attacked by French dragons and see no sign of the English dragons who should have been patrolling.

When they finally return to England, they hear the dreadful news: the dragons have contracted a disease which is likely to kill them in time. Currently, most of them are too weak to patrol and the Corps is desperately trying to keep the knowledge from the French who are likely to invade the moment they hear about it. The doctors haven’t found a cure and the best they can do is to quarantine the sick dragons.

However, soon the doctors notice that Temeraire seems to be immune to the disease. It might be something he encountered in Africa on his way to China. So, a ship is made ready, and Temeraire and a number of dragons are sent hastily to Africa in the meager hope that they might find a cure.

I have to admit that I liked this one best of the series so far. I loved the return of old friends from the first book and the twist that sent them all together to a new continent. Temeraire and Laurence are as entertaining as ever and there’s social commentary on slavery, sexism, and racism. The sexism is very obvious because one of the female dragon captains has been promoted to an admiral and the old boys’ club don’t know how to deal with that. However, I was surprised to notice that when Temeraire talks about having dragons sit in Parliament, nobody has pointed out to him that the English exclude half of their own people from the decision making, and so are unlikely to let non-humans in.

The African adventures center at first around searching for the medicine but escalate later when the team finds a culture they haven’t known about before. I’m not entirely convinced that the culture in question could have stayed hidden so long, but I’m willing to suspend my disbelief this time.

There’s a great tension between Laurence and the ship’s captain Riley over slavery. Laurence is against it (as is his father) and Riley’s family owns a plantation. The other characters are surprisingly non-vocal about it, though. Except for Temeraire who is also against slavery.

There’ a great twist near the end and a cliffhanger ending. So, I ended up downloading the next book almost immediately. Ah, moral dilemmas!

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