His Majesty’s Service (Temeraire #1-3) by Naomi Novik

This is an omnibus edition of the first three novels in Novik’s Temeraire series. 

Summary: Together in one volume, here are the first three novels in Naomi Novik’s New York Times bestselling Temeraire series, combining the gripping history of the Napoleonic era, the thrill of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern books, and the excitement of Patrick O’Brian’s seafaring adventures. In His Majesty’s Service also includes an exclusive original Temeraire short story.

Capt. Will Laurence is serving with honor in the British Navy when his ship captures a French frigate harboring most a unusual cargo–an incalculably valuable dragon egg. When the egg hatches, Laurence unexpectedly becomes the master of the young dragon Temeraire and finds himself on an extraordinary journey that will shatter his orderly, respectable life and alter the course of his nation’s history.

Thrust into England’s Aerial Corps, Laurence and Temeraire undergo rigorous training while staving off French forces intent on breaching British soil. But the pair has more than France to contend with when China learns that an imperial dragon intended for Napoleon–Temeraire himself– has fallen into British hands. The emperor summons the new pilot and his dragon to the Far East, a long voyage fraught with peril and intrigue. From England’s shores to China’s palaces, from the Silk Road’s outer limits to the embattled borders of Prussia and Poland, Laurence and Temeraire must defend their partnership and their country from powerful adversaries around the globe. But can they succeed against the massed forces of Bonaparte’s implacable army?

My Thoughts: I have been a big fan of this series ever since the first book came out a few years ago. Novik writes in a very unique and perfectly suitable-to-the-time-period kind of style. Dragons in the Napoleonic wars! Amazing idea. Really unique. Very fun and original story. Novik has become one of my favorite authors.

The first book was my favorite. In the rest of the series Temeraire and Laurence travel all over the world–each book sort of has a “focus”. They go to China in the second novel, and then to Turkey in the third. They also visit (for various plot-related reasons) the African continent as well as Australia.

Author Website (and excerpt from the first book in the series): http://www.temeraire.org/in-his-majestys-service/#reviews

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Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn

I will admit that I never picked up Vaughn’s more well-known Kitty Norville books because all the novels have incredibly typical, run-of-the-mill, urban fantasy covers featuring a sexy, svelte heroine on a dark background. Shallow, I know. I thought it was just going to be another badly written paranormal fantasy/romance. Ugh. Anyway. I should not have been so quick to judge, because after reading Voices of Dragons, I’ve become a fan of Vaughn’s writing style.

I first heard about her YA novel, Voices of Dragons, through a couple other book blogs. Blogger reviews were all positive; many of the reviews from people whose opinions I generally respect or agree with, or have the same taste in books with. The synopsis, “girl-meets-dragon,” sounded old, but it’s a formula that has generally worked for me in the past (Anne McCaffrey, Robin McKinley immediately come to mind).

Kay has all the usual trappings of a teenage girl living in small-town Montana. She has a cell phone, she has a best friend, she has boy issues, she has school, she has parents. You know, your usual teenage girl stuff. But wait–she also lives in an alternate world, a world where dragons emerged from hiding after the end of WWII, prompting a brief and devastating conflict between dragons and humans. Eventually a truce was reached, and dragons were given their own territory in the Northern Hemisphere, the border of which runs right ouside Kay’s town.

After a rock-climbing accident, Kay is rescued from the river the forms the border between Dragon and human territories by none other than Artegal, a young and extremely intelligent dragon. Artegal insists on practicing his very basic human language skills with Kay, and the two quickly strike up an illegal and extremely forbidden friendship. They meet secretly and even practice flying together.

However, trouble soon arrives in the form of the United States Air Force conducting highly provoking flight experiments in Dragon territory, which violates the treaty. Soon, violence from both sides escalates and Kay and Artegal must find a solution to the conflict before more lives, both human and dragon, are lost.

I was very impressed by Vaughn’s young adult novel, her first according to her author biography. Even though it is your typical fantasy plotline, and I wasn’t familiar with Vaughn’s previous work, I really enjoyed Voices of Dragons. I was impressed by Vaughn’s matter-of-fact, grounded writing and I especially liked Kay as a protagonist. She was a fairly no-nonsense teen trying to navigate high school life, while at the same time dealing with an interspecies battle. Vaughn wrote it very realistically.

Vaughn managed to deal with all the delicate issues of teenager-hood (dating, growing up, parents, sex) without sounding preachy or even admonishing. Kay had all the uncertainties of any normal, fairly intelligent 17-year-old American girl, and I really liked the way Vaughn had her confront the issues. It was very realistic, in my opinion. By realistic I mean that Kay was pretty sure about what she wanted, but still experiencing pressure from her peers, and maybe a little confused–she’s working it out, she can be firm, she can flop back and forth, and Vaughn really just wrote it so nicely, that’s what I want to say. It’s great to see a YA novel aimed at teenage girls that does this so positively.

The romantic subplot was also very well done. I enjoyed it a lot, and I thought it was appropriate to the kind of novel that Voices of Dragons was. Kay’s love interest was interesting and real in all his personality (good parts and flaws, both). I liked how they got closer to each other and how independent they still were. One of the better YA romances, here.

Obviously our heroine has to deal with growing up at the same time that she’s trying to prevent a war between the two most intelligent species of life (human and dragon) that reside on Earth. Not an easy task, but fortunately for the reader, it makes for an interesting tale.

Having had such a good experience with her YA novel, I think I’m going to try Vaughn’s more popular adult fantasy, cliche covers aside.

How did I get this novel? From my local public library
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction, Romance
Author Website: http://www.carrievaughn.com/ (where you can read an excerpt from Dragons)

Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik

Tongues of Serpents is the 6th book in the Temeraire series by author Naomi Novik

Summary from the book jacket:

Convicted of treason despite their heroic defense against Napoleon’s invasion of England, Temeraire and Laurence—stripped of rank and standing—have been transported to the prison colony at New South Wales in distant Australia, where, it is hoped, they cannot further corrupt the British Aerial Corps with their dangerous notions of liberty for dragons. Temeraire and Laurence carry with them three dragon eggs intended to help establish a covert in the colony and destined to be handed over to such second-rate, undesirable officers as have been willing to accept so remote an assignment—including one former acquaintance, Captain Rankin, whose cruelty once cost a dragon its life.

Nor is this the greatest difficulty that confronts the exiled dragon and rider: Instead of leaving behind all the political entanglements and corruptions of the war, Laurence and Temeraire have instead sailed into a hornet’s nest of fresh complications. For the colony at New South Wales has been thrown into turmoil after the overthrow of the military governor, one William Bligh—better known as Captain Bligh, late of HMS Bounty. Bligh wastes no time in attempting to enlist Temeraire and Laurence to restore him to office, while the upstart masters of the colony are equally determined that the new arrivals should not upset a balance of power precariously tipped in their favor.

Eager to escape this political quagmire, Laurence and Temeraire take on a mission to find a way through the forbidding Blue Mountains and into the interior of Australia. But when one of the dragon eggs is stolen from Temeraire, the surveying expedition becomes a desperate race to recover it in time—a race that leads to a shocking discovery and a dangerous new obstacle in the global war between Britain and Napoleon.

I was very excited to read the latest book in the Temeraire series, as I’m a big fan of Novik’s writing and the very fun alternate history world she has created. However each one of the books in the series has been unpredictable for me–I’ve really enjoyed some of them (especially the first, second, and fifth novels) but wasn’t as wowed by some of the other sequels.

Unfortunately Tongues of Serpents was one of those that didn’t amaze me. As always, I liked hearing about Temeraire and Laurence once again, as they’ve become some of my favorite fantasy characters. On the other hand, Novik’s plotting in Tongues was much too drawn out and kind of boring. At first I thought the “desperate race” to recover the stolen dragon egg was just a brief plot twist, since it definitely did not have enough substance to make it the entire plot of the book… which of course is what it became. Most of the novel details Temeraire, Laurence & Co.’s journey through the dangerous and inhospitable Australian outback. It ended up not being very interesting or very harrowing at all. Most of the time I was bored and wondering when the real action would start–flying through deserts, looking for water, searching for an egg, and some brief encounters with scary-ish native reptiles did not an adventure make, at least not in my opinion.

It really only got exciting in the last quarter, once our noble characters reached their destination. What kept me going through the first three quarters of the book was Novik’s style of writing, which I love. I also really enjoy her characters and the dialogue and the way she describes interactions between dragons and dragons, or humans and dragons, or even humans and humans. So descriptive with the perfect amount of words. Some might call it a “traditional” or maybe even “archaic” or “Victorian” style of writing–whatever it is, Novik does a great job and I like it. I’ll read anything she writes, even if it gets boring once in awhile.

I’m not clear whether this is the last in the Temeraire series. While it was a great story, it seems to have been overly drawn out, and I’m not sure what Novik plans on doing.

How did I get this novel? My local library
Author Website: http://temeraire.org
Read an Excerpt: Here!
Temeraire Series Reading Order:

  1. His Majesty’s Dragon
  2. Throne of Jade
  3. Black Powder War
  4. Empire of Ivory
  5. Victory of Eagles
  6. Tongues of Serpents

Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones

COVER dark lord of derkholm by diana wynne jonesRating: 8 out of 10

Imagine a vacation through a fantasy world, where you and your fellow tourists are led through a magical land by a Wizard Guide, one who can actually do magic and has a great long beard, as all wizards are supposed to. On the way, you get to meet bloodthirsty pirates, listen to wisdom from great Dragons, fight an Epic Battle, get attacked by Winged Minions, encounter a Glamorous Enchantress, and finally meet and defeat the terrible Dark Lord! At the end of your tour, you can travel through a portal back to your own universe of cars, technology, and jobs.  Sounds fun, right?

Mr. Chesney’s Pilgrim Parties bring people from our own world into an alternate universe where they can experience the traditional trappings of Fantasy. However, it’s all just a great act.

Derk is a wizard–but he’s not a very good one by your traditional definitions. Not great at conjuring illusions are doing normal wizardly stuff–but he’s good at magical genetic engineering, and he has 7 children with his wife, a witch named Mara. Two are human, and five of them are griffins. Unfortunately for Derk, this year he has been chosen to play the part of the Dark Lord, and according to the rules set by Mr. Chesney, he must raise a devestating Army of Evil (who are actually bespelled criminals donated by the country of England), turn his cozy house into a Dark Citadel, and summon an evil demon, all for the entertainment of the tourists. His human son, Blade, has been chosen to be a Wizard Guide, and his wife to be the Glamorous Enchantress. Everyone must play their parts, or risk the wrath of Mr. Chesney.

The Pilgrim Party tours are devestating to Derk’s world–farmland is trampled, villages are destroyed, and for some odd reason all of the magic in his universe is steadily draining away. Everybody hates Mr. Chesney, but no one can do anything about it because he is backed by a great and powerful demon.

Derk and his family must try to complete their tasks and at the same time find a way out of this horrible mess. Unfortunately Derk is laid out in a coma after a nasty encounter with a fire-breathing dragon, and his kids must shoulder the burden of the Dark Lord’s job.

I thought this was when it got most interesting. I highly enjoyed it when Jones began writing about Derk’s human and griffin children, running around trying to plan an Epic Battle against the Forces of Good (who are outnumbered, but still required to win according to the Mr. Chesney’s rules). There was a lot of understated humor and each of the chidlren has their own distinct personality. Shona, the eldest, is incredibly bossy and wants to become a Bard and play music for the rest of her life. Kit is a black griffin, arrogant, aggressive, and really enjoys planning the Epic Battle. Blade, Derk’s human son, runs around trying to keep everything together–he’s in his mid-teens I guess, and has to grow a beard for his job as Wizard Guide. Good thing he has magic to accomplish this for him. Callette is creative and techy, Lydda loves to cook , and Elda is the baby.

The Dark Lord of Derkholm is a re-read for me, part of my DWJ binge, and has a pseudo-sequel, Year of the Griffin, which focuses mostly on Elda 8 years after the events of Derkholm. I also plan on re-reading that soon, I faintly remember that I liked it more than Derkhom, which is saying a lot because I quite enjoyed this one. It’s hard to explain why I like Diana Wynne Jones’ writing so much–its just the way everything happens, and then comes together in the end. It’s funny and original and you don’t read anything like it anywhere else.

Treasure Keeper by Shana Abe

COVER treasure keeper by shana abeRating: 5 out of 10
Summary: With such novels as Queen of Dragons and The Dream Thief, Shana Abé has created a unique and vividly imagined world that exists side by side with our own—a realm populated by a race of supersensual men and women whose power to change shape permits them unlimited acts of pleasure…and ever-present danger. Now the survival of the drákon rests in the hands of a young woman with untried and unexpected powers—and the powerful Alpha male she must break everydrákon law to save.

The drákon are at war, surrounded by an enemy they have every reason to fear. The sanf inimicus are no ordinary human beings but the most dangerous of hunters. They’ve sworn to exterminate the shape-shifters whose presence they now can detect, and they’ve already claimed a prize prisoner: Lord Rhys Langford.

It’s a blow the drákon clans feel from Darkfrith, England, all the way to the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania. But it strikes no one harder than Zoe Cyprienne Lane. A mere seamstress’s daughter, Zoe isn’t even in the same league as Rhys. In fact, as an unwed male in the Alpha line, according to drákon custom, he owns her. So nothing could be more outrageous—or personally ruinous—than the mere notion that she might set out on her own to find her childhood friend…and first true love.

But the unexpected is exactly what Zoe intends to do. For years she’s been hiding two extraordinary Gifts that have set her apart from other drákon females: the power to become invisible and the power to feel others’ emotions.Now, guided by a link to Rhys—his presence and touch as electric as if he were beside her in the flesh—Zoe uses both Gifts to infiltrate the sanf inimicus. And for Rhys, whose time is running out, Zoe is his last lifeline to a world—and a love—he never thought he’d regain. Only together again, hunter and huntress, can they save the drákon from the traitor in their midst who would destroy them all.

My Thoughts: Getting a little ridiculous at this point–the biggest problem glaring at me was the fact that this whole “sanf inimicus” plotline has been stretched across 3 books, when it really only has enough oomph and actual substances to last maybe one. It’s become drawn out and diluted to the point that they don’t even feel like actual antagonists, just something annoying buzzing through the storyline.

I really liked the first novel in this series, The Smoke Thief, and with each subsequent one, I have liked them less and less… and now it feels as if Abe is just grasping for something to keep writing about. I skimmed several chapters in this one and didn’t miss too much.