Review League of Dragons by Naomi Novik

#9 in the Termeraire Series

Naomi Novik skillfully writes the tension of opposing forces. Termeraire #9 by Naomi Novik Whether dragon cooperating with humans or allegiances between world nations, she hits her target. League of Dragons explores the internal political struggles between rulers and military forces as allies fight for rule of the world.  When Napoleon promises dragons worldwide new rights previously deprived of them, the balance of power may be at en end. The allegiance of dragons with humans is key to political tranquility.

Novik creates an alternate history of Europe where dragons are common and Napoleon’s forces attempt to take over the world. As #9 in the series, this story begins with Laurence and his dragon companion, Termeraire, trying to locate Napoleon. Although they have successfully rid him of Russia they believe he’ll soon return.

Novik incorporates wonderful historical details that add authenticity to her world view. Her depiction of Russia’s climate captures the frigid chills of their northern land.

This novel rounds off the Termeraire series at nine. I have not read the previous, however I believe all novels should stand on their own, regardless of their part in a series.

Although character’s were well defined in this novel, they didn’t go through much transformation. Their reactions appeared immediate rather then transformative This may be attributed to it being the end of a long series in which Termeraire played a central role. My expectation, however, follows the assumption that going through an adventure with a character implies that I will learn while the character learns. This story did not provide that feeling.

Since the character’s arch was not emphasized, our understanding of war strategies becomes enhanced. Novik takes this to the ultimate conclusion with her ending in this novel.

Naomi Novik’s Gamer Perspective Comes through in her Termeraire Series

The focus on military strategies and alliances is only one aspect of how Novik integrates her gaming background into her storytelling. She professes a love for computer technologies and helped build the Archive of Our Own for fan-fiction.

Chapter 1 Analysis

Novik appears to have fun playing with language. Similes are sprinkled throughout the story and she uses lots of alliteration (words that begin with the same sound) throughout the first chapter. It quickens the pace of sentences and creates a fun read. One line in the first paragraph uses alliteration in three places to punch it up. “Laurence saw its small hard shining eyes peering patiently out from beneath the brambles.” What a fun line to read.

Novik likes color and she ensures we see what we imagine in color. This provides detail, but it also correlates to emotions we associate with those colors. We often associate red with blood and military uniforms, while gold imparts images of wealth and regal illusions.

I’ve learned a great deal from Novik’s first chapter, although her style is not my favorite. Using Nancy Pearl’s Four Doors to Book Reading, I believe League of Dragons’ primary focus is world building or setting, then plot, specifically military conflict. My favorite books develop character at the forefront, however, that is a matter of taste. For those who enjoy setting oriented novels with a penchant for military conflict, the Termeraire series should captivate you.

Power Words Power the Chapter

Naomi Novik’s extensive use of power words rings true in her tale of war, where militaries clash, Napoleon is king and dragons rule the sky. One can read only the power words to obtain a clear picture of events. In the leading paragraph: dead – scavengers – raucous – dragon’s – shadow – sunken – hollow – muzzle red, create a picture that draws us in. The second paragraph includes: dead – proud – red – gold – dragon – hunger – frozen – snow – corps – peasants – epaulets, all reinforce the action. The third paragraph goes on with: descending – corps – Napolean’s army – racing – escape – Napolean – dragon – reinforcements – safely – devouring – war – no end – slaughter. Wow.

Margie Lawson teaches a wonderful course on using power words and rhetorical devices in language. You are sure to learn a lot from her.

Review League of Dragons by Naomi NovikLeague of Dragons (Temeraire, #9) by Naomi Novik
Series: Termeraire #9
Published by Del Rey on June 14th 2016
Genres: Alternate History, Fantasy
Pages: 380

The final adventure in the New York Times bestselling Temeraire series that started with the beloved His Majesty’s Dragon which has won fans of Napoleonic-era military history, Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels, and Patrick O’Brian’s seafaring adventures.

The deadly campaign in Russia has cost both Napoleon and those allied against him. Napoleon has been denied his victory…but at a terrible price. Lawrence and the dragon Temeraire pursue the fleeing French army back west, but are demoralized when Napoleon makes it back to Paris unscathed. Worse, they soon learn that the French have stolen Termeraire and Iskierka’s egg. Now, it is do or die, as our heroes not only need to save Temeraire’s offspring but also to stop Napoleon for good!

Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay

Redd Becker Book Review

Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay

Guy Gavriel Kay brings to life a rich fantasy world with interesting historical scenes of chariot races, the deceitful life of courts and politics between feudal kingdoms. The time period depicts religious powers braced against pagan beliefs that causes mistrust at every turn.

Guy Gavriel Kay Attends to Detail

Kay writes with more description than I prefer, but it is Kay’s detail and intimate portrayal of characters that suspends the reader in the novel’s time and place. Exotic voluptuous detail heightens every scene. The perspective of the story moves easily from one point-of-view (POV) to another in third person omniscient with multiple plots creating the fabric around the main character, Chrispin; a mosaicist ensnared between powers.

Chrispin is called to the city of Sarantium to make mosaics for the emperor’s personal chapel. He’s immediately thrust in the middle of palace intrigue, but he is not of it. Byzantine court is dissected from multiple perspectives.   In this epic tale of intrigue we follow the mosaisist, Chrispin. He struggles against the forces around him , while struggling to maintain integrity.  

My Rating five-stars

Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel KaySailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay
Series: The Sarantine Mosaic #1
Published by Earthlight on November 4th 2002
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Pages: 448
Buy on Amazon

Crispin is a master mosaicist, creating beautiful art with colored stones and glass. Summoned to Sarantium by imperial request, he bears a Queen's secret mission, and a talisman from an alchemist. Once in the fabled city, with its taverns and gilded sanctuaries, chariot races and palaces, intrigues and violence, Crispin must find his own source of power in order to survive-and unexpectedly discovers it high on the scaffolding of his own greatest creation.

Ink and Bone by Rachael Caine, where the great library rules politics

Redd Becker Book Reviews

Rachel Caine creates an alternative universe where scholars from Alexandria use knowledge to control the world. Ink and Bone (The Great Library, #1) by Rachel CaineLibrary’s power trumps politics. What would happen if library’s were the political power broker? The story effectively turns the reader’s view of libraries on its head. 

Caine portrays diverse teenagers who come together to address challenges. Clues sprinkled throughout action scene carefully lay out her alternate history.

Each year an elite group of youth are tested and trained to join the ranks of the library. Training is not just a test of the scholarly, alliances are made, lives destroyed. Jess comes from a family of black market book sellers who expect him to use his role in the library to their advantage, but when Jess finds out how the library is ruthless and uses magic to suppress the populous. Who are his friends and foes on his quest to save himself and his friends. Caine leaves us hanging. 

Rachel Caine has more to explore

I read the novel a second time a few months after the first and liked it even better. During my initial read, the ephemera between chapters were interesting, but the second time those small bits of information added even more. I reread this novel with equal enjoyment to my first read and look forward to the sequel.

Due to Rachel Caine‘s prolific writing she has several series to enjoy. Her website covers it all.

For those interested in writing: The “Ephemera” between many of the chapters provided a view from the perspective of the library’s elite. It’s an effective technique to clue readers into things characters in the story don’t have access to and adds another dimension to the plot.

five-stars Ink and Bone by Rachael Caine, where the great library rules politicsInk and Bone (The Great Library #1) by Rachel Caine
Series: The Great Library #1
Published by NAL on April 5th 2016
Genres: Alternate History, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 374
Buy on Amazon

In an exhilarating new series, "New York Times" bestselling author Rachel Caine rewrites history, creating a dangerous world where the Great Library of Alexandria has survived the test of time. Ruthless and supremely powerful, the Great Library is now a presence in every major city, governing the flow of knowledge to the masses. Alchemy allows the Library to deliver the content of the greatest works of history instantly but the personal ownership of books is expressly forbidden. Jess Brightwell believes in the value of the Library, but the majority of his knowledge comes from illegal books obtained by his family. Jess has been sent to be his family s spy, but his loyalties are tested in the final months of his training to enter the Library s service. When his friend inadvertently commits heresy by creating a device that could change the world, Jess discovers that those who control the Great Library believe knowledge is more valuable than any human life and soon both heretics and books will burn."

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, (Leviathan #1)

Redd Becker Book Reviews

Scott Westerfeld created a fascinating, pre-WWI alternative history pivoting around the Austro-Hungarian throne. Creativity floods out of every page. A fun read wLeviathan (Leviathan, #1) by Scott Westerfeldith monstrous walking war machines and a bio-conglomerate-whale balloon ship. Detailed drawings throughout, by Keith Thompson, add dimension to the steampunk imagery.

Scott Westerfeld’s Upsurped Prince Plot

The plot of an usurped prince fighting to claim his throne carries the story. When the Austro-Hungarian prince’s parents are killed, he’s secreted away before war is declared with Germany.  The prince must survive live through ensuing war to claim the crown. Challenges present themselves from every angle. The prince uses his wits to confront each challenge, while he learns about the enemy and builds friendships in unexpected places.

Balance is provided by a fifteen year old girl’s adventures while masquerading as a midship boy on a whale airship (made from the amalgamation of hundreds of species, using bats and hawks as well as cannons for defense).

The novel carried me into a world where other character’s problems, both big and small, captivated my attention.

My Rating five-stars

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, (Leviathan #1)Leviathan (Leviathan, #1) by Scott Westerfeld
Series: Leviathan Trilogy #1
Published by Simon Pulse on October 6th 2009
Genres: Steampunk, Alternate History
Pages: 440
Source: Goodreads
Buy on Amazon

Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.
Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.
With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.