Tag Archives: Naomi Novik

Friday Faceoff – Every great story seems to begin with a snake… #Brainfluffbookblog

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This meme is currently being nurtured by Lynn’s Book Blog and the subject this week featuring on any of our covers is SNAKES, so I’ve selected a book from one of my favourite series, Tongues of Serpents – Book 6 of the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik.

 

This edition was produced by Del Rey in July 2010 and features two snakelike dragons entwined around a porthole showing a ship. I really like the rippled sand as a backdrop, but I do think the fonts are very boring, given what an amazing premise this series offers.

 

Published in June 2011 by Voyager, this is the cover of the book that I read. I confess to loving this series with the black and white etched illustrations relating to incidents within the book and featuring amazing dragons. I also like the coloured font that is in keeping with the strong period feel of the cover and nicely pops against the black and white. This is my favourite.

 

Produced by Pocket in March 2013, this French edition follows the theme of the dragon coiled around a porthole or some sort of orb. I love the font – I think it works beautifully and picks up the gilding around the porthole very effectively. However, the stormy backdrop isn’t sufficient foil to the dark crimson/brown dragon and while those half-furled wings are wonderful, I’d rather the head was more of a feature. I’m also rather distracted by the shadow of the dragon against the clouds – surely that shouldn’t be happening?

 

This German edition, published by Penhaligon Verlag in 2010, is my favourite of all the similar designs where a dragon is coiled around some sort of globe. For starters, this dragon looks properly fierce and I love the way it has grasped the patterned globe, which is also beautifully patterned in colours that contrast very well with the hot reds and oranges of the dragon and the scaled background – another nice feature. It was so nearly my favourite, but I found the font both plain and a poor contrast to the rest of the cover.

 

This Polish edition, published by Rebis in October 2010 is the cover that gave me the chance to actually choose this book. Instead of dragons, we have two snakes battling on this cover. While it all looks very dramatic, I’m not sure the snakes are all fully in proportion – it seems one of them is rather on the short side, but perhaps the hidden part of the body conceals several coils… Once again, that rippled sand effect is a great backdrop, but disappointingly this Polish cover has gone down the route of also duplicating the very dreary, if clear, font from the Del Rey cover. Which is your favourite?

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Review of KINDLE Ebook Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik #Brainfluffbookreview #SpinningSilverbookreview

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I’ve loved Novik’s writing for many years, being a fan of her fabulous Temeraire series – see my review of Victory of Eagles and I was also blown away by Uprooted – see my review here. So I was thrilled when Tammy of Books, Bones and Buffy mentioned Novik had released Spinning Silver.

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders… but her father isn’t a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife’s dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty–until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers’ pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed–and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.

I’ve heard this one described as a retelling of the old fairytale ‘Rumplestiltskin’, but it isn’t that straightforward. Novik has taken elements of that story – just a few – and woven them into another, more detailed backdrop. The setting is a version of 19th century Russia, complete with isolated villages surrounded by hundreds of miles of thick woodland, nobility who have the power of life and death over their subjects and a simmering resentment against the Jewish community. They are the ones who lend money to those who need it, the ones who often also make music, jewellery and can read and write within their close-knit communities, so make a convenient target when those in power don’t want to pay back their debts. Add in the danger of the ferocious cold of a Russian winter, when the dreaded Staryk are more easily able to cross into the human world. These icy fae have mercilessly predated upon the humans who wander too far into their forests, killing and stealing from them – and when their actions further impact upon the protagonists in the story, these shadowy, terrifying beings end up at the heart of this story.

It’s a complicated tale with three main protagonists, Miryem, the moneylender’s daughter, Wanda, who becomes her servant and is desperate to escape her drunken abusive father and Irena, the Duke’s eldest daughter by his first wife, whose bookish nature and plain looks have been a constant disappointment – until the Tsar comes to visit…

The story bounces between these three young women as their fates increasingly become intertwined. There is a fair amount of explanation – with pages when Novik is telling the story rather than having her characters speak, which I normally dislike. But I’m going to give her a pass on this one – firstly because it didn’t jar with me. This is, after all, a fairy story, which is always told from the outside in. Secondly, because though there is a fair amount of exposition, it was necessary in this complex plot and it didn’t stop Novik from immersing us in the thoughts and fears of her main protagonists. Thirdly, it was a delightfully long book with an unusually dense story, which I loved.

I’m aware this is a Marmite book – those aspects I’ve listed above as pluses have also exasperated some readers, preventing them from bonding with this book. Normally, I love a story to unfold from the inside out, but I simply think this time around it wouldn’t have worked so effectively. All I would say is – give it a go and discover for yourself if this one is for you. If you enjoy it, you’ll thank me. This is one that has had me continuing to ponder it since I’ve read it – always a sign that a book has properly got under my skin and it’s recommended for fantasy fans who like detailed worlds with plenty of unexpected twists thrown in.
9/10

 

My Outstanding Books of 2016

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Last year was an amazing year for reading. I cannot recall when I last read so many exciting, engrossing and well crafted books. Below are the ones which have left a niche in my inscape so they may not have initially got a 10/10, but nevertheless these are the ones that have stayed with me…

The Just City – Book 1 of the Thessaly series by Jo Walton

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This amazing, thought provoking series is essentially examining Plato’s ideas for an ideal society striving towards excellence as propounded in The Republic. It’s quirky, imaginative and clever – vintage Walton in other words. She has to be one of the most exciting, talented writers of our age.

 

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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This is a variation of the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ story that is filled with mystery, magic and a strong sense of place. The isolation and brooding sense of being at the whim of someone who is perhaps not wholly stable permeates the book.

 

The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen

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This hard science fiction tale of a shape-shifter is an extraordinary book, rich with techie detail and some of the most vivid sensory writing I’ve read. In addition, the story takes you in one direction – until you suddenly realise it is about something else altogether. Clever and original, this impressive debut novel marks Geen as One to Watch.

 

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

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The cover of this book is lushly beautiful – which is also an accurate description of the prose spinning this story into a classic tale that wouldn’t be out of place if it turned up as one of the tales of Scheherazade. What really sold it, though, was the carnivorous horse with smart mouth…

 

The Annihilation Score – Book 6 The Laundry Files by Charles Stross

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Unlike the rest of this clever, readable series, this book is told in the viewpoint of Bob Howard’s wife, Mo. She has a bone violin as a weapon to battle the Lovecraftian monsters emerging from another dimension and threatening life on Earth as we know it. You won’t be surprised to learn that wielding such an instrument exacts a heavy cost. Stross has depicted a heartbreaking heroine who leaves a lump in my throat.

 

The House with No Rooms – Book 4 of The Detective’s Daughter series
by Lesley Thomson

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I love Thomson’s clever, layered writing that assumes her readers are capable of joining the dots and her leisurely pacing that steadily builds a creeping sense of wrongness. Stella’s quirky world view prevails and in amongst the tragedy and pain, there are welcome shafts of humour. I’ve dreamt about this book…

 

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

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This book, rightly, has garnered a huge amount of attention and I nearly didn’t read it because of the fuss. Which would have been a real shame, because the story is gripping, funny and painful and without an ounce of sentiment. I certainly didn’t think it would end the way it did.

 

An Accident of Stars – Book 1 of The Manifold Worlds series by Foz Meadows

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This portal fantasy gripped me from the first page and still hasn’t let go. I was completely caught up in the adventure, which quickly took me out of my comfort zone and captivated me. I still find myself wondering what I’d do if confronted with the same circumstances and hope that Meadows writes quickly, because I badly want to know what happens next.

 

The Fifth Season – Book 1 of the Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin

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I love her Inheritance series, but blogging buddy Sara Letourneau kept banging on about this one, so I got hold of it. And I’m so very glad I did… The writing is extraordinary. Jemisin takes all the rules about writing by the scruff of the neck and gives them a thorough shaking. I stayed awake to read this one, caught up with Essun’s furious grief and felt bereft once I came to the end of it.

 

Spiderlight by Adrian Tchaikovsky

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This clever, unsettling adventure takes the classic fantasy trope of the band of heroes and bounces it off the walls. The result is funny, creepy and poignant by turns – and absolutely engrossing. It also raises some tricky moral questions.

 

Spellbreaker – Book 3 of the Spellwright Trilogy by Blake Charlton

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This fantasy adventure vividly depicts a family where every one of them is lethally powerful such that it seriously gets in the way of their love for each other. The result is riveting and original – it has lodged itself in my brain like a burr, because if you have the power to level cities or predict your father’s death, then it’s probably going to make the inevitable family tiff somewhat tricky.

 

The Summer Goddess by Joanne Hall

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I’ve always enjoyed Hall’s writing – but this particular tale of abduction and slavery tugged at my heart from the first chapter and kept on doing so throughout. Her heroine is painfully fallible and yet doggedly courageous – and the writing is always so well crafted. It’s another one that won’t leave me in peace…

 

Songs of Seraphina by Jude Houghton

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This disturbing portal novel is about revenge and bloodshed – and how those that pay the price often are innocent. It grabbed me from the beginning as we learn about the three sisters and I read through the night to learn what befalls them – and I’m really hoping that Houghton is busy writing a sequel, for I want more of this savage, magical world.

 

A Natural History of DragonsBook 1 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent series
by Marie Brennan

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What’s not to love? A dogged, adventuring Victorian lady who defies convention to go adventuring to learn more about dragons in their habitat. The book is written after the style of a 19th century novel and enchanted me – happily there are more in the series and I’m going to be plunging back into this world just as soon as I can.

 

Just One Damned Thing After Another – Book 1 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s
by Jodi Taylor

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This time travelling novel is set in a Government-run establishment that has the same feel I imagine Bletchley would have done during WW2 – though the attrition rate is definitely higher at St Mary’s. The time-travelling historians – or ‘disaster-magnets’ as they are described in this punchy, amusing adventure – tend to die rather a lot.

So there they are – my outstanding reads of 2016. I highly recommend each and every one of them as offering something special and unique. And if you insist on forcing me to choose only one of them, then you’re a cruel, unfeeling monster – but if I HAD to, then it would have to be N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. The intensity of the writing, the cool premise and the way she builds on the characters has this one etched into my mind.

Friday Faceoff – Underneath the spreading chestnut tree…

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This meme was started by Books by Proxy, whose fabulous idea was to compare UK and US book covers and decide which is we prefer. This week I have chosen Uprooted by Naomi Novik – one of my favourite reads of 2016.

 

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This is the cover produced by Macmillan in May 2015 and is the cover of the book I read. I like it – the way the tower dominates the isolated village very effectively depicts the storyline. The colour also makes this an attractive, eye-catching cover – the downside is the very simplistic artwork initially made me think this was a children’s book, when it’s nothing of the sort.

 

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This is the cover produced by Del Rey in May 2015. I think this is a really good candidate – the medieval flavour is well depicted and I like the nod in the direction of the ‘Beauty and the Beast’. The title font is lovely.

 

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This edition is published in May 2016 by Pan Macmillan and reverts to the very simplistic design, without the attractive colouring. I think this is a rather drab, downbeat effort – a shame when considering what a cracking read the book is.

 

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This Spanish edition, produced in March 2016 by Planeta, is beautiful. I love the detail of the red etched trees highlighted against the black background, which is still simple but so very effective. This is my favourite cover.

 

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This German edition, produced in November 2016 by cbj, has chosen to feature the trees in a more figurative way. It is well done and evokes the mystery and era of the story, but does not quite have the punchy eye appeal of the previous cover. What do you think – which is your favourite?

Sunday Post – 4th September

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Sunday PostThis is part of the weekly meme over at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer, where book bloggers can share the books and blogs they have written.

Firstly, a massive thank you for all the kind encouraging messages I received last week. I was blown away by everyone’s kindness. As for the situation – it isn’t going to sort itself out in a hurry, but at least I now don’t feel quite so overwhelmed. Regarding my mega-rewrite, I managed to complete the first draft in the early hours of Monday morning. I haven’t yet returned to look at it in detail – I need to get some distance from the words before I start the editing round – but my sense is that the book is tighter and sharper. I shed 12,000 words from the manuscript, so it is certainly leaner. In the meantime, I’m cracking on with my course notes for the beginning of term later this month.

My summer break is definitely over. I attended a training session at Northbrook College on Tuesday afternoon and my wonderful friend, Mhairi, came over for the day on Wednesday, offering tea and sympathy on industrial quantities. We even managed to get some work done.

This week-end I’m back in granny mode as the grandchildren have come to stay for the last time before they restart school, along with my niece so we have a houseful. Lovely! Now all we need is the rain to stop…

This week I’ve only managed to read:
League of Dragons – Book 9 of the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik
The deadly campaign in Russia has cost both Napoleon and those allied against him. Napoleon has been leagueofdragonsdenied 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!

I’ve loved this Napoleonic alternate history series, where dragons are pressed into service in the battle between the French and British armies as troop carriers and bombers. In League of Dragons Novik has brought Temeraire’s adventures back full circle to the European theatre of war and finished the dragon’s story arc in a thoroughly satisfactory manner. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of this series, it comes highly recommended.

 

 

The Changelings by Christina Soontornvat
thechangelingsIzzy’s family has just moved to the most boring town in the country. But as time goes on, strange things start to happen; odd piles of stones appear around Izzy’s house, and her little sister Hen comes home full of stories about the witch next door. Then, Hen disappears into the woods. She’s been whisked away to the land of Faerie, and it’s up to Izzy to save her. Joined there by a band of outlaw Changelings, Izzy and her new friends set out on a joint search-and-rescue mission across this foreign land which is at turns alluringly magical and utterly terrifying.

This entertaining children’s offering is a delight, with a strong fast-paced story, appealing protagonist and sufficient twists to keep me reading far later than I should to discover what happens. I shall be reviewing this book in the coming week.

 

 

My posts last week:
Sunday Post – 28th August

Review of League of Dragons – Book 9 of the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik

Teaser Tuesday – featuring The Changelings by Christina Soontornvat

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Thousandth Floor – Book 1 of The Thousandth Floor series by Katherine McGee

*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Unraveled – Book 15 of the Elemental Assassin series by Jennifer Estep

Friday Faceoff – Hell is Empty and All the Demons Are Here… featuring The Amulet of Samarkand – Book 1 of The Bartimaeus Sequence by Jonathan Stroud

The Versatile Blogger Award

Other interesting/outstanding blogs and articles that have caught my attention during the last week, in no particular order:

Harry Potter Month (30) https://lynns-books.com/2016/08/30/harry-potter-month-30/
Lynn has unearthed this very amusing piece of nonsense which had me giggling…

10 x 10 + 1 = The 101th Dalmation – Give it a sniff –
http://marelithalkink.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/10-x-10-1-101th-dalmation-give-it-sniff.html?spref=tw This amusing and accomplished post by Mareli was to celebrate her 100th blog post. With material like this, no wonder her blog is growing so fast…

Calling All Applicants – http://writerunboxed.com/2016/08/30/calling-all-applicants/
Steven James writes a wry article about the joys of writing..

How to Plan Your Glacier National Park Family Vacation Including the Best Hikes for YOU, Camping and Relaxing – https://roamwildandfree.com/2016/08/31/how-to-plan-your-glacier-national-park-family-vacation-including-the-best-hikes-for-you-camping-and-relaxing/ Yes – I’ll grant you the title doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, but once more Becca and Alex demonstrate their experience and common sense approach to travelling – along with breathtaking pics…

Presumptions https://jeanleesworld.com/2016/09/01/presumptions/ Jean writes an honest, unsentimental account suffused with love on the challenges she faces bringing up a daughter and twin boys. And the writing is wonderful, too…

Many thanks for visiting and taking the time and trouble to comment – and may you have a wonderful reading and blogging week.

Review of League of Dragons – Book 9 of the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik

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League of Dragons is the final book in this remarkable series, set in Napoleonic times, where dragons are roaming the world in significant numbers, both in feral groups or domesticated. And in their gritted struggle, the English and French are using dragons to wage war on each other. The series starts with Temeraire when a very special egg Captain Laurence is transporting on his ship suddenly starts to hatch… And as the hatchling immediately bonds with Laurence, his naval career is abruptly over and he finds himself seconded to the less prestigious Dragon Corps. I’m not good at following long-running series, but I fell in love with Temeraire and have made a point of reading every book. The first four books predate my blog, so my reviews start with Victory of Eagles, the fifth book in the series.

leagueofdragonsThe 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!

So does this final episode satisfactorily wrap up the story, tying up all the loose ends and give us a suitable conclusion to the adventures Temeraire and Laurence have endured? Oh yes. Inevitably over such a long-running series, the quality of the stories will vary. But League of Dragons is back in the original theatre of war that caused all the initial mayhem. And the book starts during the closing stages of the terrible defeat Napoleon’s army suffered at the hands of the Russians – only in this version there are brutalised, starving dragons in the mix…

I was immediately sucked into the story, enjoying the blend of fact and fiction Novik weaves around this grim chapter in European history – and enjoying the warm relationship between Laurence and Temeraire all over again. Novik is a highly accomplished writer, who manages to give us a strong sense of 19th century sensibilities and customs without lapsing too much into the flowery, highly descriptive writing style of the time. I also love the humour that runs through the book engendered by the draconic desire for a hoard and decoration. In some of the books, when the pair have been stranded on the other side of the world, fighting for their lives, that humour hasn’t been in such evidence. It was also lovely to meet up with some of the original supporting characters, again.

There are some wonderful battle scenes, alongside the ongoing drama as to whether Napoleon will prevail in his vision of dividing the world up into draconic territories to bribe the majority of the world’s dragonkind to support his campaign in Europe. I whipped through this book in just over two days, reluctant to put it down as I was engrossed in the story, really caring for the two of them – and genuinely concerned that Novik might just have them go out in a blaze of glory… As it happens, the ending is entirely satisfactory and while I’m sad to think I won’t again be pulled back into this vivid, engrossing world, I’m delighted it was so successfully concluded.

My firm recommendation is to go back to the beginning of this enjoyable, original series and start there – I really wish I could join you and do it all over again…
10/10

Review of Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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As a solid fan of Novik’s awesome Temeraire series – see my review of Victory of Eagles hereuprooted – I was shaken to realise that I somehow managed to miss her latest offering, Uprooted. But after regularly seeing it recommended across the book blogs I visit, I vowed to get hold of it as part of my 2016 Reading List, especially as it was short-listed for the 2015 Nebula Best Novel award.

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life. Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood. The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.
This character bounces off the page. I loved the depiction of her life in the isolated village where she lives and the casual manner in which she mentions the disappearances and horrific transformations of people she knows. The first person narrative works extremely well and Novik is very deft as depicting the world through the eyes of her charismatic and quirky protagonist. However, that doesn’t mean there is any undue hanging around with pages of scene setting, as Novik whisks us up into the narrative at a fair clip.

I found myself reading during the day to discover what happens next – thus breaking one of my rules. But there was no point in trying to immerse myself in my own editing, as my head was too full of Agnieszka and her story. Not wanting to encroach into Spoiler territory, I am not going to discuss any details of the narrative, but the magic system works well, with structure and rules that have consequences.

What I particularly liked about this tale, is the depiction of the antagonist. As the books progresses, we realise there is more than a single version of why the Wood is very hostile to humanity. Having read several books recently where the finale was compromised by the thin characterisation of the antagonist, it was a delight to have such an intelligent approach to the story resolution. A great end to a fabulous, entertaining read.
10/10

Weekly Wrap-Up – 27th March 2016

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Given I am now reading and reviewing more frequently, I thought I’d follow Hayley’s suggestion over at RatherTooFondofBooks – check it out, it’s a really good book blog – and write a short summary of my week to share with other bloggers, inspired by the Sunday Post meme from the Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

This week I completed and wrote reviews for three books:-

Luna: New Moon – Book 1 of the Luna series by Ian McDonaldluna
This was a vivid, entertaining read about runaway development in a viciously capitalist structure that has the Five Dragon ruling family battling for ascendancy. I’ve already posted the review here.

The Many Selves of Katherine North by Emma Geen
manyselvesofkatherineThis Netgalley arc is a remarkable read about a young girl who jumps into premade animal bodies – Ressies – in order to better understand the habits and lives of the wildlife around us against a backdrop of climactic change. As a YA dystopian science fiction adventure, this book has far more science content than the average YA read, and the character is complex and nuanced. I featured this book in this week’s Teaser Tuesday. My review will not be appearing until June, however, when the book is due to be released.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik
This is another storming read – I LOVED this fantasy offering. The magic system is great, the uprootedprotagonist punchy and spirited, but what for me sets this book apart is the nature of the Wood, whose implacable opposition to humanity blights the lives of all who have to live near it. I shall be posting the review in due course.

I posted a blog every day, with one reblog from the marvellous Lizzie Baldwin’s entertaining book blog. My most popular post was this week’s Teaser Tuesday, as Emma Geen’s book attracted a lot of attention, with the next most visited post this week being my article Favourite Space Operas – Part 1.

I’m grateful to everyone who popped in and an especial thanks goes to those of you who took the trouble to comment – I still get a thrill at being able to share my reading passion with like-minded souls. Happy Easter to you all!

Favourite Dragons in Literature

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I’ve read one or three fantasy books in my time and decided to give a quick roundup of my favourite dragons. I happen to have a really soft spot for these critters and am always fascinated how different authors approach them. So, in no particular order…

Tintaglia from The Realm of the Elderlings series by Robin Hobbdragonkeeper
I love this superbly arrogant blue dragon and the whole backstory of how the dragons come back into being, starting with the Live Ship Traders trilogy and then continuing through the Rain Wilds Chronicles quartet. I’m not in the business of giving spoilers, so I won’t say too much more. But if you have a weakness for dragons and enjoy a really intelligent, nuanced world featuring them, then consider reading Hobb’s books.

TheWhiteDragon(1stEd)Ruth from the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey
This clever blend of science fiction and fantasy features dragons used in the fight against Thread, a terrible alien infestation that periodically threatens to wipe out the colonists. The alliance between riders and dragons is very close and a number of dragons are featured throughout the series, but the little white, Ruth, stole my heart. This classic series has stood the test of time and is highly recommended for anyone who has not yet encountered it.

Toothless from the How to Train Your Dragon series by Cressida Cowellhow to train your dragon
Yes, I know these are children’s books. Yes, I know you’ve probably seen the films. But if you have, don’t go away with the idea that Cowell’s version of Toothless is remotely like the cool, sensible creature depicted in the films. Toothless in the books is snarky and disobedient, only coming to Hiccup’s rescue when their lives depend upon it. Indeed, the relationship between the Viking youngsters and the dragons in the books is far more nuanced and chaotically funny than the rather tepid versions depicted in the films. Reading sessions of these books with grandchildren regularly descend into giggles.

TemeraireTemeraire from the series by Naomi Novik
This alternate historical series is starts off during the Napoleonic Wars, where dragons are used as men of war by both the English and French. Temeraire is a dragon that hatches prematurely so that his rider and lifelong companion is William Laurence, a Royal Navy captain. Novik has moved the story arc on, having her intrepid duo ranging all over the globe during their enjoyable, well written adventures.

The Blessed Penn from Tooth and Claw by Jo Waltontooth and claw
This marvellous gem from Walton, which won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 2004, is set in a world not dissimilar to Anthony Trollop’s Framley Parsonage. But you don’t need to have read Trollop’s book to appreciate Tooth and Claw, which inserts dragons and their need for meat and ambition into a world bounded by Victorian sensibilities. It is wonderfully observed, full of delightfully witty touches and one of my most memorable reads.

Other strong contenders – I love Gralen from White Mountain by Sophie E. Tallis, whose strong, outspoken character provides some delightful moments in this enjoyable epic fantasy read. I also really enjoy Jack from The Future FallsBook 3 of The Enchantment Emporium series by Tanya Huff – though I am cheating a little here, because he is somewhere between a dragon and a person. The other dragon series worthy of mention is Stephen Deas’ riveting, if disturbing series The Memory of Flames, where the rather unpleasant humans have been subduing the dragons by magical means…

What about your favourite dragons in literature? Who have I left off this list that has you wincing in disgust? I’d love to hear from you!

Review of Blood of Tyrants – Book 8 in the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik

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I have enjoyed this unusual alternate history series for two reasons – firstly, I’m a sucker for dragons and secondly, Novik’s handling of the main characters has been imaginative and skilful. She has managed to provide Termeraire and Laurence with a variety of challenges and different landscapes as they have roved across the planet trying to survive, or halt Napoleon’s ambition. See my review of Victory of Eagles here, my review of Tongues of Serpents here and my review of Crucible of Gold here.

Shipwrecked in Japan, along with no memory, Laurence quickly draws attention and becomes untangled (sic) in political intrigues blood of tyrantsthat could not only prove deadly to him, but also destroy England’s position in the Far East. Old enmities and suspicions have turned the region into a powder keg, and Temeraire’s search for his captain may unwittingly ignite the gunpowder, providing new enemies for Britain just when they most desperately need friends. Napoleon has turned on his former ally, Emperor Alexander, and is leading an army of unimaginable size to the gates of Moscow.

And there you have most of the back cover blurb – complete with spelling blooper… Shame on the editor who let that through – if traditional publishers cannot even provide a faultless cover, they are thoroughly letting down their authors. However, in fairness, I don’t recall seeing any mistakes within the reasonably long book. But then I was seriously engrossed in the story…

This is, for my money, one of the best instalments in this long-running series for a long time – and as you’ll see from my reviews, this isn’t to say that any of the books have been bad. But I loved the opening, which immediately took us away from the familiar scenario. And while Laurence and Temeraire have been separated in the past, Laurence’s amnesia takes him back in time to before he met and bonded with Temeraire – so the crisis in their relationship is that Laurence isn’t even aware of what he has lost. As ever, Novik’s restrained 19th century feel in her prose still managed to depict all the emotional undercurrents which means that I really care about the protagonists and remain hooked by the storyline.

I love Temeraire, anyhow – the impulsive, hot-headed nature of the dragons always comes across very clearly. But if you haven’t read this series before – don’t begin at this point, go back to the first book Temeraire – while Novik is far too skilful to keep any stray readers adrift for long, there is so much enjoyable, riveting backstory you are denying yourself if you plunge in that this point in the narrative arc. However, while listening to Temeraire squabbling with Iskierka may lull you into a sense of their charming contrariness – seeing how the Russian ferals behave also provides an insight into why the Russian military treat their dragons with such savagery. It comes from fear…

This book tips into the beginning of one of the most remarkable and terrible times in history – Napoleon’s foray into Russia. This dragon-added version is no less gripping – and those of you who may have some knowledge of the historical facts will appreciate Novik’s exhaustive research and clever weaving of fact with fiction that has been the hallmark of this series. As for me – I was bitterly disappointed when the book came to the end, which is always a symptom of a really good read – and very much looking forward to the next slice of Laurence and Temeraire’s adventures. If you haven’t come across this series, I highly recommend it.
10/10