Kingdom-level fantasy with strong elements of magic, mystery, and political conspiracy. Pitch perfect narration. Easy on the ears with discernibly different voices. No irritating breathing sounds, affectations, or mannerisms.
As for the story, it's got vengeance, vivisection, resurrection, and insurrection. Political intrigue via golems and hedge witches, science and sorcerers, magical paintings and magical trees (a lá Hogwarts), and steampunk-ish spheres melding magic and technology. There's Unsealie Court Dark Fey and cute garden fairies, too (but not a dragon in sight).
(I listened, didn't read, so names may be misspelled.)
It's captivating, somewhat heartwarming, fast-paced and coherent. The story is set mostly in a fantastical rendition of old world London (Lodun) and Vienna (Vienne). Horses and carriages, ball gowns and butlers, telegraphs and ... sewers. (Lots of action down in the sewers.)
The good guys are a band of thieves, a likable cast of ne'er-do-wells reminiscent of Robin Hood. The leader of this gang is Lord Nicholas Valliard (aka Donaten the mastermind thief). His team includes Madeline, an actress and master of disguise (his lover); Cusard, a lock-pick thief; Captain Raynard, a calvary officer wrongfully discharged; and Crock, a prison escapee framed for murder.
Then there is Nicholas's friend Ariselde, an opium-addicted sorcerer, and Isham (Ariselde's manservant). Eventually Madele, an old hedge-witch, joins in.
And there's a queen -- fabulous character. In fact, nearly every female in this story is strong: Madeline, her grandmother Madele, the queen.
Plus, serving the queen is the tenacious and perceptive Inspector Sebastien Ransward, along with his discerning colleague Dr. Halle.
The villains are varied and many, but Nicholas primarily is after Lord Montesq, who fabricated evidence to frame his beloved adoptive father Edouard, which led to his hanging. Of course, he's first got to put a stop to the Necromancer.
I like how this author writes, slowly revealing character traits and pertinent life stories, weaving these tidbits into the story over time. Also, she avoids long info dumps, doesn't try so hard to convince me that her magical theories hold water, and goes easy on the internal dialogue, so the pace isn't mired in needless and redundant thoughts. She lets me draw my own conclusions about what the characters might be feeling and thinking. I appreciate this so much.
This is straight fantasy suspense. Sometimes gory, gruesome, scary. No real romance, since Madeline and Nicholas are already openly in love and cohabiting on page one. Yet their devotion is cool!
There is a touch of bromance, however, among the members of this Ocean's Eleven team. Crack loves Nicholas, especially. And an intriguing relationship sprouts between Nicholas (channeling a kinder gentler Moriarty) and Inspector Ranswald (a more socially adept Sherlock).
Some good plot twists.
My only quibbles are minor: A little too pat at the ending, and I'd be willing to sacrifice some high-octane action scenes and skullduggery for bonding time around the fire. Phew! These guys never get to rest! (Except for poor opium-soaked sorceror, Arisilde -- another fabulous character). Some parts are predictable.
It's all good. Not sure I would listen to it again and again -- as I do with favorites -- because it didn't totally pull on my heart strings. But maybe I will.
I've read the book several times; it's a favorite Regency-era classic by the immortal Georgette Heyer. The dialogue and plot is light and sparkling with humor. The narrator is superbly talented, but I expected a younger voice for the heroine, Arabella. Nash simply doesn't suit a debutante. I'm puzzled at this mismatch.
Fabulous narration by Simon Vance. I've heard the whole series. Was worried this book would be too depressing. Not so. Liked it more than expected. Profound at times, as Laurence deals with ostracism from folks he'd once called friend — or family. But despite the deep injustice and sadness, I often felt good while reading this one. It's heartwarming and mildly amusing in several scenes, offset by desperate bloody battle.
"Colonel Temeraire" of the 81st division steals the show, along with Perscitia the brainiac beast (a mathematically inclined female dragon who plans transportation and battle strategies, despite her personal aversion to warfare). Loved the idea of all these dragons — considered useless — leaving the breeding grounds (old folks home) to serve under Temeraire's command.
I liked the scenes with Lady Allendale and was pleased to see Gong Su again. The fat Lords of the Admiralty were as obtuse and hateful as ever, especially Mulgrave. Wellesley / Wellington seemed fairly realistic. Admiral Jane Roland was in high form throughout the book, too. Her teenage daughter Emily -- always a favorite of mine -- did not disappoint, nor did young Demane and Sipho. Granby and his fire-breathing dragon Iskierka play key roles, as does Tenzin Tharkay. Hoorah for Tharkay!
There are a few battle scenes, most notably the final confrontation with Napoleon, who managed to invade England (a departure from history). The battle formations (squares) felt authentic, despite the surprise (!) in the center, and Wellington's precise timing did not fail. Admiral Lord Nelson plays a key role in the battle, too.
I could have done without the chapter involving Edith and her husband.
The ending is poignant, set during the voyage to New South Wales. Laurence finds peace of mind about his just act of treason and feels nearly overcome with emotion in finding himself surrounded by a few true-blue friends.
This book reminds me of Lord Thomas Cochrane, the historic figure in naval history. The whole series does, in fact.
Now, we wait for the final book. Book 9. League of Dragons, or bust!
Fabulous performance by Simon Vance, who narrated the entire series. Yay for consistent voices! As for the story, about 3 stars. Good to see the crew rejoined, and lots of vivid scenes in the ocean and in South America. We travel from Sydney, Australia to Peru and Brazil: Lake Titicaca, Old Cuzco, and Rio. Lots of action. Battles and duels and dire straights. Surviving on the edge of starvation. Some deaths and some wonderful feasting and glad reunions. Also, the soothing leaves of the coca tree / bush provide for some mildly amusing bits.
One of the best scenes is towards the end, when the British dragon teams capture several French ships and dragons. Nicely detailed, but not too long or drawn out. I loved the way the dragons worked together, ensuring their crew's safety while taking down the French.
However, I couldn't get into the larger plot: Napoleon allies with the Botswana-based Tswana tribe (who travel to Brazil to free their enslaved kinsmen). Napoleon also attempts to ally with the Incan empire.
Still, I do love this juvenile dragon. He tries so hard to be a better beast, for Laurence's sake, despite his innate fascination with shiny bling, his possessiveness, and his easily ruffled pride.
Simon Vance brought Naomi Novik's fantasy to life. I'm learning more about the Napoleonic War from this series, despite the fictional dragons. It's an entertaining alternate history, close enough to the "truth" in some scenes to trigger my interest (so I look things up, comparing the historic account with the fictional).
I liked this 3-part plot, even if the pacing got bogged down in Prussian campaigning (by committee, with outdated strategies). Loved the characters. Here be dragons! Huzzah for the beast-baby Iskierka and for shrewd, swaggering Arkady! We also get a close encounter with Napoleon and threats from Lien, set on avenging her dead captain.
And here we meet the inscrutable Tharkay, half-Nepalese, half-British, fully ostracized. Totally hot.
Hopeful ending, when Team Temeraire finally gets to go home, escaping from besieged Danzig / Gdańsk. They have been away from home a full year. The journey has been fraught with fear, hunger, cold, assassinations, accusations, betrayals, avalanches, bandits, feral dragons, fire, and bloody bloody battles.
"But the sky ahead was opening up to a fierce, deep, cloudless blue, an endless road of wind and water before them. A signal was flying from the mast of the Vanguard: "Fair winds, sir!" Turner said, as they passed the ships by. Laurence leaned into the cold sea wind, bright and biting. It scrubbed into the hollows of Temeraire's sides to clean away the last of the eddies of smoke, spilling away in gray trailers behind them...
Out ahead of them, Arkady began something very like a marching song, chanting lines answered by the other ferals, their voices ringing out across the sky, each to each. Temeraire added his own to the chorus, and little Iskierka began to scrabble at his neck, demanding, "What are they saying? What does it mean?"
"We are flying home," Temeraire said, translating. "We are all flying home."
"It's a kind of consumption," Lord Lenton said tiredly, turning to the window.
“How widespread—?” Laurence asked.
“Everywhere,” Lenton said. “Dover, Portsmouth, Middlesbrough. The breeding grounds in Wales and Halifax; Gibraltar; everywhere the couriers went on their rounds; everywhere.” He turned away from the windows and took his chair again. “We were inexpressibly stupid; we thought it was only a cold, you see.”
Narrated superbly by Simon Vance. I've listened to the series. This book is among the best. It rocks, even despite the cliffhanger conclusion.
The story begins in England, 1807, then to Africa via the Gold Coast (slaving forts or "castles") to the Cape, then back home.
Perfectly paced, with action scenes nicely spaced by restful times (not quite enough happy bonding times). Some surprising twists in both plot and characterization. (Pastor Erasmus and his wife, Hannah, especially.) I felt the characters more deeply -- their inner turmoil as they made tough decisions, mourned losses, faced death, etc. I found the plot quite absorbing, partly because Novik offers such a wonderful picture of how slavery might have been abolished, in Africa.
Dragons are dying of some sort of deadly flu, so Temeraires and others journey to Africa for the cure -- stinky mushrooms. Big ones. They wind up in Capetown. From there, into the interior, to Tswana territory, Botswana, home of Moshueshue, prince of the Tswana tribe and leader of the Tswana-Sotho alliance of sub-Saharan African tribes. (Somehow, I think he is Shaka Zulu. Or related to him.)
Across the chapters, some characters die, some new characters sign up, alliances formed and broken, a special "egg" conceived. Towards the end of the book, Laurence and Tem are forced to make a tough decision.
Back home in England, Wilberforce and Allendale strive to prohibit slavery, despite Lord Nelson.
On the continent, Napoleon continues to attack, planning to invade England.
Oh, and in Dover, Arkady and the new band of feral dragons settle in. Somewhat.
Temeraires still wants a nice pavilion, just as he saw in Peking.
Cliff: What will become of Laurence and Temeraire? What will come of the two African boys, Demane and his little brother Sipho?
I read that a movie may be in the making. Peter Jackson?
Besides the superb narration, the best thing about this book is Kulangili / Demane and Temeraire / Laurence. Also, an incredibly vivid lightning storm and the wildfire. And such gruesome sea serpents!
But too much bickering among the characters as they trekked across Australia. Traversing the Blue Mountains, the valleys, and the outback from Sydney to Ayers Rock and hence to the northern coast, humans and dragons grew so tiresomely nasty. Ugh. Caesar deserves Rankin. Even little Sipho was a jerk, and Emily Roland.
But I love the valiant, long-suffering Temeraire.
The pacing is slow. Meandering. Chasing smugglers and thieves across the outback. Easter egg hunt gone Aussie.
Also, too many scenes involved the bunyip, or kianpraty, a large man-eating creature from Aboriginal mythology, said to lurk in swamps, billabongs, creeks, riverbeds, and waterholes. Cool tunnels and trap doors, though.
I wanted a better sense of Captain Laurence and Tem coming to terms with their exile. But there are some good conversations and thoughts about this watershed. I wanted more scenes at their new homestead, building a life together.
I chuckled when Caesar hatched. Great scene with Rankin!
I have a soft spot for Forthing; as a homeless orphan boy, he slept in the dragon coverts to keep warm.
Five stars for narration by Simon Vance.
Excellent narration! Hats off to Simon Vance for his Asian accents. Much like the stubborn Brit -- McCartney? -- who dismantled Chinese-English relations by refusing to prostrate himself before the emperor, I won't kow-tow to Vance, but he IS nearly divine. (Even though I wanted the dragon's voice to deepen as he matured.)
In this episode, set in 1806, Captain Will Laurence is ordered — by no less than First Lord of the British Admiralty — to gives his beloved dragon Temeraire (see prequel) to Prince Yongxing, brother of the Jiaqing Emperor. According to Yongxing, the Chinese emperor wants his rare Celestial dragon back, or he may block trade routes, restrict and restrain the East India Company, seize ships and merchandise, etc. According to Chinese law, Celestials are only companions to royalty, and Captain Will Laurence is not royalty. (Or is he?)
They go to China via the British transport ship Allegiance, captained by Tom Riley (see prequel). They are accompanied by Sir Hammond — irritating interpreter and Orientalist — a very protective lieutenant John Granby, and about a dozen other airmen, including cadet aviator Roland, a young female sporting aviator britches.
En route, along with French sea-battles, we get hostility between Captain Riley's sailors and Captain Laurence's aviators. The voyage is long, the ship manned by superstitious sailors. Was that a ghost? Is the Allegiance cursed? And spirits drop further when they get word that the British suffered great losses to the French and the Prime Minister died. (Pitt, if memory serves -- a historical figure.)
We also get super-sized sea serpents, several attempts to kill Captain Laurence, a fabulous fight scene, and dueling dragons. The author created vivid descriptions of the palace, the theatrical stage show, the dragons' palatial grounds, and exotic food, especially the stinky mushroom dish that helped Temeraire get over his flu.
Temeraire meets his mother, his twin brother, and takes a lover, named Mei. Lol. He decides he wants British dragons to have the same rights and benefits as do their Eastern counterparts. His strong sense of injustice is partly prompted by the slave-trade he witnessed as his transport ship rounded Africa.
Sir George Staunton (a historical figure) and Sir Hammond (a credible invented character ) help build an accord between China and England. These characters lend some authentic historical context to the book. The plot thread about Imperial rebellions and potential fratricide / regicide is a stretch, perhaps. Or not. The name and character Yongxing is historically based. Quasi.
Although entertaining, I felt somewhat disappointed in this alternative history. Slow pacing at times, and it was hard to keep track of all the different Chinese names -- for humans and dragons. I needed a cheat sheet.
I said dragons were too much like humans in book 1. Well, this characterization rendition is magnified in book 2. Now we have dragons as full citizens of China, reading and writing, engaging in learned discussions, eating human meals with full complement of exotic spices, side dishes, beverages (tea). Personally, I like dragons to be dragons, with an "otherness" to them. Extreme anthropomorphism here.
I've read the book several times. It's an old favorite by a beloved author. The narrator, Georgina Sutton, has a lovely British accent, and portrays the heroine, Pen, beautifully. She portrays the hero, Richard, fairly well, too.
However, the listening experience was slightly unpleasant to my ears for some of the secondary male characters. Raspy, scratchy, twangy, and in Cedric's case, also goofy. Sutton mispronounced a few words, like inebriated and babble (unless the British pronunciation differs from American English).
I'd go 3.5 stars for the narration, I guess.
As for the story, about 4.5 stars. So much fun! Never formulaic, Georgette Heyer wrote a wide variety of romance novels. This one feels suspenseful yet lighthearted and adventurous. A run-away, a masquerade, a robbery, murder, and a rescue. A fish-faced man, thieves' cant, and cross-dressing.
As with everything Heyer writes, the romance is clean and the relationships develop naturally. Richard is forced to treat Pen like a sister almost, because of their situation.
The murder-robbery plot is sound enough, but nothing special.
As with all Heyer's works, the secondary characters are nicely textured.
Final scene is funny, especially when one considers the societal norms of the time. "Richard, Richard! They can see us from the coach!"
Lighthearted escapade. A romantic road trip. I could almost smell the onions in the crowded coach.
Simon Vance is fast becoming a favorite storyteller, even though I wasn't totally satisfied with how he portrayed the dragon, Temeraire. But maybe as he grows into an adult, his voice will deepen —the hatchling, not Simon.
Alternative history of Britain's battles with Boney. Based in history, but not. A fun story, mixing Napoleonic wars with endearing but deadly dragons, and with Regency-era British society. I enjoyed it quite a lot. Fast paced and easy to follow. I'd give the story 3.75 or 4 stars, and the narration a bit more.
One quibble is that the dragons are too much like humans, but with wings. They didn't feel like something "other" to me. Another quibble is with the "dreaded" training camp in Scotland: for all the foreshadowing, it fell fairly flat.
As a reader (listener), I was privileged to discover what kind of dragon Temeraire would become and what he would eventually be able to do. He's a very rare breed — virtually unknown in England — so this was a little mystery unwinding across the book. No info-dump poured down upon my head in the first chapter. Thank you.
Cool transport battle scene. (Shocking winds at the white cliffs of Dover.)
Sweet bonding between Temeraire the dragon and Captain Will Laurence. I loved these two lead characters, as well as poor, neglected Levitus. I wanted Captain Rankin to lose his seat. At 1000 feet.
Nice blend of action scenes and quiet bonding times between dragon and man. Several secondary characters added nicely to the mix.
This book won several awards and it was Novik's first science-fiction fantasy. Celestial!
It's even funny sometimes, but never slapstick.
I may read the entire series. Or listen to it.
By the way, there's reference to complicit adult sex. Not explicit.
Wow. Animal lovers, listen up! Awesome narration by Simon Vance. I could listen to him forever. Utterly captivating and heartwarming animal story / memoir.
This "true" account is absolute joy, even though there are some anxious and sad times. Deeply profound. I felt so good while reading it — never wanted it to end. I cried a bit, too.
(Be advised, invented spelling -- I've no clue how to spell Zulu names, given the audio format).
While the main focus is on the supposedly rogue elephant herd, there is much more to this book: fearless family dogs, deadly crocs and snakes, several rhinos, Zulu traditions, uniting five tribal lands, post-Apartheid ravages, assassins and poachers, flooding rivers, raging fires, etc. Never a dull moment.
Hoorah for Lawrence Anthony, instigator of Thula Thula animal reserve, in Zulu-land, South Africa. He wrote his story without conceit. He seemed grateful for his good fortune and honest about his mistakes. I felt his joy, frustration, anger, and pain. There's some preaching or soap-boxing, but it's minimal and bothered me not at all.
Lots of love to Nana, the wise old matriarch elephant, and to her fiercely protective sister Frankie. Love to Nanzham the adolescent orphaned bull, and to baby Thula, wrong-footed but right-hearted. Highest regards to my poor traumatized orphaned adolescent girl, ET. Huzzah for all the brave dogs, especially Max and Penny.
Kudos to the local Zulu chieftain / king and his equally noble son: Oonkosee Bielah and his son Thee-why-Oonkosee-Bielah (no clue how to spell Zulu names).
Hats off to Françoise, and to the rangers David, Brendan, Bekkah, etc.
What a book! What a fabulous narrator!
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