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Empire of Ivory    by Naomi Novik order for
Empire of Ivory
by Naomi Novik
Order:  USA  Can
Del Rey, 2007 (2007)
Paperback, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I've enjoyed tales of intelligent dragons and their riders since my first encounter with Anne McCaffrey's wonderful Pern series, but Naomi Novik puts an unusual alternate history spin on her human/dragon partnership. Empire of Ivory is the fourth episode in a series that injects His Majesty's Aerial Corps of fighting dragons (and their aviators) into the Napoleonic Wars that engulfed nineteenth century Europe.

As Empire of Ivory opens, Temeraire and his captain Will Laurence struggle back to England, burdened by the Prussians they have rescued, and under attack by a French dragon. Also accompanying them are infant firebreather Iskierka and a ragtag collection of undisciplined ferals. They return to a well-kept secret, a matter of great national security as its discovery by the French would open up the nation to invasion - His Majesty's Aerial Corps has been struck down by illness, with many dragons already dead and the enfeebled remainder quarantined.

In between patrolling the coastline with Temeraire and the ferals, Laurence is asked by his father and William Wilberforce to assist in the anti-slavery movement, which has run aground, repeatedly sabotaged by those who profit from it. After Temeraire proves to be immune to the disease, he, his captain and several sick dragons are sent by sea to Capetown, South Africa in search of a cure. When they find it, they inadvertently trespass on lands of the expanding Tswana Kingdom, whose dragons feel strongly about slavers' kidnapping of their people.

There's a capture, a thrilling escape, and the forced abandonment of a colony, before the survivors return to England with a cure. But when Temeraire and Laurence learn what the government has done in their absence, they're forced to make a very difficult choice. As Empire of Ivory ends, they're both left hanging on the edge of a cliff, while the reader waits for resolution in the next episode of an intriguing historical fantasy series.

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