His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire #1)

His Majesty's Dragon

Naomi Novik stole my heart away with Uprooted. It was one of my first ever reviews on this site. Her writing was evocative and fresh and kept me hooked from chapter to chapter. Reading her book was like being welcomed into a new universe by an old friend and I had to stay to hear all her stories because I LOVE her stories!

When I began reading His Majesty’s Dragon, I gave an inward sigh because the writing style and language was reminiscent of very stilted and suffocating movies like Master and Commander. The height of propriety, every word has a place, every statement is backed by deep consideration for tradition and expectations, and everyone’s station is life is set. Think honor and duty above all else.

Imagine my surprise when I sank into this language and writing like I was being cuddled by the most comfortable chair, covered in blankets, with a hot beverage, watching the snow fall softly outside as my best friend told me the story of his old war days riding on a dragon against Napoleon. It was a story I didn’t realize I wanted to hear that I couldn’t get enough of as I moved through the chapters falling in love with character after character. Angels, I cried openly during one particular part because by the time I reached that point in the narrative everyone involved was someone I loved and I could not stand to see them hurt or in pain.

An English naval vessel captures a dragon egg from a French ship, and when it hatches before they can reach land Laurence, the English captain, moves forward to harness the dragon to ensure that it flies for England. His deep sense of duty drives him to act for the good of his country, but out of this action grows one of the deepest friendships and loves that I have read about in a very long time. He names the dragon Temeraire and they plan to enter the aerial Corps once the ship makes land.

Now the traditional military branches view the Corps as ‘lesser than’. It’s seen as a rougher life. People who enter the Corps traditionally don’t marry, they aren’t involved in the typical English social circles or ladders anymore. Their only duty is for England, the Corps, and the dragon to whom they are bound from the hatching. This kind of isolation gives most people the vapors, and Laurence, having been fed a steady diet of this misinformation, enters this new world with some nervousness. He soon discovers that the people who are involved with the Corps are just as smart, honorable, and duty bound as any other part of society that he has experienced thus far.

Temeraire is a very different dragon from those typically used in the Corps. Laurence speaks with dragon scholars and they believe him to be an Imperial breed from mainland China, sent as a gift to Napoleon but intercepted by England. Temeraire is disappointed because he cannot breathe fire or spit acid like some of the other dragons, and you get to watch him grow and eat and develop throughout the book to finally reach his full growth and abilities to reveal an identity even bigger than they initially thought. He loves for Laurence to read to him, and he knows both English and French, having heard them both spoken while he was still in the egg. In this book dragons speak with humans and it is so entertaining to see them as equal participants in the process instead of simply being beasts of burden.

Novik asks us to consider relationships in this first book of the series. Abusive relationships, especially ones that you cannot escape. What is kindness in the face of such inescapable bonds? How do we balance duty to our country and duty to each other? When is love the greatest duty that we hold? What is consent? YES CONSENT.

Honestly the most comforting aspect of this novel, and what creates the most tension, are the moments where the riders consider their dragons as equal partners and ask their input before doing things and when they do not. For example, Laurence insists on removing Temeraire’s harness at the end of exercise and washes his dragon after he eats and trains because Temeraire asks for it. Because it makes Temeraire comfortable. And what’s really excellent is that these simple acts of consideration and kindness spread to the other dragons, creating a community of deeper companionship among the members of the Corps. The lengths to which people consider the needs and comfort of others in this novel, both people and dragons alike, will renew your hope that such a society might be possible in our dragonless world.

Naomi Novik has written a novel in the traditionally formal style of an old naval story that will capture your imagination and your heart, making you wish for your own dragon as a partner. Please go read this book. You will be better for having read it and I would not lead you wrong. Go get you some.

If I Had A Billion Dollars

Happy Wednesday! I regret to inform you that I did not win a billion dollars and so I will be continuing with this existence until further notice.

*sob*

It was telling that, when I thought of what I would spend that much money on, all I could think of were basic necessities that I wanted but couldn’t have. A house, a new car to replace my 12-year-old one, paying off all our debts, and being able to travel whenever we wanted, first class of course.

Just considering having no debt brought up the question, what would our regular maintenance costs be? Probably a maid service to come once a week, a pool service person to come once a week, and a landscaping/lawn service to come once a week to keep up the house and property. The pet costs, like grooming and vet things, would be a consideration. Car upkeep on the husband’s Prius and whatever new car I would get. Yearly taxes on the house and land.

The accountant in me knows that most of that money would be invested and we would draw a salary and expenses off the interest income. Making money from money – the real American dream. Which raises the idea that neither the husband nor I would ever have to work again, which then raises the question of what we would do with our time, but I’m not sure how to even brainstorm that.

Then we started thinking about what we’d do once our immediate needs were met. We knew we’d want to get a flat in London, a cabin in Vermont, and a condo on the beach so we’d have places to stay without having to pay for a hotel. I think I would want to pay a personal trainer to help get me in shape so I didn’t have to go to the gym to exercise (I’d have a room in our new home with equipment anyway).

I own work clothes and enough graphic tees and shorts to get by – I think I would want to find clothes that actually look good on me and are comfortable. Clothes are so low on my priority list that they only get purchased when other clothes wear out, so it would be nice to have clothes I actually feel confident in. I don’t think the bra market would be ready for how much money I would be willing to spend for a bra that actually works.

I think that other things would arise when the time came. Right now my brain isn’t in the right place to be able to imagine all the things I could do with that much money. I wouldn’t want a bunch of cars or a huge house or anything that might be above and beyond what I actually need, and I’m sure I would want to start some kind of scholarship fund or charitable trust with some of the money to go to a cause I care about. But all that’s so far above where I would start that I would have to consider it after those more basic needs were met and secure.

What would you do if you became an instant billionaire?

 

Looking Forward

In the few years that this website has been hosting book reviews, I’ve learned several things about book releases. They usually happen on Tuesdays and February is one of the hottest months for book releases in the year. I swear every year in February I pull my hair out wondering how I’m going to read all the amazing February releases. I also have learned the importance of pre-ordering. Pre-ordering a book can increase the likelihood that a supplier (Amazon, your local indie bookstore, Barnes and Noble) will see that demand and order even more, supporting the book and the author.

It has been a difficult couple of weeks. Years really, but the past couple weeks have been particularly asshole-esque. Then this weekend I got a few emails that significantly brightened my day.

The first reminded me that I had preordered the paperback of Tower of Dawn, book 7 in the Throne of Glass series, to add to my current collection. In addition to this I also preordered the hardcover of Kingdom of Ash, the final book in the same series. I don’t usually preorder new releases like this – I prefer to read them via the library first to see if they are books I want to own – but in this case I want the set on my shelf. Much like how I ordered her other trilogy finale A Court of Wings and Ruin to finish out the set despite the fact that it was horribly written smut that gave no satisfying ending to what the first two books set up. I didn’t even touch the novella A Court of Frost and Starlight, and I’m glad I didn’t. Apparently it was even smuttier than ACOWAR and less coherent, and it has no place on my shelves. Kingdom of Ash does though, and I can’t wait to see how it ends.

The other email was from a friend, someone I have never met but feel a real kinship with. It helps that she loves Pizza Hut so much. Paige sent me an email with an Amazon gift card as a get well soon message. ❤ The kindness of friends that I have found out in the wide world of web always surprises me and warms my heart. I took a day or so to decide what I would want to read, and I decided on the second book of the Nevernight trilogy. The first book, Nevernight, was an absolute vengeful delight. Initially I decided to wait to get the next one, Godsgrave, at the library, but I have been waiting forever (the holds list claims it’s been ordered but it’s been that way for a LONG time) and it’s finally time for me to get on book 2 because book 3 comes out next year and I gotta get it. Thank you Paige for your gift, your support and friendship, and your love of reading too. We’re probably going to have to finally meet in real life in March when I’m in Portland for the AWP Writer Conference.

I have all these books to look forward to, arriving on Tuesday of this week, and in November I’ll be off to the Miami Book Fair for more literary goodness. I’m healing well; thank you for all your well wishes!

Read. Be brave. Stay angry.

I Made These For You

At theawkwardyeti.com there are some pretty cute comics illuminating how the body works. As you read this I am at home recovering from gall bladder removal surgery, which was performed on Thursday. The husband took today off too, as I’m supposed to have a responsible adult watch me for 24 hours after the procedure. I got home okay yesterday, and today I’m just taking it as easy as I can.

gall-bladder
Credit: theawkwardyeti.com

I wont have much to do over the weekend other than read, sleep, play video games, and watch tv/movies, so I’m hoping to have some reviews up and ready for you next week. But if I don’t, you’ll have them as soon as I can write them.

Have a good weekend! Thanks for being here!

Kill the Farm Boy

Kill the Farm Boy

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett (Discworld #1)

The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett (Discworld #2)

When I began reading this new release that I grabbed on a whim at the library, it was a really fun start. A nobody that cleans up dung on his family’s farm is chosen by an ugly, drunk pixie to be a Chosen One and he sets off with the goat that the same pixie gave the gift of speech to in order to exact revenge on the lord that killed his brother. There is an aspiring dark lord and even a large woman in a chain mail bikini – and it was when I reached this point that I remembered I had seen this before.

In the spring of this year (2018) I attempted to read the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, but put it down after the second book. I love the silliness, but in books like these it tends to get stuck on level 10 and never deviate, creating a situation where you get bored even though the setup is silly and bucking the tradition. There’s no give and take or normal versus silly – you just go from zero to sixty silliness per hour, the authors don’t let up on the gas, and it’s tiresome.

Sorry for the short review, but I didn’t read very much of the book and so I don’t want to mess with your opinion too much. If you like the Discworld books you will LOVE this novel. It’s just not for me. It’s too much and trying too hard all at once and my brain shuts down. But you might like it, so give it a try.

Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr

Ka Dar Oakley

On my way home from my ultrasound last week I stopped at the library to check on a book that hadn’t been checked back in properly and decided to also browse the shelves. I grabbed two or three books and one of them was KA: Dar Oakley and the Ruin of Ymr off the New Releases shelf. I’m a sucker for crows and also for good cover art so I took it even though I had never read anything by this author before. I figured it was worth a try.

The gist is that the main character, a crow without a name, comes to make a connection with a tribe of people that lives near his family’s nesting location. He learns the language of the people and he teaches the one girl the language of Ka and they come to be friends. Something happens to her and he travels to what we are led to believe is the land of the dead to bring her back to be the new leader of her tribe.

This book was interesting at first because it was dark and so different from anything I had ever read. It’s presented like a Plato’s Cave awakening – we slowly see the crow becoming less of a crow and more of a human. It’s a really cool concept.

The problem was that it was SOOOOOOOOOOO boring. I managed to get to about 25% through (page 100 or so, it’s 441 pages long) and I gave myself permission to stop. The reason it was boring is that the storyline is so slow. Four whole pages are given over to describing his mother and father building a nest and how a rival crow tries to fuck his mom but his dad manages to chase him off and then he watches his dad fuck his mom multiple times to make sure the brood is his and…well…I just wasn’t seeing any payoff anytime soon. So back to the library it went.

Now usually I would cushion the blow of an unfinished review with a statement about how it just wasn’t for me but you might like it because it seems really popular, but I haven’t heard of this book before now, nor the author (who is also from Maine originally), and I feel comfortable letting you know that you can probably safely avoid it. Skip it. Do it for me and do it for yourself.