League of Dragons, by Naomi Novik

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I’m surprised to find that I’ve only reviewed one other book in this series in any depth.

 

As that review mentions, I’m definitely a fan of the Temeraire series. But more to the point, I think that League of Dragons is an excellent finish to this series. Better than many of the preceding books, which is difficult. Better than some of the really good preceding books, which is even harder.

In many ways, this book shows Novik doing exactly the opposite of what Stirling so loves; she somehow manages to cut out all the slow bits of the novel while keeping all the pieces that are important to the story. But that’s wrong, because it’s not like this is a non-stop action adventure. This takes plenty of time to devote itself to social intricacies, diplomatic considerations and the like… but Novik knows what matters, and she takes out everything else. She has a narrow focus on the heart of this story, and she has honed it until it delivers exactly that. Yes, there’s a little extra around the edges, but only enough fat to let you enjoy the flavor without overpowering the piece itself.

I want to stress, from personal experience, just how hard it is to do that. I can only imagine how much material must lie on the cutting room floor. There have to be scenes, long and involved scenes, which simply didn’t end up necessary to telling this story in the best way. The clarity and relative brevity of this story speak volumes about the discipline shown by Novik (and presumably her editor) in making this book, and I think I’ll return to this book to appreciate this for some time to come.

Funny. I’ve hit this point in the review, the one where I could start delving into further intricacies to tell you about particular bits of goodness, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. It’s enough that this is a good series about dragons. That it is also a story about a British man in the early 1800’s who learns that, maybe, more people are people than he had realized is (exceptionally good) gravy. The fact that it somehow encompasses adventure and social intrigue and feels like period fiction in the best possible way only makes it better.

If you haven’t read the series yet, you have a great deal to look forward to. Except that book about Australia, which is unfortunately rather sluggish but let’s not talk about that. Go ahead and enjoy.

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Curse of the Blue Tattoo, by L. A. Meyer

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Yup! This one is pretty good too!

It’s almost a different genre though. Where the first book (*very mild genre spoilers*) was largely historical fiction and adventure, with a dash of romance towards the end, this one is more of a school social drama (still historical fiction), complicated by romance and a dash of adventure (*end spoilers*).

I’d say it’s still worth reading, but if you were only here for the sailing ships I’m afraid you’ll be rather disappointed. On the other hand, there were a few ships on the side as set dressing and I’m sure there will be more ships in the next book. And, of course, it’s still tremendous fun.

However! I should note that there’s some sexual harassment featured in this one, more so than in the last. The first book had a little, which ultimately ends rather poorly for the abuser (thank goodness). This one has more, at lower intensity for the vast majority, in other situations. I don’t think it’s been too much so far, but I’m not sure that I like this as a pattern.

On the one hand, sure, it makes sense to include some of this. I’m more willing to accept it in part because it doesn’t overshadow Jacky in any way, and her reactions to it feel quite real. It makes it clear how uncomfortable and unwanted that behavior is, and how confusing and difficult it can be to react to receiving it. If nothing else, it might be a decent learning experience for young not-female readers, where they can come away from it thinking “oh, that’s fucked up, we shouldn’t do things like that.” But on the other hand, I don’t want to keep reading about sexual harassment and assault in every Jacky Faber book. If that is an underlying theme of the series… well, I’d really rather that it weren’t.

This hasn’t been a terrible sticking point for me so far. But it might become one, and it may already be one for you. Forewarned is forearmed, etc.

And again, I still like this one and I’m planning to read the next book damn soon. So it obviously hasn’t stopped me yet.

Bloody Jack, by L. A. Meyer

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Publisher’s Weekly certainly isn’t wrong. I’ll warn you though, some of the other covers for this series are bizarrely out of keeping with the text and themes. I’m talking about you, weirdly sexualized romance-cover blond girl.

Fortunately, reading this book doesn’t involve long hours of staring at its cover! It’s a fast read, and is excellent historical naval adventure fiction with a female protagonist. I’m not certain what to think of Jack’s characterization at a few points (Jack gets a period, feels emotional, I don’t know whether to say that it’s well or poorly done), but goodness the rest of the book is fun.

Fun. Yes. That’s a good word for this book. It’s wonderfully fun late middle grade / early YA adventure fiction, with just enough in the way of messy emotions near the end to leave it straddling the two camps while still feeling very much like a middle grade adventure story. It puts me in the mood to write more Miska, and also to read the rest of this series. It’s good stuff. I recommend it.

Writing Exercise: Experimental Miska Piece

In the course of writing an exercise piece for class, I ended up writing what might work as a short scene for my Miska story.  It’s a bit odd, given that I changed narration style, but the core conflict feels right.  I hope you enjoy it!

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Story Snippet: The Sequel to Rum Luck, pt 1

Today I have the beginning to a sequel for you, a continuation of the story I started in Rum Luck (rough draft of that story can be found here).  If you like Andre and Jerome, you’re in for a treat.  It does end rather abruptly, but there’ll probably be more soon.  Read on, and enjoy!

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Flash Fiction: Her Maritime Scowl

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This is a bit late, but this week’s (last week’s?) flash fiction from Terribleminds involved using a randomly generated phrase.  I got “maritime scowl.”  This is what followed…

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By Heresies Distressed, by David Weber

There’s an obvious joke or three to make here about being distressed by David Weber, but he doesn’t really deserve them.  The fact is, I continue to like his Safehold series, even if it is pretty predictable at this point.  Like I mentioned last time, Weber is serving up a recipe that is tried and true, and despite being well known and familiar it still tastes pretty good.

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By Schism Rent Asunder, by David Weber

In By Schism Rent Asunder, Weber continues the Safehold series that he started with Off Armageddon Reef.  He returns to his burgeoning Age of Sail adventure that pits a lovable and clearly heroic pseudo-England against a corrupt and controlling Mother Church, in what will soon become a holy war.  This recipe has been tried before, and it turns out that it tastes just fine.

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Off Armageddon Reef, by David Weber

Do you like Arthurian legend, religious war motivated by politics, and the burgeoning Age of Sail?  If yes, then try Off Armageddon Reef.  This book will feel abundantly familiar to anyone who has read a moderate number of David Weber‘s other works.  Not only is he recognizable by his language (and especially by his descriptions of violence in naval combat, which bear a striking resemblance to those used in the Honor Harrington series), but the story itself is often assembled from elements which he has already used in other books.  It speaks well for him that he’s found another way to combine those pieces, and used them to explore new topics and themes.  With naval battles and wonderful Arthurian parallels, I’m sold on this series.  Maybe I’ll change my mind six books from now, but I suspect that much like with the Honor Harrington series I’ll continue to be drawn in by the story being told here.  I happily anticipate gorging myself on the next book posthaste.

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