books

a year-end note

early this year, to tame my spiralling expenses i made a mental note to cut back on my book purchases. for the first 10 months, rather to my surprises, i actually managed to make good on this promise — well, except for one occasion when i gave in to buy Collected Stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

ladies grace adieu

my unusual restraint started to crumble last november. the first time it happened was when i caught sight of Susanna Clarke‘s The Ladies of Grace Adieu. of course, being a certified Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell fan, there was no way i could have walked away from that. (and i consider that money well spent, because ms. clarke doesn’t disappoint.)

then a few minutes later, i inexplicably reached for this Jane Austen fanlit title (These Three Remain) and handed it to the cashier before i could change my mind. i really have no excuse for it, except that i was feeling nostalgic i guess. like every Jane Austen fan, i’ve always wondered what happened to elizabeth bennett and mr darcy before, during and after the events that transpired in Pride & Prejudice. i suppose, if nothing else, buying that book ought to warn me not to raise my expectations too high, and to steer away from fanlit pulp.

last legion hiccup drahon's tale

then, a couple of weeks ago, i succumbed to temptation again and bought a copy of Valerio Manfredi‘s The Last Legion. at the moment i’m plowing deep into various resources to learn more about the Roman legions, so i enjoyed the book for its entertainment value. i also managed to dip into Cressida Cowell‘s delightful Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III series. this time i snapped up How to Twist a Dragon’s Tale. as always, i find myself vastly amused and entertained by its sly humor. it’s geared for male juveniles, but if you go beyond the obvious it’s still a whole lot better than most books intended for grown-up readers.

the one book that has eluded my grasp so far is Naomi Novik‘s Victory of Eagles (book V of her Temeraire series). i am sooo tempted to buy the hardbound copy, but i think i’ll hold off for a while. at least until 2009.

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Temeraire IV: Empire of Ivory

i just finished book 4 of Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series.

ok. bottomline, i found it entertaining (hardly a surprise). still, compared to the first 3 books (His Majesty’s Dragon, Throne of Jade, Black Powder War), i found Empire of Ivory rather flat and a bit less interesting.

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Empire of Ivory starts off a few days after the last scene in book 3 (The Black Powder War), with Temeraire and Capt. Laurence and their allies finally reaching the safety of British shores. This fourth installment basically highlights Temeraire’s trip (along with his squadron mates Lily, Maximus, Dulcia, etc., and their crews) to Africa in their desperate search for a cure against the deadly malaise that was steadily decimating the draconian ranks of the British Aerial Corps.

after finding the cure and surviving a run-in with the local dragons, which have their own peculiar hierarchy and mythology, the squadron heads back to England. Britain’s dragons are eventually saved. Meanwhile, the island’s aerial defenses have to make do with Arkady and the rest of his cohort (a bunch of wild Turkish dragons featured in book 3), along with a few surviving dragons — a measure that elicits mixed results.

this series of events, however, prompts the British Admiralty to try to find a way to spread the deadly disease across the Channel — thereby ensuring that Napoleon’s dragons would suffer the same fate and consequently tilt the balance of power into Britain’s favor. finding this move vile and downright shameful, Capt. Laurence and Temeraire take matters into their own hands. Empire of Ivory ends with Temeraire and Capt. Laurence finally meeting Napoleon face to face and facing an uncertain fate as they consider the consequences of their actions. this hanging question, of course, sets the tone for book 5.

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the publisher has already sent out advance notice that Book 5 will cover Napoleon’s invasion of England.

hmmm… let’s hope book 5 doesn’t suffer the same lethargic pace that hounds Empire of Ivory. i really don’t want to give up on this series yet and i’m still wondering how ms. novik will integrate the Duke of Wellington into the series. perhaps in book 6…?