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Naomi Novik

Naomi Novik fantasy author(1973- )
Naomi Novik is a New Yorker who writes about Napoleonic-era England, China, Istanbul, and, dragons. She has been nominated for a Hugo Award, Compton Crook Award, Locus Award, and Campbell Award. You can read excerpts and deleted scenes, and see a glossary and a timeline at the Temeraire website.

In His Majesty’s Service: First book in this omnibus is good…

In His Majesty's Service by Naomi Novik

In His Majesty's Service is an omnibus edition containing the first three novels in Naomi Novik's TEMERAIRE series. (These 3 novels were also released in a Science Fiction Book Club omnibus edition called Temeraire: In the Service of the King.) Aside from these three books, Naomi Novik has written two more novels in the series, Empire of Ivory and Victory of Eagles, with Tongues of Serpents being the working title of the forthcoming sixth book. There's also a short story entitled "Feast or Famine," which is available on Naomi Novik's website, as well as two "outtakes" or deleted scenes from oth... Read More

Empire of Ivory: Mixed results

Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik

When last we left our characters, they were trapped with the Prussian Army running for their lives in the face of Napoleon's Army. Returning home they are confronted by a disaster of cataclysmic proportions as an illness is rapidly decimating the dragon populace of England. Harrowing stuff...

Empire of Ivory takes quite a while to get going and is more compelling in its depiction of events than characters. The main character remains almost cardboard for most of the book, which leaves me uninterested in him. The reader can't really relate to his internal conflict. By the end of Empire of Ivory, things begin to improve, but still he just seems too cold by half. The dragons have more personality than most of the characters.

Temeraire has lots of potential if the characters ... Read More

Victory of Eagles: Darker than the previous novels

Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik

(Contains slight spoilers for Empire of Ivory)

Victory of Eagles is the fifth instalment in Naomi Novik's TEMERAIRE series. I thought the previous four books had ups and downs but in general they are fun, fast reads. The fourth book, Empire of Ivory, had a very promising end, so I was rather looking forward to reading this. I guess Victory of Eagles mirrors the series as a whole in that it has its ups and downs but is generally enjoyable.

After Laurence's decision to deliver the cure for the dragon disease that struck Britain in Empire of Ivory to the French, thereby undoing a deliberate attempt by the British to infect the French dragons, he is put on... Read More

Tongues of Serpents: Wandering aimlessly in Australia

Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik

Tongues of Serpents is the sixth book in Naomi Novik's successful TEMERAIRE series. I understand Novik means to write three more, ending the nine-book series with the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Novik's mix of dragons and history proved addictive for many readers but I must admit that I felt the series was running out of steam after reading the fifth book, Victory of Eagles. Given my reaction to the last book in the series, I wasn't sure if I wanted to read the next novel as well. I did so anyway last week; my to-read stack currently consists of a lot of pretty heavy reading, and once in a while I am in the mood for something lighter. Unfortunately, Tongues of Serpents turned out to be the weakest in the series so far.

After... Read More

Crucible of Gold: Dragons in an alternate Napoleonic-era history

Crucible of Gold by Naomi Novik

As soon as I discovered the Temeraire series by Namoi Novik, I read all the books that were then available, so I was delighted to see a new volume after a gap of several years. The seventh book, Crucible of Gold, suffers from the problem of many long-running series that there is now a lot of backstory, and with the gap aforementioned, I spent the first three chapters trying to remember who all these people were and why they were arguing. It's a tribute to the author that I remembered most of them, and a good many of the key preceding events, by the end of the book. A quick "the story so far" and/or a list of characters would make it easier to get back in, though.

Breaking down my rating, since different books are good for different reasons:

Language/prose style: 4 stars. T... Read More

Blood of Tyrants: A world tour with plenty of dragons

Blood of Tyrants by Naomi Novik

I was concerned when Blood of Tyrants, the eighth volume of Naomi Novik’s TEMERAIRE series, began with three unlikely events, but I needn't have worried. It soon improved.

The three unlikely things were:

1. A man wearing a heavy wool coat is swept into the sea and not drowned, but washed up on shore alive. This despite the fact that the reef where he started was far enough out to sea that it apparently couldn't be seen from shore, and despite the fact that:

2. He suffered a head injury, was knocked out, and lost eight years' worth of memory, exactly corresponding to the length of the book series.

3. He was then found by probably the one person in Japan who wouldn't immediately hand him over to the authorities: a man who'd ma... Read More

Uprooted: Utterly satisfying and enthralling

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Agniezska is the brave, stubborn, sensitive heroine of Naomi Novik’s recent release, Uprooted — and she’s about to steal your heart. She comes from Dvernik, a remote village on the edges of the enchanted Wood, the dark forest that creeps like a blight over interior Polnya. The only thing holding the Wood back from engulfing the land is the Dragon, a feared sorcerer who lives nearby. For his work keeping the danger at bay, every ten years the Dragon demands one young woman from the village. As the time for “the taking” approaches, everyone in the village expects the Dragon to choose Kasia, Dvernik’s golden girl and Agniezska’s best friend. However, something about Agniezska catches the Dragon’s eye and she is the one chosen to leave her family and friends for ten years to serve him in his tower.

... Read More

Spinning Silver: We all love this

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Let’s get this out of the way early. Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver (2018) is not perfect. It’s a little overlong, with a bit of a pacing issue about two-thirds of the way through. Beyond that, other problems include ... no, wait. I forgot. There are no other problems. And I lifted up each and every page to check under them. Zip. Nada. Nothing. So yeah, the biggest problem with Spinning Silver is kind of like the problem you have when the waiter brings out your chocolate cake dessert, and it’s a little bit bigger than you were planning on. Oh, the humanity.

My marketing info calls this a “retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairytale,” and sure, it’s that. But such a narrowly focused pitch does a real disservice to the richness that is Spinn... Read More

A Deadly Education: Fantastic originality

Reposting to include John's new review.

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

I honestly had a very hard time with the beginning of Naomi Novik’s newest novel, A Deadly Education (2020). But based on my experience with her prior work, I kept going and though I don’t think this novel nears the strength of ones like Spinning Silver or Uprooted, I was happy I did.

El (short for Galadriel) Higgins is a student at the Scholomance, a sort of sentient, no-professors-here, boarding school for sorcerers. Students have various tracks of magic, the school presents them with lessons, supplies, and spac... Read More

The Last Graduate: A dubious sanctuary for magical students

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

The Last Graduate (2021) completely sucked me in from start to finish! Galadriel has managed to survive three years at her deadly magical school, the Scholomance, with her junior year capped by an epic battle against a fearsome assembly of maleficaria (magical creatures that feast on wizards, especially youthful ones), as related in the first book in this fantasy series, A Deadly Education. Now El is in her last year at the Scholomance and has achieved her goal of becoming part of an alliance of fellow students (albeit a very small, less powerful one) who will protect each other when they run the gauntlet of ravenous mals that line the hallway leading to the graduation exit. And Orion Lake, the best mal-killer in the school, has progressed from mere annoyance to occasionally still aggravatin... Read More

SHORTS: Kushner, Wilce, Tolbert, Novik, Dunsany, Peralta

There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about. 

“One Last, Great Adventure” by Ellen Kushner and Ysabeau S. Wilce (2013, free at Clarkesworld in Nov. 2015 issue, $6.99 for paperback magazine issue)

“One Last, Great Adventure” tells the story of the Hero, who is looking for one last heroic exploit before he retires from hero-ing. He gets a job killing a monster that, if he is successful, will get him a princess for a wife and a kingdom for an inheritance, allowing him to retire in comfort and wealth. He goes, with his friend Reynard, but the princess he’s been promised is not what he expected. Neither are the monsters.
... Read More

Fast Ships, Black Sails: Pirates and adventure!

Fast Ships, Black Sails edited by Jeff and Ann Vandermeer

I was never a big fan of pirates (ninjas, on the other hand...) but nonetheless, the very word evokes adventure and the high seas. Fast Ships, Black Sails doesn't really stray far from that expectation and delivers eighteen stories marked with action, treachery, and a sense of wonder.

A good chunk of the stories revolve around traditional concepts of a pirate, with only a few exceptions, such as "Boojum" by Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette, which takes place in space. The rest take place on stormy waters with sea-worthy vessels manned by rascally crews. Surprisingly, many of the stories are ... Read More

Warriors: Diverse, entertaining, rewarding

Warriors edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

FORMAT/INFO: Warriors is 736 pages long divided over twenty short stories and an Introduction by George R.R. Martin. Each short story is preceded by biographical information about the author and a short description of their contribution to the anthology. March 16, 2010 marks the North American Hardcover publication of Warriors via Tor.


“The King of Norway” by Cecelia Holland. I’ve never read anything by Cecelia Holland before, but the author is described as “one of the world’s most highly acclaimed and respected historical novelists.” Not surprising... Read More

Wings of Fire: I thought I didn’t like dragons

Wings of Fire edited by Jonathan Strahan & Marianne S. Jablon

I don't like dragons.

This is probably not the first sentence you'd expect to find in a review of Wings of Fire, an anthology devoted exclusively to dragon stories, but I thought it best to get it out of the way right from the start.

There's nothing inherently wrong with dragons. They're just terribly overused, one of those tired genre mainstays that people who typically don't read a lot of fantasy will expect in a fantasy novel because they were practically unavoidable for a long time. To this day, I confess to having to suppress a mental groan whenever I encounter them.

For a long time, I actively avoided reading any fantasy novel with the word dragon in the title. Granted, I made several exceptions to this rule in the past, most notably The King's Dragon by Read More

Zombies vs. Unicorns: Fun YA anthology

Zombies vs. Unicorns edited by Holly Black & Justine Larbalestier

Back in 2007, Holly Black and Justine Larabalestier got in an argument about which fiction creature was superior — zombies or unicorns. Spurred on by that debate, they each recruited some of their author friends to write short tales in which they present the storytelling possibilities of the two mythic beasts. With header notes for each story in which they discuss the historical background for the different takes on the creatures, Holly Black heads up Team Unicorn, and Justine Larbalestier heads up Team Zombie.

Writing for Team Unicorn, we have Kathleen Duey, Read More

The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination: For a dose of crazy genius

The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination edited by John Joseph Adams

The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination is the latest themed anthology edited by John Joseph Adams — and it’s another good one. This time, Adams has collected a set of short stories featuring the hero’s (or often superhero’s) traditional antagonist: the mad genius, the super-villain, the brilliant sociopath who wants to remold the world in his own image — or occasionally, maybe, just be left alone in his secret lair to conduct spine-tingling experiments that, as an unfortunate side-effect, may cause drastically rearranged geography, rampant mutation, or major extinction events.

Under the editorial direction of John Joseph Adams, this anthology offers an impressively varied view on this archetypical character. Some stories refer back to mad geniuses you’ll be familiar with (Frankenstein, Lex Luthor). Some of them feature ... Read More

DragonCon: Cluster-Frak at the Marriott

Sre as Zero Moustapha

I began my first day at Dragon*Con 2014 on Atlanta’s metro system, MARTA, where I met Sre and Lena, a lovely couple headed downtown for the festivities. Sre was dressed as Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy and protagonist from Wes Anderson’s recent film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Lena was dressed as herself, as was I. We made our way downtown to watch the Dragon*Con parade together. (Sre and Lena even shared their water with me! What class acts . . . )

If you’ve never been to Dragon*Con, the Saturday parade has become a local event. Several streets in downtown Atlanta are shut down on Saturday morning, and Atlantans hang out of apartment windows and peep over the edge of parking garages to watch the spectacle. It’s like Mardi Gras for nerds. It's like a better, more fun Disney parade. If Dragon*Con were highschool, this parade would be Homecoming, the Spartan... Read More