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Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik

August 17, 2010 Comments off

There is a danger in series that the whole thing can get a little tired. The characters all get a little too comfortable, and pages can go by with nothing really happening. Fortunately, none of that applies to this, the sixth in the Temeraire series. Naomi Novik delivers another cracking read, continuing the story along. This time, the emphasis is on the consequences of actions taken (or not taken) over the course of the previous five books. Even in their supposed exile in the new colony of Australia, Temeraire and William must deal with global events, and consider their own part in those events.

The sixth books makes for a great story in itself, while also setting things up nicely for the next few books.

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Historical Fiction: Five of the Best

July 25, 2008 Comments off

Historical fiction is another area if ascendancy right now. Just as the ‘hard sf’ writers are making that genre interesting, so the ‘hard historical’ authors are writing believable well-researched fiction that remains true to its time. As with science fiction, there’s a lot to choose from here.

1. Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson
Along with its sequels, The Confusion and The System of the World, Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle is a stunning achievement, and more importantly and excellent story to boot. Set in the time of change and revolution, this saga spans the time of years just after the English Civil War (1645) to the ascension of the House of Hanover to the throne of England in 1714. This series is not entirely concerned with England, with much of the action taking place elsewhere, and as such shows much of the world as it was at that time.

2. Temeraire by Naomi Novik
Hornblower with dragons. I can’t be the first to say this, in fact I suspect Novik was when she first pitched the series. An eminently readable series set in Napoleonic times. The same players are at one another’s throats – England, Prussia, revolutionary France, however this time each country has dragons as well as an army and navy on its side. The role of a true air force has not been realised, with most countries using their dragons as fast messengers, or to intercept the dragons of others. However Napoleon was always known as a master tactician…

3. Jonathan Strange and Mister Norrell by Susannah Clarke
As with Temeraire this novel is set in England during Napoleonic times. However this novel covers the last two magicians in England, and their dealings with one another. I enjoyed the pace of this novel, but others who have read it found it too slow.

4. I Claudius / Claudius the God by Robert Graves
What Quicksilver does to the seventeenth century I, Claudius does for ancient Rome – brings the time period to life with stunning clarity.

5. Wolf of the Plains by Conn Iggulden
This series covers the rise of Ghengis Khan in the thirteenth century. So far it has two books, but a third is on the way – next year, maybe? Already this is a great saga.