Thursday, August 31, 2017

Naomi Novik’s Crucible of Gold: A Book Review

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The seventh installment of Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, Crucible of Gold, once again puts Laurence and his dragon in the move. This time they embark on a trip to South America in order to forestall an attack by the French ally Tswana on the Portuguese colonies. As Napoleon seemingly spreads his fingers deep into the world, Laurence and his dragon band seem to find ways to meet him at every stop. Restored to his rank, Laurence witnesses the destruction of his dragon transport, the Allegiance, and thus they are thus lost at sea without a hope of survival. After days of flying all hope is lost. Yet, in a well-crafted section, Novik places Temeraire, Kulingile, and Iskierka upon a French transport under a flag of surrender.  After brief travels and being marooned on an island, the band finds their way to the main continent and hell-bent on making their way to Rio to stop the Tswana.

In typical Novik fashion, a series of errors and miscalculations by the dragons places them instead in the heart of the Incan empire with Iskierka as their emissary nonetheless. Incan politics, the power of dragons over men, and the mysterious empire beneath the jungle, are all put on display. With the nuptial fate of Granby in the balance, they seek to stop the potential alliance between the Inca, their strange feathered dragons, and the French.

As always, the road can be bumpy, the journey thrilling, and Novik keeps the pages and fun turning as the series rockets towards its terminus.  

Book Review: Naomi Novik’s Tongue’s of Serpents

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Naomi Novik’s Tongue’s of Serpents moves Laurence and Temeraire from the European front to Australian exile. It is here that Novik follows her similar pattern: create a political climate, generate a crisis, embark on a long journey to hatch/solve the crisis, and leave a note of excitement for the next installment in the novel’s closing pages. This time out, we learn about how the colony is doing, a coup within it, a search for trade smugglers, the loss of a dragon egg, and the frantic search for the egg before it hatches.

While entertaining, especially if one is a fan of the series, this novel is a weak effort overall by Novik. The politics of the fledgling colony do little to intrigue and the threat of war is mostly absent. The reintroduction of Captain Rankin creates intrigue, one cannot help but know that Rankin will earn the trust of his hatched dragon and work to be a captain. Of course, a rival captain that disdains and distrusts Laurence creates tension, but at times both Temeraire and Laurence feel as if they have grown depressed, whiny, and sad. Temeraire does succeed in rescuing the seemingly decrepit Kulingile, but even these encounters leave him lacking bite and flare. He simply lacks the elegance and strength of his early renditions. Either way, the Chinese eventually enter the fray bringing an epic battle with them, one that fails to disappoint even if its placement is not fully needed.  

Friday, July 21, 2017

Erika Mitchell's Take the Bai Road: A Book Review

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With book two of her Bai Hsu series, Erika Mitchell picks up right where the previous installment, Bai Tide: A Bai Hsu Mystery, ended. Seemingly blackballed and punished for his North Korean operation from Take the Bai Road, Bai finds himself flung into an off books operation that threatens both his life and his career as he is sent to investigate a new Ghost Cartel that has set up shop in Mexico.

Here, Mitchell places her operative in the center of Mexican drug cartels following a mysterious shipment. Between gunfights, car chases, and lies, Bai follows a shipment that reaches all the way from North Korea into the inner confines of the US Government. A fight on a freighter leads to a terrorist plot and covert government infiltration, ideas that come easily to the author. While some ends remain loose, Mitchell creates a satisfying and complex story that stretches the limits of her spy’s abilities and twists and turns at nearly every stop.While I typically dig into the inner workings of plot in my reviews, such actions would spoil the overall plot in this instance.

As in her previous installment, Mitchell keeps the pace moving. The pages fly by as Bai goes on one adventure after another and the world lines up for him time and time again. One minute he is gunning down pursuant drug dealers only later to seek solace and use them as a cover of sorts.  That said, he faces a limitless list of challenges and seemingly escapes with little to no damage. Yet, for a spy novel, such facts are to be expected. For a quick, fun read, give this one a look.