Here at FairyRoom we are big fans of clever alternate history premises. The Temeraire series reimagines the Napoleonic Wars with dragons not only as commonplace, but used as a military air force in throughout war-torn Europe and Asia. Book One was widely well-received when it released in 2006, winning the Compton Cook Award and being nominated for a Hugo. Six books later:
Naomi Novik’s beloved series returns, with Captain Will Laurence and his fighting dragon Temeraire once again taking to the air against the broadsides of Napoleon’s forces and the friendly—and sometimes not-so-friendly—fire of British soldiers and politicians who continue to suspect them of divided loyalties, if not outright treason.
For Laurence and Temeraire, put out to pasture in Australia, it seems their part in the war has come to an end just when they are needed most. But perhaps they are no longer alone in this opinion. Newly allied with the powerful African empire of the Tswana, the French have occupied Spain and brought revolution and bloodshed to Brazil, threatening Britain’s last desperate hope to defeat Napoleon.
And now the government that sidelined them has decided they have the best chance at negotiating a peace with the angry Tswana, who have besieged the Portuguese royal family in Rio—and thus offer to reinstate Laurence to his former rank and seniority as a captain in the Aerial Corps. Temeraire is delighted by this sudden reversal of fortune, but Laurence is by no means sanguine, knowing from experience that personal honor and duty to one’s country do not always run on parallel tracks.
Nonetheless, the pair embark for Brazil, only to meet with a string of unmitigated disasters that force them to make an unexpected landing in the hostile territory of the Incan empire, where they face new unanticipated dangers.
Now with the success of the mission balanced on a razor’s edge, and failure looking more likely by the minute, the unexpected arrival of an old enemy will tip the scales toward ruin. Yet even in the midst of disaster, opportunity may lurk—for one bold enough to grasp it.
This concept is far-fetched, true, but fear not—readers are embracing it (community reviews on GoodReads are overwhelmingly positive). Joe on Goodreads assures, “Yes, the premise (the Napoleanic era + Dragons) is shamefully ridiculous….But the execution? …it’s flawless.”
And if you’re worried if perhaps Naomi Novik jumped the shark (seven books in six years is quite a feat!), another community reviewer, Kyndall, says, “I love these books. Every time I finish one I wish I had the next to take its place. Novik does a fantastic job at world building and story telling.”
An excerpt of Crucible of Gold is available on Temeraire.org. Order it from these popular booksellers:
Another alternative history! Last week we highlighted Tiffany Trent’s Hallowmere series, a young adult fantasy which infuses fairy into the American Reconstruction. With The Unnaturalists, her new book for young adults, Trent turned more classically steampunk by bringing fairies into Victorian London:
The City of New London is all Tesla’s fault. If his experiment had not broken the walls between London and Fairyland, New London would not be here at all, and Fairyland would not be in jeopardy. The tear in the fabric of space and time brought things from every era of London—Vauxhall Gardens, the Tower, Nonesuch House. With it also came the belief that Science would cure all ills. Soon, the descendants of Tesla learned how to turn magical energy into power, using a substance called myth. Just as Old London relied on coal and gas, New London relies on myth. It’s in everything from lanterns to sealing wax. It powers machines. It provides heat and light.
But all of this comes at great price.
In the Museum of Unnatural History, fifteen-year-old Vespa Nyx has spent the last two years since her expulsion from Seminary learning to identify, catalog, and mount rare sylphs. Even as the black desert of the Creeping Waste threatens New London, young Syrus Reed seeks Vespa at the behest of the mysterious Manticore. Whether they can learn to trust each other and work together in a race against time and greed is at the heart of this steampunk adventure.
Community reviewer Jaime on Goodreads said, “There are no holes in this novel and is beautifully written. Tiffany Trent’s novel is action packed throughout.” Chandra, another community reviewer, said, “I would recommend The Unnaturalists to anyone looking for a good Victorian/steampunk book with strong fantasy elements, a little horror, a little romance, and a lot of adventure.”
Without really telling us anything about the plot, the official description for this classic is the most obscure synopsis we’ve ever come across:
The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.
Readers are split on The Wheel of Time. As he vacillated over reading it, GoodReads community reveiwer Joel described a regular conversation between him and a friend like this:
Brian: You should read The Wheel of Time. It’s really good.
Me: I’ve heard that it gets really, really bad.
This probably sounds familiar to any fan of the Fantastic. Nevertheless, The Eye of the World has over 63,000 ratings on Goodreads, averaging 4.12 stars, so we’re inclined to side with Brian. Others in the reader community backed him up, says Eric: “I wanted to live in the world he created. His descriptions of simple village life and interaction are so rich and wonderful, not to mention his treatment of city life, magic, technology, politics, romance, history, mystery, comedy, food, the battle of the sexes, military life and tactics, cultures and on and on.”
We think that sounds like a great start.
DON’T MISS THIS: Tor Books is giving away of The Eye of the World (with handsome new cover art!) on Goodreads, now through June 22. Enter to win!
The easiest way to start reading this book is to Look Inside on Amazon. Order The Eye of the World from these popular booksellers:
Tell us about which New, Soon, and Classic Fantastic books you’re excited about. We want to include them on FairyRoom!