Saturday, July 23, 2011

Review of Naomi Novik's Temeraire Series

I stumbled upon the first of Novik's Temeraire series when at a library book sale several months ago. Since then, it's been sitting on my immediate queue bookshelf, waiting for me to pick it up. Every once in a while I would pick it up, read the back, and laugh over the fact that someone wrote a book about dragons in the Napoleonic era. What a silly idea, I thought.
I was so inconceivably wrong.

Four books later into the series, I am in love with these books, and could wait no longer than to post a review of the four I have read thus far. Books five and six arrived yesterday and I cannot wait to tear into them.

Most of the time, dragons are relegated to a) the villain or a villain's side kick, and/or b) an unthinking beast, hording jewels and gold, and barbecuing everything and everyone in its path. This is exactly the opposite of the dragons in Novik's series. Dragons are much like humans, some a little slow, some incredibly witty and intelligent; some are large, some are small. They are different colors and sizes and there are different breeds, depending on a dragon's birthplace in the world. The Chinese dragons are put on pedestals and erudite, and the dragons in other parts of the world breathe fire and spit acid. Dragons are mostly used as mounts in this world, and Novik does an exceptional job in detailing exactly the types of harnesses, riders, and other dragon needs that need to be attended to. She leaves nothing to chance. At the end of the first book, there are even drawings of several of the breeds to further illustrate this lush world that we know so well, yet with dragons.

In most countries (and I will say most, since Novik has been taking the reader all over her world), dragons, once hatched, acquire a "captain". This works much in the same way as a captain of a ship. The captain acquires a crew and lets his crew know what to signal to the other dragons in a formation, similarly to a ship's fleet. My favorite part, however, is the deep bond that is created between a dragon and its captain, at least in most cases. The main two characters, Captain Laurence and Temeraire, embark on a relationship that include them fighting together, to Laurence reading to Temeraire every evening by lamp light. The humorous scenes come frequently, and it's difficult to remember that this cute little dragon who makes inquisitive comments such as that he thought humans also hatched from eggs, is actually a beast that fits well over forty people on his back.

Their relationship begins when Temeraire all but falls into Captain Laurence's lap. A naval captain, Laurence is not eager to join the corps, those who work with the dragons, but when Temeraire selects him as his captain, Laurence has little choice. Through the four books, Laurence and Temeraire learn how to fly and fight together, visit Temeraire's home, and learn of an impending enemy, one who has a very familiar shape. Between dragons who get sick and sneeze acid, to dragons who with their captains are holding back the French from crossing the channel, the reader is swept up in this beautifully reimagined world. Saying much more, sadly, would contain spoilers, even with where Temeraire is from, because half of the joy is learning what type of dragon he is, and why he is so insufferably intelligent.

If you're not a history buff, never fear. Novik does an excellent job in having the series take place in the Napoleonic era (and even includes Napoleon himself), however, Novik does an excellent job of explaining what is happening, without bogging you down with details that would lose your interest. If you are a history buff, however, those details that are overlooked by those of us not as well versed in Napoleonic era terminology and/or events, are given in detail, and you will feel as if you're a part of it. You will also especially appreciate how accurate these details are, especially since Novik is a self-professed Napoleonic era history buff.

I highly recommend picking up this series for any lover of fantasy literature. I will be delving into book five soon and know already from history that it won't disappoint.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Does Merging Characters = Killing Characters?

I can breathe a sigh of relief now that I just completed my fifth major rewrite of Gorgon-zola! After receiving a few comments about how too many things were happening at the beginning, I wanted to consolidate. One of the biggest things to consolidate were two characters who only had mediocre personalities. They were more than one-sided, however, I just didn't feel like both of them individually added to the story.

So I merged them. Alec and Daniel became Daniel. My husband thinks I should have made a hybrid name since the character is new and improved with character traits with both. What I do know is that the character has never been so well-rounded, and where I initially feared to take one out, I find myself loving the result. It's a bit like the Power Rangers or Captain Planet, combining powers to equal one super powerful character.

This got me thinking to the psychological ramifications of merging characters. There are so many blog posts and questions at conferences about killing characters: if it should be done, if the author sheds a tear, or if the author does it heartlessly for the good of the story. For me, I hate killing my characters. This is my second completed manuscript, and sadly, I've had to end the life of a couple of dear friends.

Did I just do the same thing here? Or can I be happy knowing that they can live on with each other?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Is This Your Dog?

If so, your dog is adorable.

While roaming around Oahu a few weeks ago on an eco-tour, we stopped at a fantastic beach along the North Shore. Sadly, I can't remember the name of the beach, but what I do remember is this big guy, sitting in the driver's seat of this van. I suppose this is what Scooby Doo would have looked like driving the Mystery Machine.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Getting Your Fruits & Veggies in While Writing

When all you can think about is your book and how you're going to get one character out of their latest mess, or how you're going to find an agent, or what the title of your newest manuscript will be, it's hard to remember to eat. It's especially hard to find healthy recipes that don't take much time at all to whip up. So in that vein, I've discovered one of the best summer slaws. It's a great way to get a mix of vitamins and minerals, and enough to keep healthy. Now that I sound like an infomercial, here's the recipe!

Apple Slaw
1 small bag of cole slaw mix, or the equivalent amount of cabbage
1 red pepper, chopped
1/4 cup toasted sunflower kernels
1 apple, chopped
1/3 cup mayo
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 T lemon juice

Mix the first four ingredients. Mix the last three ingredients. Combine, chill, and enjoy! This is also great with blueberries instead of apples, or broccoli slaw instead of cole slaw mix.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

When Phobias Go Too Far: Fear of Bananas

The banana has many uses: the inside peel is good for curing poison ivy rashes, it's a great source of potassium (especially if you suffer from a deficiency), it's great in a smoothie, in pancakes or waffles, and who could forget the banana split. But did you know that there are people who are afraid of this lovely yellow elongated fruit?

Apparently there are. Not to fear, this woman has undergone extensive therapy to be around these terrifying fruits.

Freud would have a field day.

Read the article here.