Archive for 2010/12

Adventures with Napoleon - 4:07AM, 2010/12/31

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation (Pink Carnation #1)
The identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel has long been revealed, but others have risen to take his place in harrying the French — a country no longer in the grip of the Reign of Terror, but rather now in the grip of General Bonaparte, a far more horrifying prospect for the British. Amy Balcourt has managed to fast-talk herself into a trip to France with her cousin Jane and their chaperone Miss Gwen, ostensibly to visit her brother Edouard, but in reality to seek out the latest of the flowery adventurers, the Purple Gentian, and offer him her services. Amy’s adventures in Napoleonic France are interrupted every few chapters by a parallel modern day plot, featuring a graduate student doing research into all of these masked heroes and trying to put a name to the one known only as the Pink Carnation. Author Lauren Willig clearly intends these books to be a sequel to the Pimpernel series (the Blakeneys are real, though off camera, in this debut outing). Not having yet red the whole of the Pimpernel oeuvre, I can’t say if any contradictions arise, but apart from dialing up the explicitness of the romance subplot in consideration of modern tastes, the feel of this book flows very well along with the breezy adventure of Orczy’s novels. I intend to read through the rest.

His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire #1)
On an Earth where dragons exist, history might be very different — or surprisingly similar in many respects. It is 1806 and England is at war with Napoleonic France. But now added to the naval and ground wars is added the complication of aerial combat via dragons. Novik’s dragons are intelligent creatures, capable of speech and with a great variety of personality which many authors would have overlooked. Clearly inspired by the novels of Patrick O’Brien and C.S. Forester, our hero here, Will Laurence, begins as a naval captain. His crew unexpectedly acquires an about-to-hatch dragon egg after a battle with a French battleship, and rather than permit the dragon to go feral, Laurence finds himself obliged to partner with the young hatchling. He and Temeraire are immediately plunged into the middle of the Aerial Corps, training to take their places amongst the combat wings of dragons that protect England in the air. This first volume is as narrowly focused as an introduction to a world ought to be, but it seems clear from little hints and asides that Naomi Novik has given considerable thought to how the presence of dragons in the world might have affected the direction of human civilization and population.