Review: Temeraire (or His Majesty’s Dragon)

Temeraire. Also published as His Majesty’s Dragon.

Temeraire by Naomi Novik is the first book in an ongoing series of seven books so far. The eighth book is on its way and the author has planned to end the story after nine books. It is set in a world very like our own; the only great difference is that dragons are a natural part of that world. The story takes place during the Napoleonic wars and begins at sea where the captain Will Laurence boards a French ship. On board he finds a dragon egg and the dragon within becomes the cause of many problems and much happiness. The story is 332 pages. The appendix is another 8 pages.

This dragon has absolutely nothing to do with the dragons in the series, I just drew it for fun a couple of days ago and wanted more pictures in my post 🙂

The book is written in a simple style which flows naturally and is easy to read. There are also no long inner monologues or philosophical reflections and this allows the plot to move forwards smoothly at a brisk walk.

The story has a good mix of calm and action. In the calm scenes the world and characters are shown in more detail and greater empathy is established with the reader. In the action scenes, great turns of the plot take place often with grand battles in the sky between the raging dragons.

The appendix, although not part of the story, is interesting to read. It explains in some measure how dragons came to be as they are in this world and also gives a small discussion of dragons’ weight.

The best thing about the book is the relationship between the captain, Will Laurence, and the dragon, Temeraire, which is both touching and interesting. It develops into a very strong bond that sometimes resembles the bond between a child and its parent, and it is not easy to tell if Laurance is the parent or the child.

All in all, Temeraire is both an entertaining and enjoyable read which is fast paced enough to keep most readers hooked throughout the story.

Throne of Jade. Number two in the series.

Tags: Friendship, dragons, war, social norms

This would be a good read for: Children and parents, people who like dragons, people who like a quick paced plot, people interested in altered history

This would not be a good read for: People who prefer long descriptions and lots of detail, people who prefer realistic novels, people who do not like series

Suggested further reading: The rest of the series. Number two is called Throne of Jade.

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Pokémon (or High Expectations)

Houndour looks something like this.

‘Go, Houndour! I choose you!’

Bacon looks up at me and wags his black tail. He snorts through his upturned nose.

‘I said go!’ I point to the root of the tree where the neighbour’s cat was a few moments ago.

Bacon looks the way my finger points then sits down tongue lolling.

‘What’s the matter with you? I thought cats were supposed to be dogs’ mortal enemies or something.’

Bacon scratches himself vigorously behind the ear tongue still hanging out.

‘Perhaps I should have said Lickitung. You look more like Lickitung than Houndour.’

Lickitung looks something like this.

Bacon wags his tail.

‘That’s nothing to be proud of!’

But Bacon wags and wags and wags.

Bacon looks very much like this.

Survival

Breathing: Short, quick pants.

Eyes: Wild.

Location: Under a bush.

Position: Sitting. Completely still.

Hopes for the future: Survival.

Something large is close. He can hear it sniffing. Hopefully, it has not seen him. Hopefully, it has not scented him. But the rustling of leaves under its paws is coming closer. He tenses his back legs, ready to spring as soon as it sticks its head under the bush. He hears it stop. Snif snif snuffling. Not yet, not yet. The jaws would get him in a flash.

Then a black snout appears between the leaves and he pounces, digging the claws of his front paws into the damp black thing. A loud

“Yiip!”

From the thing and he is off in the opposite direction. But the big red being of teeth and claws quickly recovers and it is after him already. He zigzags between the molehills and his pursuer skids in the loose dirt granting him a few extra moments.

He is so close to home now, but the predator is snapping at his heels again, and then he sees it: Home, safety, a hole in the ground. He leaps, the killer snaps, he loses a tuft of hair from his tail and tumbling into the tunnel, he keeps running with the sound of the killer scratching at the earth behind him.

Deep in his burrow, he trembles, still experiencing the aftershock, but, and with the thought his heartbeat slows a little, he lives to run another day.

Nostalgia and Sketches then Iceland

The front cover of the first Elfquest comic. Elfquest is copyright Wendy and Richard Pini.

I used to collect Elfquest. At some point I forgot about collecting them and just reread the ones I had once in a while.

Recently, I found out that the entire series can be read online at http://www.elfquest.com/gallery/OnlineComics3.html so I’ve been reading a lot of Elfquest these last two weeks. The story is just as good as I remembered it to be, so I can highly recommend reading it.

It might be because of Elfquest that I suddenly felt like sketching wolves again.

And if I just throw in a couple of extra sketches,

you might forget to ask yourself why I haven’t published a story today.

The answer to that is that I haven’t finished anything new this week. And since I’m going to Iceland this weekend A bolg? will be going on holiday as well. Updates will return at random during August and be back to normal in September.

I hope you will all have a lovely summer holiday.

Are you going anywhere this summer?

Moving Forwards part ‘The Last’

‘Nononononono,’ said Rodger as the branch jerked aside. When he looked up again everything looked blurred as if he had water in his eyes. ‘Not now, why now?’

The carabiner was still close, but every time the praying mantis dived he was pulled away from it. He looked down at the Spiral.

‘Stop it!’ he shouted, ‘hold still!’

The Spiral did not hear or did not understand. The branch dodged when the praying mantis came near and then jerked back as if trying to hit it.

Rodger looked up at Frederick who seemed to be pulling out his own hair. There was no time. He stared at the approaching praying mantis. It was worth the risk.

He took the stun gun from his trousers. Aimed. Waited until the praying mantis was within range. He pulled the trigger, just as the branch jerked away.

The thin wire shot from the gun and connected with the praying mantis. The praying mantis fell out of the air like a rock and pain exploded in Rodger’s hand. It raced up his arm and left a complete numbness behind.

As his muscles stiffened, Rodger saw his grip on the branch was slipping. Gravity made him lean backwards gently so he could see the hole in the sky. And Frederick reaching for him. Shouting. Rodger could not hear the words, but he could see his lips moving. Then Rodger was falling. Wind whistling in his ears.

A branch shot out for him and wrapped around his chest. The pain would have made Rodger cry out if he could move; the branch had probably bent one of his ribs. He saw Frederick running in and out of view, probably searching for anything in the machine that might help. Rodger cursed and swore on the inside, but his body was as responsive as a statue.

The hole in the sky flickered. The rope with the carabiner fell to the ground. And then there was nothing above him but the clear blue sky.

Of Doctors and E-books

Mr Icken felt damp all over. To make up for it, his mouth was as dry as dust and his tongue was at least twice its normal size. He rubbed his hands on his thighs. It did not help. He licked his lips and mumbled his problem to the doctor.

‘I’m sorry Mr Icken,’ said the doctor, ‘I didn’t quite catch that.’

Mr Icken heaved a sigh. The doctor’s hands lay neatly folded on the table. Mr Icken looked at them as he tried again.

‘I said, I’m,’ he swallowed, ‘I’m turning into a chicken.’

These are the first couple of lines of ‘Mr Icken’, a humorous/absurd short story in eight pages. The whole story can now be bought in an e-book version on axio.dk for 12.50 dkk which is the same as 1.4 GBP or 2.2 USD.

It is a Danish site, but if you just follow the green buttons (“Læg i kurv”, “Gå til kurv”, “Fortsæt”) and fill in your billing information under “Ny kunde”=”New customer”, you should be all right.

Of course, you could also make google translate the entire page…

I would be very grateful for the donation 🙂

Please tell all your friends, and tell me:

What would you do if you were turning into a chicken?

14 Smile 1 of 2

‘Smile!’ said George, ‘yes, that’s it. Show me those strong white teeth.’

The Black Panther barred all her teeth in a snarl. George smiled back.

‘Err..’ I said, ‘I don’t think that’s a smile.’

‘Oh, what do you know,’ said George with a chuckle. He bent down with his walking stick tucked under his arm and stared into the panther’s eyes. I was about to say something about aggressive behaviour when I noticed the panther had stopped snarling. It was staring back into George’s eyes and licking its lips. Deep in the panther’s eyes, I thought I saw a red glow. George’s smile was as wide as ever. After a while he straightened up.

‘Oh I am looking forwards to tonight,’ he said, ‘it’s going to be splendid.’ He tipped his white hat to the panther and walked back towards the dining room. I followed him to the door then glanced back at the panther. It was snarling again.
Back in the dining room George stopped a waiter to hear how things were going.

‘What are you going to do with them?’ I asked.

‘Why, I’m going to treat them to the finest meal for miles around,’ said George.

‘Not your guests,’ I said, ‘the animals. You know it’s illegal to have them here.’

‘Oh, don’t worry yourself,’ smiled George.

‘But most of them are endangered species.’

‘Trust me,’ said George, ‘the animals themselves won’t get me into trouble.’

‘Are you going to found a nature reserve?’ I asked, ‘is that it?’

‘Something like that,’ said George with a shrug and his everlasting smile. I had always found George a bit eccentric, with his white suit which looked like something from the 1950’s and his polished walking stick, but after he returned from his trip to South America, he seemed to never stop smiling. Sometimes I even found his constant smile unsettling, although, I could never quite put my finger on the reason why.

A bell rang.

‘Oh, it’s the first guest!’ said George, ‘let’s go out and say hello.’

George danced to the door and I followed in his wake.
At the front door, we found George’s butler welcoming a rather robust couple.

‘Ah, Mr Blaustein,’ George sprang forwards and shook the man’s hand, ‘I am so glad you could make it. And Mrs Blaustein,’ George kissed her plump bejewelled fingers, ‘you are looking extremely healthy, I must say.’

Mrs Blaustein’s nose twitched, but she said nothing.

‘This is Thomas Gyrwin, by the way,’ he indicated me with a hand and I stepped forwards against my will. ‘Thomas, this is Anton Blaustein, he’s a big name in the mining industry.’

‘A pleasure to meet you sir,’ I shook his hand, ‘I should have guessed about the mining from the name,’ I smiled. Mr Blaustein did not. Instead he turned to George.

‘Are we the first Mr Monet?’ he said.

‘That you are,’ George’s smile never left his face, ‘let me show you the living room.’

George and the Blausteins went inside and received their welcome drink from the waiters.

‘No thanks,’ I said when the waiter offered me a drink.

George looked at me with a raised eyebrow.

‘Oh, well I suppose one wouldn’t hurt,’ I took the drink.
I nursed my drink for about an hour while more guests trickled into the hall. When everyone seemed to have arrived, and George had a free moment, I asked him what I had been thinking all day.

‘Why did you invite me to this? You know I’m not good with this kind of people, and they all hate me.’

‘You’ve always been interested in predators,’ said George, ‘so I thought you might like to see some at close quarters.’

‘Don’t get me wrong,’ I said, ‘I thought it was very interesting to see all the animals earlier today, and I’m happy you let me, but why should I stay to the dinner party afterwards.’

‘Oh, the very best part will be after dinner,’ said George, ‘as one of my best friends, I’d like you to be there.’

13 Misfortune

Harry was killed.

It did not have much to do with him. He did not commit the deed and he did not prevent it.

He had been hired for an office job in a respectable company, not because of the marks he had received during his education, but because Nike had recommended him.

At his job interview Harry was asked questions and answers issued from his mouth, but Harry never really followed them. When Nike asked how it went, an answer was given to him as well, but it did not come from Harry, it came from Harry’s mother. She waited outside sitting down half the time and leaping to her feet the other half, her hair arranged with at least ten different pins.

Ninety percent of the time Harry had someone to speak for him and when he did not, answers came from his mouth anyway without his interference.

One day Harry’s mother died. Nike drove Harry to the funeral and said goodbye to Harry’s mother. Words exited Harry’s mouth as easily as ever. In fact, a whole speech poured forth during the ceremony. The few guests nodded their heads at the sentences which were not his.

Five years after the funeral, the company who had hired Harry fell on bad times and soon Harry was unemployed. They told him to clear out his desk, and his desk was cleared out.

That evening Nike rang the doorbell to the place where Harry spent most of his time when he was not at work. After a few rings Nike opened the door and went in. Harry was in the living room. A large lumpy sofa supported him. Everything in the living room looked very neat, as if someone had just tidied up, or as if nothing had ever been used.

‘I came as soon as I heard,’ said Nike, ‘I think the people in charge were keeping it from me on purpose. I only found out because one of my colleagues asked me about you in a mail.’

Harry’s face was turned towards him.

‘How are you?’ asked Nike.

Harry’s shoulders shrugged.

‘You mustn’t let this get you down,’ said Nike, ‘you just have to take it in your stride. I’m sure there’re plenty of other companies out there who know how to appreciate your strengths.’

Harry’s head nodded.

‘You had better begin job hunting at once though, the market is in a bad state at the moment. First thing tomorrow, eh?’ Nike flashed his dazzling white smile. Harry never smiled, but his teeth showed themselves from time to time.

‘Sure,’ said Harry’s voice.

‘Good, I’ll look forwards to hearing about it.’ Nike talked some more before he went home to his wife.
The next evening Nike came calling again. He found Harry in front of the computer, eyes staring at the screen.

‘Hi Harry, how’s it going? Find something good yet?’

‘Not much,’ replied Harry’s voice.

‘They have really increased the workload, phew, I’m exhausted.’ Nike collapsed on the couch. After a few more moments of staring, Harry’s chair spun around and they were face to face.

‘Sounds tough,’ said Harry’s voice.

‘It is,’ said Nike, ‘it really is… Say, what have you found today?’

Harry shrugged.

‘Nothing good, eh? I could help you find something.’

Harry shrugged. Nike rose from the couch and went over to help Harry. Before Nike went home, he had sent off five applications.

‘Hi Harry,’ said Nike the next time he visited,  ‘How are you?’ A stray clump of hair had released itself from the constrictions of Nike’s hair gel. ‘I’m sorry it’s been so long since I visited last,’ it had been three days, ‘but I’ve been so busy with work that I’ve had no extra energy at all. I don’t have much time to spare today either unfortunately, I just came to say hello.’

Harry’s head nodded.

‘How’s the job searching coming along? Have you sent any more applications? Have you had any answers?’

Harry’s shoulders shrugged.

‘Oh, well, keep fighting, eh?’ Nike gave Harry the thumbs up.

One of Harry’s thumbs rose in reply.

‘Great,’ said Nike, ‘I’ll see you around.’
When Nike visited the next week, his shirt was creased and he loosed his tie as he walked into the living room.

‘I feel like I’m suffocating,’ he said, ‘they’ve fired almost a hundred employees now and I’m running as fast as I can, but it never seems to be fast enough. I almost envy you, sitting here where you can relax.’

Harry’s eyes looked at him.

‘Heh,’ Nike smiled, ‘you know I’m just kidding, right. I know you’re very busy. Looking for jobs.’

Harry’s shoulders shrugged in reply.

‘Have you found anything yet?’

Shrug.

‘Is that yes, or no?’

Shrug.

‘Come on now; are you mad at me for what I said?’

Harry’s head shook from side to side.

‘Good, then tell me what you’ve found.’

‘Nothing,’ said Harry’s voice.

‘The market must be tough right now,’ Nike nodded, ‘what have you considered this far?’

Shrug.

Nike sighed.

‘Look my patience isn’t really in a good state right now. Can’t you just answer my questions?’

Harry’s head nodded.

‘Thank you. What have you considered?’

‘Nothing,’ answered Harry’s voice.

Nike opened his mouth and for once no sound came out. At least not at first.

‘Nothing?’ he said.

‘Nothing,’ affirmed Harry’s voice.

‘You can’t be serious. Nothing at all?’

‘Nothing.’

Nike’s jaw worked up and down.

Harry’s head was turned towards him, his face calm.

‘What have you been doing all this time?’

Shrug.

‘Argh!’ Nike’s face turned red, ‘can’t you do anything on your own?’

‘No,’ said Harry’s voice.

Nike lunged.

He brought both Harry and the office chair down with him, his fingers locked around Harry’s neck.

‘You little shit!’ he yelled, ‘is this how you repay me?’

Harry’s voice tried to answer, but it could not pass through Nike’s fingers. Harry’s lungs struggled for air and his heart pumped what oxygen was left around his system. But they could not keep it up for long. When Nike realized that Harry’s chest was no longer moving, he fled, slamming the door behind him.

As Nike was the only one who ever visited Harry, it took some time before Harry was discovered. When they finally found him, Harry was very wilfully rotting.

11 Memory 2 of 2

I do not know how far I went; I lost sense of time. But at last I reached an archway lit by torches, old-fashioned ones with flames licking the wall behind them. Through the archway I could see a large room also lit with uncovered flames. I crept inside, remembering that I was probably an unbidden guest.

The room was empty, but there was an archway in the furthest wall and through that I glimpsed movement. I tensed. The room behind the next archway was lit as well. I crept along one wall. When I came to the archway I peered through ready to pull myself back at any moment. What I saw in there left me dumbfounded.

In the middle of the room was an altar and outstretched on top of it was the woman in the rabbit costume. Someone had torn off her dress. The only things she wore were shoes, a thong and her rabbit ears. Around her in a large circle stood about twenty people all in different animal costumes.

A man was saying something in a language I did not understand. He wore a white unicorn mask with a goat’s beard. The horn on his forehead looked wickedly sharp and the point glinted when he moved his head. His dark red robe made me think of dried blood.

The feeling hit me like a sledgehammer and my throat went dry as a desert. Whatever they were doing, it was wrong and whatever happened, I did not want the man with the unicorn mask to see me. I wanted to run or hide, but all my legs did was tremble and my eyes were locked on the altar.

The man continued his chants and the other people joined in. The sound rose to a crescendo. Beads of sweat ran down my brow. It felt stuffy under my mask. I removed it from my face. The man took out a curved dagger from his robe. The chant ceased. I gasped for breath. It was like trying to breathe under water.

The man lowered his head and the horn pointed straight at the woman on the altar. There was the sound of a spring being released and the horn flew from his head and buried itself right under the woman’s jaw. A gurgling broke the silence. The blood spurted and ran down the altar. The woman twitched for an eternity before she lay still.

I vomited and all heads were turned to me. I fell to my knees, as a man in a full-body bear costume came towards me. I tried to speak. When he picked me up, I tried to fend him off, but all strength had gone from me. Then he squeezed me.

I know it is hard to believe, but you must have seen the horn in her. And there must be signs that all those people were here. What do you mean there is no horn? I saw it.

I don’t know, I did not see them mutilate her.

No, I have never seen that knife in my life before. The one the man had was curved, remember?

I have no idea how my fingerprints came to be there.

I am telling you, they were here and that man killed her. Why won’t you believe me? I saw it!

I swear, I saw it!

11 Memory 1 of 2

Something large and hairy. No, that’s not right. It was fuzzy. A large teddy bear, yes, that was it, I remember now. A teddy bear that hugged me tighter and tighter and then everything went black. It sounds crazy, I know, but I’m sure it happened. It must have, how could I have ended up here otherwise?

Before that, I was at the carnival. I had this white mask on with a long long nose which was red at the end. Like the mask was drunk or had a cold.

No, I was not drunk. I think. I had not drunk very much. Of course, I was in a good mood, everybody was. There was music and dancing. I had forgotten my earplugs so it was much too loud. When I drifted too close to a music wagon, I felt like my eardrums would explode. So I ran. Away from the noise. Into a deserted alley.

While I rested my hand against the wall, getting my breath back, I noticed a woman in a rabbit costume. She went right past me and at the end of the alley she opened a door and disappeared through it. She left it ajar.

I glanced down the way she had come. No one was following her. My legs went to the door of their own accord and I looked inside. There were steps. Leading down. A naked bulb lit them where they turned.

I gave the alley one last furtive glance before I stepped inside, leaving the door like she had. I took a few steps down and looked over the banister. She was gone. She must have gone down the stairs pretty quickly to be gone already. There was a small click behind me. I turned. The door had closed.

I rushed back up. No matter how hard I pushed or tugged, the door would not open. I dared not bang at the door, because I might be accused of breaking an entrance. The light blinked and the stairs were plunged into darkness. For what felt like an eternity I stood there in the dark with my back to the door.

In the end I made up my mind. I could not just stay there. I groped for the banisters and made my way down, step by careful step. At the first turn I felt the walls, but there were no doors and not even any light switches.

It became colder as I descended. Or maybe, I just imagined it. It was strange to think that only moments ago I was outside in bright sunshine. I am not sure how far I went down. I began counting the turns. After a while I gave it up.

It became very damp and I heard a dripping from somewhere beneath me. It became steadily louder. I took a step down and stumbled. My foot was stopped by cold stone and the banister ended. The dripping was now in front of me.

I squinted into the darkness and there far ahead was a dim light. I felt the floor in front of me with my foot. It seemed to be level. Reaching out to one side I found the wall, cold and slimy. I retracted my hand. The slime was still sticking to my fingers, gooey but odourless. I wrinkled my nose and dried it off in my trousers, hoping it would not leave a stain.

Then I went towards the light.

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