Empire of Ivory

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Book 4[edit]

The front cover of the U.S. version -- artwork by Dominic Harman

The fourth volume of the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik, released in the United States by Del Rey (a division of RandomHouse) on September 25, 2007. It was published in Great Britain by Voyager on 5th November 2007.


Part I[edit]

After the disastrous campaign in Prussia, Temeraire, the feral dragons from the Pamirs, and young Iskierka, hatched in South Prussia, flee to Britain, carrying many Prussian refugees aboard them. William Laurence, captain to Temeraire, meets with Admiral Lenton at Edinburgh, where he is given the reason for the lack of British reinforcements; a deadly plague has struck the English dragons, and none have recovered yet.

In an attempt to keep the illusion that their corps are intact, the feral dragons are recruited by Jane Roland, now commander of the Dover covert, to fight for the Aerial Corps, and with Temeraire, they patrol the south coast of Britain, resting at the many different coverts there, and at one point, Laurence even staying at the family home of his first lieutenant, Ferris.

Temeraire, who is already planning changes so that dragons in England can have as much privileges as the dragons in China, proposes the construction of pavilions, to keep the sickly dragons warm, and that they cook their food, to encourage them to eat. However, attempts to persuade the government to sponsor this fails, as the war funds are currently being used to erect coastal defences, and thus nothing can be done. Hearing this, Temeraire decides to have his own proposed pavilion built in the Quarantine Grounds for use by the sick.

Lord Allendale, Laurence’s father, arrives soon after with William Wilberforce. Both are campaigning for an end to slavery, but Admiral Nelson is an avid supporter of it, and following his victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, many blindly follow his word. Laurence, who has also come from the battlefield, would make a prime candidate for a rival, and thus a dinner party is arranged to get public interest.

The day after the party, Temeraire proposes they visit Maximus and Lily, under the pretense of checking on his pavilion. As they head there, they find a French courier that has snuck in and discovered the secret of the sickness. Temeraire pursues her, and the two crash into an area of the Quarantine Grounds, exposing both dragons to the plague. Laurence initially believes Temeraire will die, and resigns himself to this, but after two weeks he shows no sign of the sickness. It is remembered that he caught the plague from Volatilus during their journey to China, but recovered in Cape Town.

A journey is thus planned to Africa with the dragons of Lily’s Formation, aboard the HMS Allegiance. Laurence is approached by Reverend Josiah Erasmus, an ex-slave who was at the dinner party, who seeks to travel with him to Africa that he may spread the gospel to the native tribes. Laurence invites him along, but this serves to aggravate the ship’s captain, Tom Riley, whose family own many slaves in the West Indies. The friendship between the two becomes more strained when Temeraire steps in to lift the aboard the family of Erasmus, who had been ignored by the crewmen.

Part II[edit]

The journey is largely uneventful, and Temeraire and Laurence fly ahead to Cape Town to search for possible cures, with no success. The rest of the formation soon arrives, and after some brief problems getting the sickly dragons off the ship, settle down to continue their search, asking the locals for any possible remedies or ingredients. Eventually, a group of children bring them a special mushroom; an ingredient in the dinner that Temeraire ate before being cured. They make a mixture from it that manages to cure both Dulcia and Maximus, and thus they begin to search for more of the mushroom in the wild; a plan that ends with little success at the cost of injuries to Chenery, Dulcia’s captain.

Nitidus is cured next, and a merchant informs the aviators that the mushrooms grow further inland, in Xhosa territory. Temeraire and Nitidus travel there with their crews, accompanied by Erasmus and his wife, and recruit two young hunters, Demane and Sipho, who are familiar with the mushroom, and bring along a dog, Nemachaen, to track the substance. As they return to Cape Town with their findings, Catherine Harcourt, captain to Lily, reveals that she is pregnant, having been in a brief relationship with Riley while aboard the Allegiance.

More mushrooms are found, and the remainder of the formation is cured. The surviving mushrooms are sent back to England on a trade ship, while the formation plans to remain behind and search for more. While scouting further inland, an entire cave is found to contain the mushrooms, and the aviators remain behind while the dragons carry the mushrooms to the trade ship; already sailing away. After the dragons leave, Dorset, the dragon-surgeon, realises that the cave contains dung, and must be a farm of sorts. With no time to flee, a large dragon arrives with Tswana natives, and capture the group; Erasmus being killed when attempting to defend his wife.

The Tswana continue inland with their prisoners, despite several of them, including Captain Warren managing to escape when they stop to rest. Hannah Erasmus, having been freed and referred to as “Lethabo” realises that the dragon, named Kefentse, was a member of her tribe before she was taken as a slave, and as such considers her family. The aviators are finally taken to Mosi-oa-Tunya, where a vast Tswana tribe exists, and imprisoned in a cave high above the ground. Laurence is soon summoned before the dragon-king of the Tswana, Mokhachane, and ordered to aid them by drawing an accurate map of Europe. Laurence refuses, and as punishment, is whipped. Upon return to his prison, he collapses from the pain.

When he wakes, he learns that Temeraire arrived to rescue them, but upon seeing Laurence unconscious and believing him dead, flew into a rage against the native dragons, and the aviators have no idea where he is. Laurence is soon summoned to the king again, where his son, Moshueshue, aided by Mrs. Erasmus, enquires about where cannons can be bought, and whether it would be possible to trade them for the slaves that were taken years ago from the families here. Mrs. Erasmus knows that they will be dead by now, and Laurence is unable to provide any information. Moshueshue tells him that they will put an end to the slave trade themselves.

Laurence is then taken to a vast amphitheatre, where Temeraire waits in chains. A vast group of humans and dragons soon arrive, and many speeches are made, although Laurence, not understanding the language, is unsure of what is being said. However, he sees that Dulcia has snuck into the amphitheatre, and she holds up a signal flag that means “Tomorrow”. The following night, Lily flies over the cave and sprays acid against the cliff, creating hand-holds for the aviators to climb down on. In the forest, they find Dulcia and Lily waiting with Temeraire, also freed by Lily, and they flee, along with Mrs. Erasmus back to Cape Town, which they find under attack by the Tswana natives. With the settlement lost, the aviators frantically ferry the colonists aboard the Allegiance, including Demane and Sipho, the former of whom was mistaken for an invader and attacked. As they prepare to flee, Mrs. Erasmus tells Laurence she intends to remain behind, as she has no future in Britain. She and her daughters are rescued by a joyful Kefentse, and the Allegiance flees the settlement.

Part III[edit]

As they sail for Britain, it is discovered that all the other colonies on the African coast have been attacked and destroyed; the survivors also fleeing on ships for Britain. At one settlement, Cape Coast, two slavers, George Case and David Miles, are found to have survived with two hundred and six slaves, unfed and malnourished. When the slavers suggest Laurence buys them, he angrily orders his crew to release them, and they return to the Allegiance with the slavers. Riley also approaches Harcourt, having realised the consequences of their brief relationship, and he marries her onboard to ensure a dignified future for her unborn child.

The Allegiance finally arrives in Britain, and are saved from an attack by the French from Iskierka, now grown, and the feral dragons. Iskierka, having discovered the concept of “capital”, has led the ferals on to countless victories, and has managed to have an ornate pavilion constructed for herself, something that Temeraire resents.

Laurence, Harcourt and Chenery are soon summoned before several heads of Parliament to inform them of the destruction in Africa. At the conclusion of this, it is revealed that the French dragon who crashed into the Quarantine Grounds, sick with the plague, has been released to France, to not only weaken Napoleon’s Armée_de_l’Air, but in time, to infect the remainder of the world, ensuring British superiority over the air. The aviators are horrified, but the lords ignore their protests.

Hearing of this, Temeraire tells Laurence that, despite his claims of it being treason, he will take the cure to the French. Laurence soon agrees to join him, secretly flying to the Loch Laggan covert, where the mushrooms are being cultivated, and raiding them, before frantically fleeing to France, where they are both arrested.

Before long, the French heed Laurence’s words and realise that the mushrooms will cure their dragons, and thus he and Temeraire are freed, and taken before Napoleon Bonaparte himself, who thanks them and offers them safety in the French lands. Laurence refuses and asks to return to Britain, despite knowing that he will be executed for treason. Temeraire accompanies him, but knowing that the lords would leave him in the Breeding Grounds, Laurence tells him to leave Britain should he receive no word.


For more detail, see Characters introduced in Empire Of Ivory.


Several excerpts are included from a (fictional) book written by Sipho in 1838, detailing the history and customs of the Tswana Kingdom; the kingdom founded following the attack on Cape Town.


  • While in draft form, the original title of Empire of Ivory was "A Brazen Armament". Book 3 was originally meant to detail the events of the Dragon Plague, but the publication of Dragonsblood; a story by Todd McCaffrey also involving a fatal plague afflicting dragons, meant that the plot had to be postponed.
  • The dragon depicted on the cover of the US version of Empire of Ivory is that of King Mokhachane I (d).
  • Jane Roland refers to Saint Patrick or Merlin legendarily talking dragons out of trees. This is probably a reference to a myth that Saint Patrick banished all snakes from Ireland.

Deviations From History[edit]

Aside from the obvious additions of dragons, the events in Temeraire follow the history of our own world quite closely. However, several differences do occur throughout the series. In "Empire Of Ivory", the following differences occur:

  • Admiral Nelson, having survived the Battle of Trafalgar, is made Duke of Nelson.
  • Admiral Nelson speaks against Abolition in Parliament, and Wilberforce's attempts to end the slave trade fail, when historically he succeeded.
  • The slave trade in South Africa comes to an end in 1807 along with the eviction of the settlers and the destruction of their cities, when forces under Mokhachane I (d) invade and establish the Tswana Kingdom.
  • Spain is mentioned to have failed in the New World; the Incans, having dragons of their own, forcing them out.




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