Temeraire Series by Naomi Novik, New York: Del Ray Books
Our last post about the Awesome Age of Sail came just in time to remind me to get a copy of Victory of Eagles, the fifth book in the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik. (Not that I really needed too much reminding – I’ve been anxiously awaiting the resolution of Empire of Ivory’s mega-cliffhanger since winter.) If you’re not familiar with the series, it’s basically Napoleanic Era + dragons = WIN. Dragons have been around forever, in Novik’s universe, and like any other animal (though they’re as intelligent, or occasionally more-so, than humans) they’ve been domesticated for various uses, most of them militaristic. And of course, there are dragon riders who captain the dragons and their crews. And the Temeraire series is the tale of one such unusual captain and his even more unusual dragon.
The first book, His Majesty’s Dragon, is maybe the best book in the series, not that the rest are let downs, but it’s really clear that Novik had the most time to write the first book, and built a lot of the foundations for the emotional impact of the rest of the series here. This is the book where naval captain Will Lawrence accidentally captures – and bonds with – Temeraire, changing his life pretty dramatically. While going from ship captain to dragon captain doesn’t seem like it would be much a shift, dragon captains are lower class – and it leads to exactly the kind of crazy class tension and comedy of manners antics that you’d expect from a historical novel of this era. Not that either Temeraire and Lawrence have time to dwell – it’s war time and they’re both, in a way, soldiers – so the fighting and action definitely get a turn.
In the second book, Throne of Jade, it’s discovered that, in a neat twist, Lawrence might not actually be high class enough for Temeraire, when they have to justify their capture of Temeraire, who was meant to be a gift from China to the French. There’s a hilarious sort of “meeting the in-laws” feeling to this book, especially when Lawrence meets Temeraire’s family, though again, there’s a ton of high-tension action to go with it. This book is where we get the true arc plot, and a long-term antagonist in Lien, a white celestial dragon.
The third book, Black Powder War, takes place mostly in Turkey when a simple mission to acquire some dragon eggs gets a little more complicated, and a little more political, than Lawrence and Temeraire had expected. This book felt a little slow to me, mainly because there were a lot of things to keep track of (also, I don’t generally dig political intrigue), but the end heated up quite nicely and left me longing for the fourth book. And Granby, Lawrence’s second in command, gets to be awesome again. ❤
In Empire of Ivory, the British dragons begin to fall to some sort of plague, and Temeraire’s apparent immunity is the only hope the Empire has. So Lawrence and Temeraire head out for the wild coast of Africa to find a cure. Of course, nothing is quite that easy, and there’s a lot of philosophical moralizing on issues of slavery and the treatment of dragon’s that slow down the book’s pace a little bit, no matter how pertinent of a topic it is. Still, I would be lying if I said this book wasn’t my favorite in the series, partly because of the awesome comic duo of Iskierka, a fledgling dragon, and Granby, of the previously mentioned awesomeness. And luckily, I had no one to witness my undignified screaming about the cliffhanger ending – seriously, did I mention the CLIFFHANGER?
So you can imagine how happy I am that I got my hand on a copy of the latest book, right? But it gets better, because the author’s going to be doing a reading and signing in Cambridge just in time for me to take the 70 bus there after the library closes on Friday.
Read this book if you like:
- Historical fiction
- Military Fiction
Dea’s Random Awesomeness Count:
Dragons: Too many to count!
Vampires: Sadly, none.
Kick-ass women: 3 (6 if you start counting lady-dragons)