Book: “Victory of Eagles” by Naomi Novik
Publishing Info: Del Rey, August 2008
Where Did I Get this Book: audiobook from the library!
Book Description: It is a grim time for the dragon Temeraire. On the heels of his mission to Africa, seeking the cure for a deadly contagion, he has been removed from military service – and his captain, Will Laurence, has been condemned to death for treason. For Britain, conditions are grimmer still: Napoleon’s resurgent forces have breached the Channel and successfully invaded English soil. Napoleon’s prime objective: the occupation of London.
Separated by their own government and threatened at every turn by Napoleon’s forces, Laurence and Temeraire must struggle to find each other amid the turmoil of war and to aid the resistance against the invasion before Napoleon’s foothold on England’s shores can become a stranglehold.
If only they can be reunited, master and dragon might rally Britain’s scattered forces and take the fight to the enemy as never before – for king and country, and for their own liberty. But can the French aggressors be well and truly routed, or will a treacherous alliance deliver Britain into the hands of her would-be conquerors?
Review: It’s so nice to have a long-running series that one can return to every once in a while. It’s fun to discover new books, of course, but with the fantastic new stories also comes the chance of having to slog through something that isn’t a good fit. Not only do I love Novik’s “Temeraire” series, but I also particularly enjoy the audiobook version of the series and the narrator who reads it. So, when waiting on a few of my holds at the library to come through, I thought it was about time to re-visit this series.
Things are not going well for Temeraire and Laurence. After sharing the cure to the deadly dragon disease with their enemies in France, Temeraire has been banished to the north where he is to remain the rest of his days, and Laurence has been sentenced to death as a traitor. But when Napoleon lands on English shores, Britain quickly realizes that it can’t lose one of its best dragons and dragon captains. But Temeraire is no longer interested in blinding following orders. After seeing the advancements back in his native land, he’s sure that England can do better with its treatment of its own dragons, and Temeraire is prepared to go to great lengths to see that it is so.
This book was a bit different than others in the series in that, for a large part of it, we’re following the separate stories of Temeraire and Laurence. But as the series has progressed, Temeraire has become more and more of a character in his own right, with thoughts and opinions of his own that sometimes differ from Laurence’s own. So it also makes sense that at some point we would begin to follow him as his own character with his own arc. And I really liked what we got from him here! Aside from his obvious anxiety over Laurence’s situation, we see Temeraire begin to actively pursue a new role for dragons in England’s society and military, something he’s been discussing for the last several books since their trip to China.
In an interesting twist, while Temeraire is in the north, we see that it isn’t only the humans of England who are set in their ways. He has to convince the dragons, too, that change is in their own best interest. As the story continues, we see Temeraire’s vision turn more and more into a reality, but with that comes challenges of its own. I liked how this wasn’t simply done easily, and Temeraire himself, while knowing the direction he wants things to move, hasn’t thought out the details of what dragons serving in the military under their own command would really look like.
Laurence’s own story is also interesting. We see the fall-out of his and Temeraire’s decision, not only in his initial imprisonment, but in the different ways those around him view what he did. For many, it is seen as out-right treason with very little sympathy for the reasoning behind it. Others might understand, but they still can’t behave the same way around Laurence. It’s all painful to hear about, especially because of how honorable we know Laurence to be. But it’s also very realistic of what a situation like that would look like.
I also really liked how this alternative history is really leaning into the “alternative” aspect of it all. Napoleon actually lands on English soil in this version of history and makes significant inroads in an occupation. Much of the story is highlighting how desperate the English situation really is, and Laurence and Temeraire are clearly fighting on the underdog’s side of this war all of a sudden.
In the end, this was another solid entry in the “Temeraire” series. I really enjoyed the continued exploration of what reform for the dragons would look like in this situation. And how far Novik is willing to play with history in her alternative world is always surprising and a joy. For those who have been reading this series, this is more of the same: good stuff all around!
Rating 8: Veers into some surprising new territory but never loses sight of what we’re there for: Temeraire and Laurence and their lovely friendship!
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