It is the Napoleonic wars, however with dragons. You’ll be able to’t actually get a one-line description of a ebook that’s extra to the purpose and nonetheless thrilling. However the Temeraire collection of books by writer Naomi Novik is a lot greater than that, and over 10 lengthy years, it is unfolded throughout 9 books – the most recent of which, League of Dragons, launched just some days in the past. It has been a protracted journey, however the collection is lastly over, and the most recent ebook bears the burden not simply of being a great story by itself but in addition tying collectively the threads of a narrative that we first began studying in 2006.
We’ll keep away from any main spoilers from League of Dragons when speaking about it right here, however the older instalments have been round for some time and we’ll need to reveal some particulars about what occurs in these books.
League of Dragons is a satisfying conclusion to a journey that began with the primary ebook – His Majesty’s Dragon – which noticed naval captain William Laurence take possession of a dragon egg from a French ship captured on the excessive seas; Laurence finally ends up (moderately unwillingly), harnessing the dragon which ends his profession within the navy, and sees him becoming a member of the very irregular Aerial Corps as an alternative, and shifting from a lifetime of gentlemanly pursuits to a much more tough and tumble existence.
At a time when trendy fantasy writing is attempting very exhausting to be grounded and gritty, Novik’s ebook was a really welcome change of tempo. At instances it reads like a Romance novel with a powerful concentrate on the bond between Temeraire and Laurence; the friendships the totally different characters solid; and a splendidly realised world within the 1800s the place the world had been formed by the presence of dragons.
Whereas the books may be concerning the Napoleonic Wars, however with dragons, Novik pays way more consideration to the backdrop than many fantasy authors do. As an alternative of simply throwing away references to made-up historical past, she really makes use of the books to speak about class relations, homosexuality, slavery, and maybe most curiously – what it means to be an individual. The dragons themselves are sentient, pondering beings, true characters in their very own proper, however that is one thing that solely regularly turns into obvious, as they’re first introduced to the reader as animals – sensible animals, speaking animals, however animals nonetheless.
At first, we realise that Temeraire is as sensible as most of the individuals we’re seeing within the books, and as able to introspection and measured behaviour. By the point the crew makes it to China, we be taught that Temeraire is not distinctive – like individuals, some dragons are smarter and a few are lazy and simply fascinated with preventing, however they’re all undoubtedly equal to individuals in some ways. The books continually return to this theme, and by fifth ebook of the collection – Victory of the Eagles – the attitude shifts from giving us simply Laurence’s standpoint, to alternating between Laurence and Temeraire, who’re separated in the beginning of the ebook.
In the middle of the ebook, Temeraire rallies collectively an organization of dragons and serves as an efficient subject commander, incomes himself a fee and setting off a series of occasions that sees one other dragon elected to parliament. It sounds loopy once you’re studying the primary ebook, however the books develop and develop these themes in a means that works each as part of the story and motion, and in addition as a stand-in for sophistication and race relations.
On the similar time, the collection was in a position to efficient increase the stakes throughout 9 books, even when among the plot does really feel like filler to permit the timeline of Napoleon’s conquest of Europe to make sense. The sinking of the Allegiance, in Crucible of Gold, was a stunning second, and proved that though Novik’s books are nothing like George R R Martin’s A Tune of Ice and Fireplace [Game of Thrones] books, it wasn’t the standard fantasy novel the place our heroes are protected via the worst travails, with a cheerful ending ready for them.
Because of this, there’s a variety of built-up pressure by the point League of Dragons rolled out. Frankly, we first devoured the ebook in a single sitting, which had made it exhausting to speak concerning the specifics of what we had learn. By now, we have had an opportunity to learn it a couple of extra instances, and make sense of our response to the books. Let’s get this out of the way in which rapidly – in the event you’ve been a fan of the collection, or simply wish to check out some new alt-history fantasy writing, you may’t go flawed with this ebook or this collection. League of Dragons itself is for probably the most half very tautly written, and also you’re taken alongside at breakneck pace world wide and thru the twists and turns of the plot.
On the similar time, the questions that the ebook raised concerning the measure of humanity, additionally do get addressed. Within the ebook, Napoleon proposes a harmony of dragons, dividing the phrase between totally different draconic races, and it is simple to grasp why it is such a tempting notion to so many. All through the collection, Napoleon is usually introduced as a way more interesting determine than his counterparts world wide; on the facet of the heroes there are few who stand as tall because the French tyrant, and the decision is all of the extra satisfying as a result of it would not have easy villains. In some ways, the Termeraire collection shares the complexity of Uprooted, a standalone novel that Novik wrote in 2015, which was among the best books we learn final yr.
Curiously, the primary three books of the collection had been written in a single batch, and all printed in 2006. The remainder of the books had been extra evenly spaced, with a few years between them, however they felt a bit weaker than the explosive begin of the collection, the place all of the threads related collectively way more neatly. League of Dragons feels in some ways like a return to the primary three books, and brings a really satisfying conclusion to the collection. It additionally offers immediately with the themes the writer was elevating in a means that does not really feel contrived – a powerful feat for a collection that has stretched on for ten years, and 9 books.