Thursday, September 20, 2018

League of Dragons, by Naomi Novik

Today I'm finally finishing with the Temeraire series with the ninth book, League of Dragons. As I mentioned in my review of the previous book, Blood of Serpents, I had started having concerns about this series because I knew we were close to the end and it seemed like there wasn't quite enough space to finish the series. I hate to say it but I feel like this kind of happened with this book as well. It seemed like Novik had a lot of really neat ideas that could have been developed further but there just wasn't enough time in the series to talk about those ideas. I'm left wondering if maybe Novik had gotten tired with the series and was just looking to end it with everything (mostly) wrapped up. The result is a book that feels alternately fast paced and meandering and with me wishing for more.

The book begins where we left off, with Laurence and Temeraire in Russsia after Napoleon's disastrous 1812 campaign. But after we spend some time in Russia, Temeraire and Laurence discover that Temeraire and Iskierka's egg is in danger of being stolen by French agents with the aim of binding the dragon within to Napoleon's son and jeopardizing the already tenuous alliance between Britain and China. Temeraire rushes off towards China, only to get halfway across Russia and be told that the French have already stolen the egg and he now has to rush back towards Europe to try and catch them in the Alps.

Temeraire and Iskierka rush towards France to get their egg back, only to be captured by the French. They then have to plot how to escape with Laurence, and Granby, and the egg. After spending a good chunk of time captured and plotting their escape, they then flee back to England and get involved in planning the counter-attack against Napoleon in the 1813 campaign. As the Peninsular campaign pushes towards the Pyrenees, Laurence finally is awarded the rank of Admiral and is sent with a British detachment of dragons to fight with the Coalition forces including Prussians and Russians and eventually the Chinese as well. Towards the end of the book the Coalition manages not only to crush Napoleon's army, but capture Napoleon himself. Napoleon is allowed to abdicate in favor of his son, and goes into exile on St. Helena.

This is kind of what I mean by the book being alternately fast-paced and meandering. When we're spending time with our main characters being kept prisoner or sitting in camp waiting for Napoleon's forces to come into Prussia, we seem to spend a lot of time sitting around talking about the rights that dragons are interested in getting, and dealing with issues like feeding hundreds of dragons. But then really important things happen (sometimes off-screen) really quickly and we spend some time afterwards catching up on events.

One of the most interesting things about this book was the idea of a concord, initially proposed by Napoleon. The concord is a collection of ideas and rights for dragons, putting them on an equal footing with humans. This initially gets quite a large amount of support from feral dragons, which prompts Temeraire and other English dragons to start working on their own concord. This eventually gets introduced as the Dragon Rights Act by Perscitia, who's the first dragon member of Parliament. This actually was a development I thought was interesting and would have been interested in seeing more of, especially after it's passed and Temeraire starts thinking about pursuing a career in politics. That's just something I would have liked to see more of and might have been more interesting than sitting around dealing with supply problems while on campaign in Germany.

Ultimately I'm a little disappointed with the results of the series. There was a lot of potential in this series and there were a lot of interesting ideas, but I'm left wishing for a little bit more in the end. I think this series has some good parts and there are some enjoyable parts, especially the characters. But I feel like there could have been some more development, especially towards the end of the series. They're enjoyable reads, but as I've said before this series is mostly literary candy.

- Kalpar 

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