Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik

Victory of Eagles
Temeraire – Book 5
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group as Del Ray (2008)
Author: Naomi Novik
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Pages: 374
Price: $7.99

For Britain, conditions are grim: Napoleon’s resurgent forces have breached the Channel and successfully invaded English soil. Napoleon’s prime objective is the occupation of London. Unfortunately, the dragon Temeraire has been removed from military service–and his captain, Will Laurence, has been condemned to death for treason. 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. If only they can be reunited, master and dragon might rally Britain’s scattered resistance forces and take the fight to the enemy as never before–for king and country, and for their own liberty.

Due to the events in the previous book, a good portion of the first half of this book consists of two stories running parallel. Temeraire and Laurence are not in the same place so the narrative must follow each of them. I felt that this breathed a bit of a new spark into the series, as until this point we've always been presented the war, the principal figures, the values of the times from one view point. Previously Temeraire's views have been expressed through dialogue with Laurence, now the reader is presented with some of his internal dialogue and actual mode of thinking, which was a nice change of pace.

Another good sized portion of this book goes into detail concerning the trouble of moving armies of men, and feeding those men and the dragons with them. While logistics probably isn't for everyone, I found it refreshing that Ms. Novik didn't ignore these issues as many fantasy authors do. Armies numbering in the tens to hundreds of thousands are common in fantasy literature, but seldom is the reader presented with the very real problems that those types of numbers would encounter. In Victory of Eagles the reader is also returned to what made the series so gripping in the first place, the battle sequences. Midway through the book I was worried that we were going to be subjected to another retreat without real battle being joined, but I was pleasantly surprised. After the retreat Laurence and Temeraire are unleashed by their superiors on small bands of Napolean's men. Laurence's orders are contrary to everything he believes in as a gentleman, but he carries them out due to his belief that his honor has already been permanently soiled.

Temeraire secures for his fellows some of the rights and privileges he has sought since he and Laurence returned from China, but that victory seems to have a high price. Despite all of their work towards securing victory for the British Laurence's standing with the government is still that of a traitor, and between that and Temereaire's rabble-rouser tendencies they are deemed too dangerous to keep in England. So the ending is a bit of a downer, as the heroes are to be sent away again, this time for what the authorities are sure to hope is for good.

Conclusion: Victory of Eagles reacquires some of the things that made this first book in the series so good; grand battles fought with muskets, cannons and dragons! Despite all the victories Laurence and Temeraire win their fate is exile, and unsatisfying to the reader. They've both worked hard to win things for themselves, and now neither will enjoy the fruits of that labor.

Rating: 8/10

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