Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Review: Victory of Eagles

Victory of Eagles (Temeraire, book 5) by Naomi Novik
4.5 stars

Reasons for reading: I'm addicted to this series; Fantasy for the Four Month Challenge

Summary: "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."

First line: "The breeding grounds were called Pen Y Fan, after the hard, jagged slash of the mountain at their heart, like an ax-blade, rimed with ice along its edge and rising barren over the moorlands: a cold, wet Welsh autumn already, coming on towards winter, and the other dragons sleepy and remote, uninterested in anything but their meals."

My thoughts: My husband (who got me into the series) teases me about me calling these books "scrapey" - but it's because Laurence and Temeraire get into scrapes that I just can't imagine they'll be able to get out of! And this time was no different. Laurence has been charged with treason and the only reason he hasn't been executed is to keep Temeraire in line. But when Temeraire decides he's tired of sitting around in the breeding grounds and wants to fight, he leads the other dragons off to harry French troops in the British countryside. When Laurence is called in to find him, the reunion is a happy one, but Laurence is a changed man. He's always been stoic, but now he's broken and sure that he'll soon die. He's not even sure anymore whether or not he was right in committing his "treasonous" act of saving the lives of Europe's dragons by providing France with a cure for a deadly illness. But Laurence and Temeraire do their duty and fight Napoleon - once Temeraire has convinced Wellington that dragons should be given ranks and pay. (And also huge, garish epaulettes to mark their rank - that was one of my favourite parts, I love the dragons' charming vainness.) The book ends with an alternate-reality battle of epic proportions.

I think this book marks a turning point in the series. Temeraire's dreams of dragons' rights are briefly recognized, but one gets the sense they won't last out the war. Temeraire is still clever and jealous and vain and sweet, but he's slowly starting to learn the ways of men and how things really work. Laurence has literally lost everything except his dragon - he tries to cling to his old touchstones of honour and duty, but finds he can't. The very end of the book sees to duo being exiled to Australia because Temeraire is seen as too "dangerous" with his ideals but the team are too valuable to simply eliminate. I'm really looking forward to their adventures in wilds of New South Wales!

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