Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Blood of Tyrants: a novel of Temeraire by Naomi Novik

This next to the last book of the Temeraire series is truly dazzling. While the idea of having Will Laurence, captain of the dragon Temeraire, get hit on the head and forget the last eight years of his life seems a bit fanciful at first, in its execution Novik masterfully replays for us and Will all that has happened to him since he became an aviator and how his life changed so dramatically, from being a British sea captain to an aviator in his Majesty’s Aerial Corps. In Novik’s alternate telling of the Napoleonic Wars, dragons, which are capable of speech and reasoning, are harnessed to be the countries’ aerial forces.

Laurence has always been tremendously sympathetic as someone who, when thrust into an unexpected situation, grasps (almost always) the essential dignity and character of whoever he is faced with - be they a dragon, a female fighting as a soldier, even his archenemy Napoleon Bonaparte. And if he is mistaken in his assessment, he is always quick to acknowledge his error.

Novik realistically portrays Will suffering from amnesia, without any insight into dragons or how countries make use of them, and also without his hard won experience of how governments may abuse power, taking any means at their disposal.  As he learns more and more about his life, we, the readers, are taken again over the terrain of these conditions which changed him. We already know him (and Temeraire), yet this helps us to know him better. Novik has used Will as our sounding board, for how he knows Temeraire and all of the others, and this plot device serves her well.

The scenes of this book are many - feudal Japan, a China challenged to take her place in the global economy of trade, and a Russia which boasts European culture yet oppresses its workers, human and dragon alike. The pace is swift, as we are accustomed to with Novik, with abrupt changes of fortune. Yet some developments continue steadily onward, such as Laurence’s realization of his present life, his attachment to Temeraire, and Napoleon’s march into Russia.  

To see the book in our catalog, click here.

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