My husband and I disagree about Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series. He wanted to like them but didn’t find that the alternative history involving the dragons made sense, and that bothered him enough that he didn’t continue reading. The issue is basically this: a world where dragons exist would be radically different, and yet the Napoleonic Wars happen in just the same way they did in this world.
Since I’m a little less concerned about accuracy and consistency when it comes to history and military strategy (okay, a lot less concerned) these books are perfect for me. This is a good example of how a book can work for one person and not another. The Temeraire series gives me history, dragons, adventure, and two things I care about: strong character relationships and thoughtful reflections on culture and society.
If you’re a fan of Novik because of her recent novel Uprooted, know that the Temeraire books are very different. I like them better, personally. Uprooted was a great fantasy story, but these books are so much more.
Since League of Dragons is the final book in the series, I won’t say too much about the plot, except to say it takes place in the later part of the Napoleonic Wars, mostly in Russia and Germany. Temeraire and Laurence are trying to marshal enough allies, both dragon and human, to defeat Napoleon and finally end the conflict.
I enjoyed this book very much, in the same way I enjoyed all the books in the series (although a few in the middle dragged a bit). I have to note that the plotlines in these books get pretty repetitive. Temeraire and Laurence travel to a foreign land, meet new dragons, and explore the way different governments treat their dragons (most are more humane than the British).
Novik may repeat the point in each book, but it’s an interesting one: when is a living creature also a sentient being, and what happens when a government treats powerful, intelligent beings as beasts of burden (in other words, slaves)?
That’s the social consciousness part. I also love the strong relationship between Laurence and Temeraire. They bond in Book 1 when Temeraire hatches, and throughout these books they are devoted to each other, even though their personalities are completely different, and Temeraire tests Laurence’s loyalty to his country.
The other thing I love about the series is that it’s set all over the world. I love travel and I love to read about other cultures. These books give us China, Japan, Africa, Australia, Russia, and South America. It’s not reality, of course, but it still makes for fun reading.
My only negative with this book is that I found Novik’s writing to be a little convoluted at times. Partly that’s because she’s writing in period style, but I found I had to reread sentences and paragraphs at times to follow her thinking.
In short, League of Dragons is just as fun as the previous books in the series. Although it doesn’t break any new ground, it’s a nice end to a great series.
Note: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and publisher Random House/Del Rey in exchange for an honest review. This book was published June 14, 2016.