Victory of Eagles

I’ve already recommended Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, starting with His Majesty’s Dragon, so the only thing I’ll leave outside the cut is that boy howdy am I enjoying this series, and why don’t we have book six yet?

Okay, so, I giggled like a madwoman for the first hundred pages or more, and most of that is Temeraire’s fault. (With the occasional assist from Iskierka, whom I love to pieces, in part because I am such a Granby fangirl.) Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this the first we’ve seen of Temeraire’s point of view? I think so, and man, it’s fabulous. He’s got such a distinctive voice, that comes across as very British, very nineteenth-century, and very intellect of a borderline genius paired with the experiential maturity of a growing child. Temeraire’s smart, but he doesn’t always get things, simply because he hasn’t been around for very long and doesn’t always understand how or why things work.

Not that I don’t like Laurence — I do — but Temeraire kind of ran away with this book.

The giggling stopped as the war went on, though, because things really do seem to be taking a turn for the brutal. It makes me wish I were conversant with Napoleonic history; clearly we’ve taken a sharp turn away from the actual chronology, but I don’t have a context into which I may put these changes. (Plus it means Novik can sneak things like Wellesley up on me. I had no idea that was his actual name.) Anyway, Europe appears to be modernizing its dragon warfare rather rapidly, with some pretty brual consequences. It’s registering on me kind of like the draconic equivalent of the technological changes in WWI: the death toll isn’t nearly so high, but there’s a sense that the established traditions of how war ought to be fought are falling apart, with increasingly bloody results. And I’m curious to see where that’s going.

(I doubt it’s really going to New South Wales. Me, I want more foreign dragons. Do they have them in India? Or how about letting the Americas make an appearance?)

That’s all, really; I don’t have any deep or meaningful points to make. Except that I really do enjoy this series so very much.

0 Responses to “Victory of Eagles”

  1. diatryma

    The ending, heading to Australia, makes me wary. I like the books best when they are exploring England and Napoleon. I’d rather not spend so much time crossing the ocean and finding new ways to incorporate dragons into society, even though that’s interesting. I like the focus on these dragons in this society.
    Doesn’t help that one of my soft markers for a floundering series is that the characters keep moving to new worldbuilding.

    I loved Laurence this time, how he’s struggling so much. He’s been reduced to duty and love for Temeraire, it seems, and the two are in conflict.

    A preemptive bookfling: if it turns out that Iski is the Rainbow Serpent, I will be pissed.

    • Marie Brennan

      Oh god. I don’t think she would be; on the whole, Novik seems pretty determined to have historically-colonized cultures stand up and smack their would-be colonizers a good one. Having Iskierka (or her egg, which is the other possibility that came to mind) be the Rainbow Serpent would seem to run counter to that.

      And it’s really just the anthropologist in me, wanting to see other parts of the world. You’re right that her plots are usually stronger when they stay closer to home. (I think Victory of Eagles is her most coherently-structured book since His Majesty’s Dragon.)

      • diatryma

        I can see your anthropology background affecting that, yeah. The different societies are interesting, especially as we see more of them, but I’m a character and plot person. “Laurence encounters awesome African civilization” isn’t enough for me. I’d love to see the two little girls’ story, though.

        • Marie Brennan

          I’m a character and setting person, perhaps. “Laurence encounters awesome African civilization” is interesting to me both for the African civilization and for the effect it has on Laurence. But I do also like a good plot, and Novik seems to have a harder time producing one of those outside the context of the Napoleonic war.

  2. betsywhitt

    I have to admit I spent most of the book just as frustrated with Iskierka as Temeraire did. . . I think she’s abusing Granby horribly, and my fangirl tendencies toward him lead me to want to protect him from her carelessness, though it seems she may have begun to learn a lesson about that toward the end of this volume. I wish I found her enthusiasm more endearing, but in general I just found it to be unthinking.

    But I also giggled myself silly enjoying Temeraire’s POV – especially the bits about how it’s so much less satisfying to endure hardship when no one notices or appreciates the effort. Classic Temeraire. I just want to hug him. . . or, you know, as much of him as I could reach.

    • Marie Brennan

      Well, okay. Iskierka is not a cute little dragonlet anymore, so yes, she’s gotten less endearing. I started out fond of her, though, so it’s going to take quite a bit of doing on her part to make that go away. (Hurting Granby would do it. DON’T HURT GRANBY.)

      • kitsunealyc

        You like Izkierka because Izkierka is very much like you (when you’re being bratty, not all the time).

        Don’t even try to deny it. Kyle will back me up if he’s read the books.

  3. zellandyne

    Funny. Of all the Temeraire books, this is the one I liked least. It hinged too much on the “other people are stupid and everyone else is out to get us” plot. By the end, I was rooting for Napoleon.

    • Marie Brennan

      I guess I didn’t see it as “other people are stupid;” I saw it as “other people are very much nineteenth-century British military officers.” Which is to say, not so much stupid as solid products of their time and environment. The rooting for Napoleon, I think, isn’t an accident; Laurence’s comment about how any nation that makes its dragons engaged members of society is going to kick the crap out of nations that don’t seemed to point pretty strongly to a de-demonization of Napoleon. Sure, he’s a greedy bastard — but he’s a lot more open-minded in many ways than the Brits are. This seems to be a world where British imperialism gets the wind knocked out of it a lot sooner.

      • zellandyne

        I read a lot of fiction set in the Napoleonic era, so sticking with the nineteenth century British military officer mentality isn’t a problem for me. What is a problem is trying to run it simultaneously with a very contemporary worldview – in this case, Temeraire’s pov. There’s a huge disconnect for me there. I think that Novik, for me, gets away with it in the other novels because there’s more forward action and I don’t mind that Temeraire is thoroughly modern. But that kind of grafting of modern values onto a historical period tends to make my teeth ache – if it’s not consistent.

        In particular, though, I really don’t like the plots where it feels like the only sane people are the hero and his buddies. Regardless of the historical context. It smacks of lazy writing. It’s also very one dimensional, and leaves me viewing the opposition as cardboard cutouts, primarily there to provide the background for lots of angst. And to serve as plot devices.

        • Marie Brennan

          I think Temeraire has always been presented as having a different worldview — slipping in some modern notions under the cover of him being not human. It’s just more noticeable in this book, because we get his point of view.

          I didn’t really come away with the impression that the only sane people were the hero and his buddies, though. In fact, I was pleasantly impressed with the Brits’ increasing willingness to adapt with the times — transporting soldiers by dragon, etc. Wellesley was at the forefront of that, of course, and if I knew his history better I’d have a clearer sense of whether that’s a fair representation of the man. But I never felt Laurence was the only sane one, or that I was supposed to believe it. The prejudice against him was entirely justified.

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