Well, it’s been a few months since I reviewed one of these books but I finally got around to finding the fifth book in the Temeraire series (ie, what if there were DRAGONS in the Napoleonic Wars and they were used like ships?). Knowing that this series has a few more books to go (I believe the plan is for it to be a nine book series) does make the series a bit less enjoyable (you know that no matter whatever the heroes do, they aren’t going to beat Napoleon yet) but only a bit.
Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik
One change I noticed here was that the books are finally normal hardcover sized, no more tiny paperback sized books! Made it much easier to hold the book and gave it more room to have a proper illustration on the cover which I also liked (am I the only one who thinks it wouldn't look out of place on a Master and Commander book?).
Summary: After Laurence's treason at the end of the previous book, Laurence is waiting to be executed and Temeraire has been separated from him and now resides in the breeding grounds. But idealistic Temeraire refuses to sit around for the rest of his life and convinces the rest of the dragons to leave the grounds and help fight against the French and earn some money for building pavilions in the process.
The Good: Since the two have been separated, Temeraire actually gets more screen time and more pages devoted to what he's thinking and planning than in the previous books and he's a very interesting character. Laurence often comes off as an cautiously idealistic character, or at least a cautiously optimistic one, but Temeraire is so idealistic that he's a radical and it's a nice contrast to Laurence since he's not quite himself in this book. Since this book is even more war focused than the previous four there's not a lot of opportunities for the characters to do much other than fight and think (or emo) but the book does set some interesting groundwork for what Temeraire might accomplish later on.
The Bad: It still seems odd that humans have domesticated dragons for centuries at this point yet only now (the time line of these stories) is it beginning to change history. Dragons haven’t changed the outcome of dozens of wars but they do let Napoleon actually land on and invade English soil and that’s a rather large change*. Another unrealistic point is jut how much the dragons need to eat to stay in combat shape and that England manages to supply them all. The amount the dragons need to eat doesn’t sound unreasonable (based on the sizes given for them it sounds perfectly reasonable if not too little) but it does seem rather improbable that one small nation could feed them all without much trouble, especially after seeing the supply problems in this book.
So, not my favorite book in the series so far, mostly because it was so much fighting and becauseLaurence loses it for a while (and for the rest of the book he comes off as "woe is me, I am to die and I can't protest it because I have MORALES" never mind the fact that he has a perfectly good reason not to die). But the next book will have a change of setting, always interesting, and we draw ever close to the end of the series which is also exciting.
*and the books could have hand waved this by saying that the domestication of dragons in most parts of the world, except China since they’re isolated enough to not really matter here, was a recent thing so there hadn’t been as much of a chance for them to interfere with history, that would have been a perfectly valid explanation.