Victory of Eagles

I was really looking forward to the fifth Temeraire book, Victory of Eagles. Using the Napoleonic Wars as a backdrop for her series, Naomi Novik injected some new life into the oldest cliché of the fantasy genre -- the dragons. Temeraire/His Majesty's Dragon, Throne of Jade, and Black Powder War earned the author the coveted John W. Campbell Award. Writing with unmistakable flair, Novik created something truly special. And though expectations were high, Empire of Ivory was everything it needed to be, and Novik set the bar even higher for what was to come.

Following the events at the end of Empire of Ivory, Will Laurence has been jailed for treason. For his part, Temeraire has been consigned to the breeding grounds in Wales. Having consolidated his stranglehold on the rest of Europe, Napoleon is now ready to begin his invasion of Great Britain. When the time finally comes, no one can stop the French forces from crossing the English Channel and planting the eagle standard on British soil. While Admiral Nelson and his ships are away to deal with Copenhagen, it appears that nothing can stop Napoleon from conquering England. Laurence's prison ship is sunk during the initial attack, and he washes ashore in the vicinity of Dover. A traitor and a fugitive, he'll begin a desperate search for his dragon companion. Unhappy with the dreadfully boring life of the breeding grounds while a war is being fought, Temeraire will rally a disparate band of dragons to fend off the invaders. Once reunited with his dragon, Laurence is given the chance to die in battle, or else be hung if he somehow manages to survive. But Temeraire has other plans for his captain. . .

Similar to each new season of Survivor, it appears that Naomi Novik means to visit different locales in every Temeraire installment. In Victory of Eagles the author takes us to Wales, Scotland, and all over the English countryside. I found it very ingenious how Novik tackles the logistics involved in having dragons around.

As was the case with its predecessors, Victory of Eagles builds on various existing storylines. We begin to see how Temeraire's time in China has influenced his way of thinking, and it has surprising repercussions in this book. On the downside, the novel doesn't echo with as much depth as Empire of Ivory. I felt that the fourth volume took the series up a notch or two, but in some regards Victory of Eagles doesn't follow through with as much panache.

Although Novik's latest is as fun and entertaining as the previous four Temeraire novels, there seems to be a few hints that the series might be losing a little steam. To say that Victory of Eagles is disappointing would be a lie. And yet, with Novik "graduating" to hardcover in North America, I must conceded that I was expecting more. After five volumes, the originality which so took the genre by storm a while back is starting to wear off a bit. Hence, I feel that the author must really kick it into gear and bring the series to a new level. Otherwise, for all its originality, I'm afraid that these books could become more or less formulaic and episodic in style and tone, which is a concern I've had from the start. In addition, the short length of each novel might become an issue now that they will henceforth be published in hardback.

Now, Naomi Novik has demonstrated time and again that she has quite a few surprises up her sleeve. So I'm convinced that she can up her game in the next volume. In all honesty, though, I feel that the sixth installment could make or break the series. Oh, most of us are hooked, and we'll keep on reading regardless. But the next one should tell us if we're looking forward to a proliferation of sequels whose pertinence could be put into question, or if Laurence and Temeraire will remain the most interesting, if unlikely, duo in fantasy.

Victory of Eagles is another good read, but it doesn't quite live up to the expectations generated by Empire of Ivory.

The final verdict: 7.75/10
For more info about this title: Canada, USA, Europe

5 commentaires:

James said...

Good review Pat. Personally I thought Empire of Ivory was a slight disappointment after Black Powder War (the highlight of the series so far, in my opinion).

I thought in Empire the whole formula was starting to wear a little thin, so I'm interested to read Victory of Eagles and see if Novik can keep things fresh.

Anonymous said...

Hey Pat,

Just wondering why you stopped linking your reviews on SFFWORLD.COM???

Don't always have time to follow your blog, so it was easy to monitor the reviews on that website and then come over here to read the full piece.

Keep up the good work!

pacamanca said...

I'd never heard of this series until I started reading blogs like yours. I was reading something else (Joe Abercrombie) during my trip to Canada last month, but one day I found myself in downtown Ottawa with a grumpy husband who wanted to take a nap in the park and me without ANYTHING readable in my bag 'cause it was too heavy to carry around. Panic! Thank heavens there was an emergency Chapters nearby and I bought the four books that were available. I started reading the first one and loved it, but after a few chapters hubby woke up and we headed back home and I decided to finish off Abercrombie's books before plunging into Novik's. With a huge workload and exams at university I'm still halfway through Last Argument of Kings, but can't wait to finish it and to start with the dragon thingie!

Patrick said...

Anonymous: I used to include links with some of my posts on because I'm a staff member and that was one of the perks.

But some people complained, and I always told Dag, Mark and Rob that I would stop if it ever came to that. So when they informed me that someone or some people had complained, well I simply stopped linking my book reviews.

So you'll have to visit these parts every once and a while if you want to check out my reviews!;-)

Anonymous said...

Man, what a crock of shit! Someone bitches because you link stuff and they can't and now you can't do it???

That's really too bad, as you have what I consider the best damn blog around! But Rob and Hobbit write great reviews too!