Review of VICTORY OF EAGLES by NAOMI NOVIK
(fifth in the TEMERAIRE series)
Warning: this review contains spoilers for the first four books.
The fifth book in this delightful series keeps the dragon Temeraire and his human companion Laurence separated for a good chunk at the beginning. Their decision at the end of EMPIRE OF IVORY to curb Britain’s efforts at bioterrorism and secretly deliver the cure for a weaponized dragon plague to France earned Laurence a treason sentence and Temeraire a direct ticket to the breeding grounds. As certain officials take such pleasure in reminding them, the only reason Laurence hasn’t been executed yet is to keep Temeraire, a formidable dragon by most any measure, corporative.
On a larger scale, Napolean finally succeeds in landing on British soil, a development that certainly makes Laurence’s crimes little more than a distraction. Speaking of distractions, Temeraire keeps up his persistent and insistent inquiries into dragon rights. He wants pay, he wants housing, he wants ranks and titles, and above all else he wants to do away with all this condescension towards dragons. As in the previous book, this brings forth all kinds of debates about patriotism and civil rights, especially the question: is there ever a good time for someone who loves and respects their country to demand change?
I continued to admire the style in which these books are written. Sometimes the overly formal word choice made me snort with amusement, especially when juxtaposed against touchy subject matter. In other words, the phrasing is as important to the humor as the content. The following quote isn’t nearly the funniest, but it’s the only one I remembered to actually bookmark when a line made me laugh aloud: “privately he could not help a certain resentment that a conscience seemed to be so very expensive, and yet had no substantial form which one might admire, and display to one’s company.” Along this point, the writing always remains so understated with a sense of restrained formality that it really lets emotions speak for themselves. This is one of those books where what isn’t being said often counts for more.
I enjoy the addition of the young, fire-breathing dragon Iskierka to this wonderful cast. She fits in well with established characters and I love the contrast of her fearsome capabilities with her immature recklessness. She’s scary and cute at the same time.
VICTORY OF EAGLES ends with an intriguing setup for the next book. I personally hope this series doesn’t actually end anytime soon.