Home > Mitch's Musings > Blood of Tyrants by Naomi Novik

Blood of Tyrants by Naomi Novik

Blood of Tyrants by Naomi Novik

Blood of Tyrants
by Naomi Novik

Blood of Tyrants (Temeraire #8)

By: Naomi Novik

Release Date: August 13, 2013

Rating: 3 stars


Shipwrecked and cast ashore in Japan with no memory of Temeraire or his own experiences as an English aviator, Laurence finds himself tangled in deadly political intrigues that threaten not only his own life but England’s already precarious position in the Far East. Age-old enmities and suspicions have turned the entire region into a powder keg ready to erupt at the slightest spark—a spark that Laurence and Temeraire may unwittingly provide, leaving Britain faced with new enemies just when they most desperately need allies instead.

For to the west, another, wider conflagration looms. Napoleon has turned on his former ally, the emperor Alexander of Russia, and is even now leading the largest army the world has ever seen to add that country to his list of conquests. It is there, outside the gates of Moscow, that a reunited Laurence and Temeraire—along with some unexpected allies and old friends—will face their ultimate challenge…and learn whether or not there are stronger ties than memory.

Naomi Novik’s beloved Temeraire series, a brilliant combination of fantasy and history that reimagines the Napoleonic wars as fought with the aid of intelligent dragons, is a twenty-first-century classic. From the first volume, His Majesty’s Dragon, readers have been entranced by the globe-spanning adventures of the resolute Capt. William Laurence and his brave but impulsive dragon, Temeraire. Now, in Blood of Tyrants, the penultimate volume of the series, Novik is at the very height of her powers as she brings her story to its widest, most colorful canvas yet.



Something strange happened while I was reading Blood of Tyrants… I started to like Temeraire again. This series had me at ‘Napoleonic Wars’ and ‘dragons’, but while the first few books ranged from serviceable (His Majesty’s Dragon) to standout (Black Powder War), by the time Empire of Ivory rolled around, these books had started to get bogged down in a Carmen Sandiego-esque need to visit exotic world locales and became less about the War or the dragon. For me, the series peaked at Napoleon’s invasion of England and began a downward slide soon after, and if it wasn’t for a few things here and there, I would’ve completely lost all hope.

Crucible of Gold was one of those things and a step in the right direction, but as I said before, something’s not right when Austerlitz and Jena get maybe a paragraph and there’s chapters dedicated to African slave traders or setting up an Australian penal colony. I wasn’t sure which Temeraire would be making an appearance in Blood of Tyrants, the Napoleonic War invested Temeraire of Black Powder War or the random globetrotting filler Temeraire of Tongues of Serpents, but to my dismay turned surprise, both. Since, in maybe a first for the Temeraire series, Blood of Tyrants is divided into three parts sufficiently distinct they can probably be read as easily as three separate novellas as one full novel, I’ll just talk about each part separately and why Part Three makes this the best Temeraire book in some time.

Part One – if I could pretend this never happened, I would. As promised, Lawrence is shipwrecked in Japan and unfortunately this part involves the same kinds of excesses that made the last few books (Crucible of Gold somewhat aside) such chores to read. With the war raging in Europe, I could care less about what happens in Africa or Australia, and with the general narrative focused on defeating Napoleon, these side plots really provide no purpose other than filler that takes away from what’s supposed to be the main draw of the series. There’s just no point other than Naomi Novik telling us this is what happens to Lawrence and his crew, and while Novik does provide a glimpse of early nineteenth century Japanese culture with dragons, that doesn’t make this any less filler. Combined with Lawrence’s incredibly convenient amnesia which hardly affects the rest of the story and what even the book describes as useful, numbing minutiae, and Part One just seems like an intentional detour to drag out the book.

Part Two – better, like on Throne of Jade’s level. Still missing one crafty French general, but the court intrigue in China at least doesn’t feel as blatantly filler as the shipwreck storyline. While nothing in Part Two is really needed to understand Part Three, it does pick up some loose plot threads from Throne of Jade and explain why China would enter the war, and this time at least the explanation makes more sense than the whole fiasco with the Incan Empire in Crucible of Gold. Plus, Novik likes to show off where the logistics of draconic warfare is concerned, so having the various strategies used by the British vis-à-vis the Chinese side by side make for some interesting comparisons. Skippable sure, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

Part Three – where have you been all this time? I’m thrilled Novik finally, finally gets to what I’ve been waiting for ever since Black Powder War, an actual, honest to goodness campaign that doesn’t involve the heroes being sent to another continent while the battles are being fought. Napoleon’s back. He’s invading Russia. Lawrence and Temeraire are there. That alone makes Part Three way more worthwhile than anything that’s come out since Empire of Ivory, and seeing how Napoleon’s actual invasion of Russia has shaped Novik’s fictional campaign is a real treat. Too bad awesome villain(ess) Madame Lien is still missing in action and the book ends on a cliffhanger with the Russian winter, but I am totally stoked to see what comes next.

In a nutshell, Blood of Tyrants is definitely the strongest Temeraire novel since at least 2007 (even without pretending Part One never happens), simply because Naomi Novik brings the series back to its roots. Fans of the series should be happy to know Temeraire is finally back on track.

Go to Mitch’s review on Goodreads.

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