Sunday, May 25, 2014

Blood of Tyrants (Naomi Novik)

Blood of Tyrants
(The Temeraire series, Book 8)
Naomi Novik
Del Rey
Fiction, Fantasy
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: En route from South America to China, disaster strikes the British dragon transport Potentate, and Captain Will Laurence is washed away. Waking alone on a foreign shore with no memory of the past eight years, he finds himself marked for torture and death: Japan only allows foreigners at the harbor in Nagasaki, and the Chinese-made sword he carries automatically marks him as an ally of their ancient enemy across the sea. Temeraire desperately wishes to find him, but the British are already losing precious time... and every day lost means another day away from the struggle in Europe. Napoleon's armies have turned toward Russia, one of the last holdouts between France and world domination. If the Chinese cannot be convinced to lend assistance, all may be lost... and a mission this vital cannot be risked for the life of one man, not even Temeraire's beloved captain.

REVIEW: I admit I cringed when I opened the cover to find one of the oldest literary chestnuts in the book - amnesia - greeting me on Page One. Fortunately, the general rush of events carries the story along. Indeed, with seven previous volumes of side-plots and characters and backstories, I started feeling overwhelmed, with too many spare pieces cluttering the chessboard. I still enjoy Temeraire and the dragons, and some of the people, and Novik continues to fill out her fascinating, dragon-influenced world. The story trundles along at a decent pace, wending through trouble and treachery and unexpected reunions, culminating at last on the battlefields of Russia. It all ends on an unsettled note, with one plot development at least that seems to exist solely to create trouble down the line. I sincerely hope that the next volume is the final one; much as I liked visiting Temeraire and Will again, the main story arc feels stretched thin, threatening to collapse under the weight of unresolved subplots. (I also still don't get why Novik felt the need to resort to the amnesia chestnut, save as a padding gimmick to stretch the story, or maybe catch new readers up on the general storyline.)

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