Wednesday, July 20, 2016

League of Dragons (Naomi Novik)

League of Dragons
(The Temeraire series, Book 9)
Naomi Novik
Del Rey
Fiction, Fantasy
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: With Napoleon's eye blackened by the rout in Russia, when a plan to unchain the abused Russian covert dragons backfired, the tide in the years-long war may be turning... but victory is far from certain. The exiled Chinese Celestial dragon Lien has applied her country's prodigious knowledge of dragon husbandry to the Emperor's breeding program, in addition to convincing Napoleon to begin treating the country's dragons as citizens, not mere beasts. Now, word is spreading that Napoleon will carve up the whole world between dragons should they come to his banner - even in defiance of their countries and keepers: a powerful incentive to those who have been harried, abused, and even hunted in their native lands. Once again, former naval captain Will Laurence and his dragon companion Temeraire find themselves entangled in knots of intrigue and politics as they approach the final showdown with Napoleon, one that will decide the future of Europe - and the fate of its many dragons.

REVIEW:I've been enjoying Novik's alternate world through eight books, a world that has come to outshine its somewhat-stretched storyline and bloated cast of characters. This finale embodied my mixed feelings over the series as a whole. On the plus side, I enjoyed revisiting some of my favorite characters, and the continuing development of Temeraire's ambitions to improve the lot of his own species in England and beyond to a level on par with his native China. Some of the twists encountered were intriguing, and more Napoleonic battles unfold amidst plotting and scheming. On the other hand, Novik's story had sprawled so far, with so many side characters and subplots, that she couldn't hope to touch bases with, let alone wrap up, all of them. So I couldn't help feeling a little cheated on some accounts. (I also would've liked to visit North America; once again, intriguing hints were dropped of the Native Americans' unusual relationship with their dragons, yet hints are all that we readers were given... a serious oversight after Novik went out of her way to visit every other inhabited continent.) The main arc itself took some twists and turns, finally wrapping up - but it did so in a manner that miffed me the more I considered it, in addition to avoiding a final confrontation that most of the series had been building to (which I can't specify without potential spoilers, but which seemed to me quite integral to the main story thread.) While some major events tie up, it ends with enough unsatisfying loose ends dangling to make me wonder if Novik intentionally left the door cracked for future novels in this world, at the expense of full closure for the characters and arcs she already had in play. While I enjoyed the majority of the Temeraire series, and I found her many dragon-altered world cultures very interesting and imaginative, ultimately I walked away wondering if it needed to be quite so long, or end in quite so manipulated a manner. (That's not to say I wouldn't read on if more books appear... though I believe I'll wait for paperback editions, or perhaps the library, next time around.)

You Might Also Enjoy:
Ship of Magic (Robin Hobb) - My Review
His Majesty's Dragon (Naomi Novik) - My Review
The Thousand Names (Django Wexler) - My Review

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