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WesternSFA
Blood of Tyrants
by Naomi Novik
Del Rey, $26.00, 431pp
Publication Date: August 13, 2013
Welcome to the latest and eighth in the Temeraire series. In this alternate history fantasy series, the world has dragons. The events take place in the same 1800’s with Napoleon trying to conquer the world. Only this time he might actually make it with the help of dragons. The protagonists in this series are an English sea captain, Laurence, and a dragon named Temeraire who came from a Chinese egg that was captured on the seas. In a bit of irony, Temeraire’s egg had been intended for Napoleon. Laurence and Temeraire are bonded but not in the fantastical way of McCaffrey’s dragons. Their bonds are mutual ones of affection and respect. Their role in this series is to be buffeted from continent to continent in a continual effort to thwart Napoleon’s goals. They’ve traveled all over the world, nearly, rather like Marco Polo. They’ve been to France , China , Istanbul , Australia and Brazil . Their last efforts in South America ended badly for their side: the Incan Princess, denied the English aviator, Granby , married Napoleon thereby lending the non-inconsiderable strength of Incan dragons to his armada.

This story begins with Laurence surviving a shipwreck but without his memories of the last eight years. He washed up on the shores of Japan and was taken in by a wealthy man who had made a vow to care for besieged strangers. The man’s efforts are negated by his country’s implacable policy of forbidding foreigners on their shores. In addition, the ship that Laurence fell from has thieved certain supplies from the countryside as they attempt repairs and Laurence is held responsible by the authorities. Temeraire, in the meantime, is distressed to no end with no knowledge of Laurence’s whereabouts. Eventually, the two are reconciled but since Laurence’s memories don’t even include Temeraire’s birth, it is not the reunion that Temeraire anticipated. Laurence’s memories are also missing of the reasons for his supposed treason to his country. But, in any case, both Laurence and Temeraire are united in an effort to further thwart Napoleon – this time, in Russia .

Since Laurence is an adopted son of the Chinese Emperor, they are able to persuade China to lend a thousand dragons to the war front in Russia - China being the next target of Napoleon should Russia fall. The journey from China to Russia is quite entertaining. And, as always in these books, Temeraire is exposed to yet more different cultures and their treatment of dragons. He has now seen the breadth of treatment of dragons: total comfort and privilege in China to abject slavery in Russia . And to lend a bit of fun to the story, Novik introduces American dragons as we see Yankee traders caught up in the conflict.

This series continues to enthrall and delight me. Her characterizations have improved so much and her plotting is excellent. I love the underlying theme of Temeraire being a catalyst for change as he moves across the world. I also tremendously enjoy the dragons’ perspectives and conversation. The books are the right blend of warfare, seafaring and adventure without one overwhelming the others. In other words, if you don’t particularly like naval stories or war stories, don’t ignore this series. And if you like your fantasy journeys peppered with ‘real world’ events, this should satisfy. ~~ Catherine Book

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