League of Dragons (Temeraire #9)

League of Dragons Book Cover League of Dragons
Temeraire
Naomi Novik
Fantasy
Del Rey
June 14, 2016
Hardcover
380

The final adventure in the New York Times bestselling Temeraire series that started with the beloved His Majesty’s Dragon which has won fans of Napoleonic-era military history, Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels, and Patrick O’Brian’s seafaring adventures.

The deadly campaign in Russia has cost both Napoleon and those allied against him. Napoleon has been denied his victory…but at a terrible price. Lawrence and the dragon Temeraire pursue the fleeing French army back west, but are demoralized when Napoleon makes it back to Paris unscathed. Worse, they soon learn that the French have stolen Termeraire and Iskierka’s egg. Now, it is do or die, as our heroes not only need to save Temeraire’s offspring but also to stop Napoleon for good!

 

As this is the final book in the series, the following review will assume you are up to date with the other eight and may contain necessary spoilers regarding the previous novels.

Following Napoleon’s failed invasion of Russia, Lawrence and Temeraire chase the tyrant’s fleeing army along with their allies before he can once again escape and muster his forces. A total of nine books spread out over the last decade have lead up to this fantastical finale based on the Napoleonic Wars. While the Temeraire series is certainly one of the better fantasy franchises out there, there are a few small annoyances that have persisted throughout the series as a whole which remain prominent in this final book. The series has a habit of introducing characters, having them gallivant around with Laurence and Temeraire for an adventure or two, and then we almost never see them again. That does not happen to every character, there are a few gems like Granby and Tharkay, but look at how little we get to see characters like Lily and Maximus past their first few books.

To a degree, this does make sense. In a real-world scenario, people who are in military service are going to get shuffled around. With the dragons being treated by the British brass as little more than equipment, it makes sense for the dragons to get moved around based on where their skill sets are needed most. But from the point of view of a fantasy novel, it gets a bit tiring for Laurence and Temeraire to have a new crew and fight alongside almost completely different people for every single military engagement they participate in. It makes it very hard to develop the other characters and when they do get developed it feels a little pointless when readers can be fairly certain that character is going to take off and never be seen again at some point.

The storytelling of this book, as with its predecessors, is slow. There is a lot of waiting and planning and traveling with small bouts of intense action in between. That is how war is, and that is how a series about war should be told. But that aspect of this series intensifies in this final book. Laurence has been promoted multiple times over the course of the series and by the time we get to the big fights in League of Dragons, he must spend so much time directing the troops that Temeraire does not really have the opportunity to fight. SPOILER AHEAD And as readers we were, of course expecting a big showdown between Temeraire and Lien for this final book. That does not happen; Lien makes as few appearances as in the previous novels and her defeat is downplayed beyond the mention that she is captured alongside Napoleon. END SPOILER

More focus is put on politics and less on fighting as the series goes on and that shines in this last novel. For all the dragging things out and waiting that the characters were doing, it felt like that page space could have been better spent on character development. Even if the plot demands those other characters be situated elsewhere and you cannot cut away to a scene with them, at least knowing what they were up to would have been nice. The series does take place from Laurence and Temeraire’s points of view, but the unanswered questions are not built in a way that will leave audiences satisfied. A fantasy series, even one with a historical fiction basis, has to spend a lot of time laying out the laws of the land and this series spent less time on that than it could have.

Overall this is a good fantasy series, at least a solid 3 out of 5 (closer to a 4, but not quite there), but it will leave its audiences wanting more. A good series can end leaving audiences wanting more and do a good job of it, but the Temeraire novels leave us wanting too much more to be truly satisfied.

September 11, 2016

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