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January 30, 2014 / minusbar

Book Review: “Blood of Tyrants” by Naomi Novak

*This post has been sponsored and edited with Grammarly because typos make me [sic].

Book Review: “Blood of Tyrants” by Naomi Novak

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.


Blood of Tyrants is actually the eighth book in the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik, which I have been following since I discovered it last year. If you aren’t familiar with her work I would encourage you to look into it (although for this book in particular I don’t think it absolutely necessary to have read the previous seven). Novik writes in a genre termed fantasy realism. Specific, right? It can be. This series, in particular, is set during the Napoleonic wars and is told from a British viewpoint. If you love history (or even just reading Jane Austen, since the writing style could be comparable) then it’s very possible that you will enjoy Novik’s writing.

I really love the dynamic that Novik writes between Laurence, an English aviator, and Temeraire, his dragon. They just work well together, and have since the very first book. Laurence is sensible, level-headed, and has an unfailing sense of duty. Temeraire…is the exact opposite. Older dragons may be wise, but since Temeraire is a relatively young dragon it’s nice to see his rashness exasperate Laurence constantly.

As I mentioned, the writing style is elaborate and sometimes formal. I’ve noted on several occasions while reading this series that Temeraire’s questioning of authority and the law (and basically everything else) helps cut through the fancy packaging for readers who may get frustrated with the implied threats and looming consequences that might not be apparent at first. That said, it can get a little dry sometimes. However, I don’t think that a little wordiness detracts at all from the story, and it fits right in with the time period.

I adore the whole fantasy realism thing. Novik writes as if dragons have been an established thing (and not just in England, but in the whole world) for ages. They aren’t anything out of the ordinary, but she still sticks rather closely to the historical happenings. Now, obviously it’s not exactly the same as what you can find in a history book. It is a fantastic look at what might have happened if everyone involved was able to utilize dragons for fighting.

After reading all of the other books, I can honestly say that this was one of my favorites in the series. Things really started off quickly, and they stayed that way throughout the book. I also enjoyed seeing more of China and their dragons. I do think it ended rather abruptly, but if the book had gone on for much longer it wouldn’t have been as effective. As you can see from the description, it began with Laurence losing his memory; this only served to show even more of his relationship with Temeraire. Overall I think it was a success.

This turned out to be more of a review of the entire series than originally intended, but if you would like to investigate Novik’s work for yourself you can start with the first one or just jump straight to Blood of Tyrants!


Molly Chenault


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