Book Review: Blood of Tyrants by Naomi Novik

Posted June 23, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 1 Comment

Book Review: Blood of Tyrants by Naomi Novik

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Blood of Tyrants by Naomi Novik
Genres: Military Science Fiction
Published by Del Rey Books on August 13, 2013
Pages: 514
Format: eBook
Source: the library

Buy on Amazon
Also by this author: His Majesty's Dragon, Throne of Jade, Black Powder War, Empire of Ivory, Victory of Eagles, Tongues of Serpents, Crucible of Gold

Eighth in the Temeraire military science fiction series set in an alternate history revolving around the Napoleonic Wars and dragons. The focus is on Captain Will Laurence and Temeraire, a black Celestial dragon.

My Take

Novik is expanding her series arc to include yet more of the world and another enemy. It’s an intriguing complication with the dishonored Junichiro, and I’m looking forward to how his part in the series proceeds. Novik further complicates it with the Japanese claim that a Yuan emperor stole the last egg of the Divine Wind line.

The xenophobia of the Japan of that time is well-written, which makes that escape of Laurence’s remind me of that Highlander episode in which Duncan is rescued by a samurai. Of course, the results of kanpai with the dragon, lol, are not something I’d want to experience.

The British thought Temeraire was a pain before. Wait’ll he gets home after all his travels and his exposure to so many different dragon lifestyles. Oh, yeah, baby! Temeraire is such a sweet conflict of caring for his captain, wanting to understand him, to care for him versus his draconic desire for jewels and ostentation.

The overall theme digs at government, all governments, and uses Laurence’s sense of honor as the poker, poking away at politicians whose choices are based on their own desires without care for the people (or dragons) they’re supposed to represent or care for. And the opium issue goes two ways. That Hammond…for all that he wants to be taken seriously, to be believed, certainly is a politician.

It’s also an exploration of equality and not just between man and dragon, but between females and males.

There’s quite the emotional component in Blood of Tyrants, as Laurence has no idea that he’s been with Temeraire for the past eight years. He is unaware of his treasonous act in saving the world’s dragons. Of his time in Australia. Of the mutual love he and Temeraire have for each other. It’s a blossoming all over again through Novik’s use of third-person subjective point-of-view.

Dang, the Chinese are very impressive in how quickly (and how many) an army of dragons can be gathered…and the quality and quantity of their supplies.

Then there are the Russians. Oh. Boy. It’s hardly surprising their dragons react as they do. As for their training… oh, lord. Nor is it surprising how the Russians (and English ambassador!) react to Laurence’s news of his Chinese allies, not after the broken promises in Black Powder War, 3.

Those French are so smarmy. Napoleon baits Alexander with that icon, “pleading” with him to halt this horrible slaughter. Murat declaims against how the Russians treat their dragons and their need for freedom, but Laurence gets his point across too. Two-faced liars is what those Frenchmen are.

Temeraire gets an education in how to lead…and he does not like it. General Chu got really snarky, and I couldn’t help but laugh at all the suggestions Chu made about what Temeraire could do.

The Story

Laurence has lost his memory. The last eight years of it, and he’s back on the bridge of HMS Reliant.

It’s awkward for everyone, as they have been charged with telling Laurence nothing about his past.

The politics only get worse when Laurence and his allies arrive in Russia, as they are disorganized and don’t have enough even for their own.

The Characters

Captain Will Laurenceyes, he’s been reinstated…awakes in the xenophobic Japan. In China, he is known as Prince Lao-ren-tse and is the adopted son of the Emperor. His partner, the black Celestial dragon, Temeraire, is known as Lung Tien Xiang.

Lung Qin Mei, a great scholar, is Temeraire’s lady friend, an Imperial dragon. Qian is Temeraire’s mother.

HMS Potentate is…
…the dragon transport commanded by Captain Blaise and that is supposed to be going to China. Mr. Ness and Mr. Pettiforth, the ship’s surgeon, are part of the crew.

The dragons still aboard include a captain-less Temeraire with his crew: Emily Roland, Ferris, O’Dea is a transported lawyer, Sipho is Demane’s very literate brother, the orphaned Gerry, and Baggy who will be paired up with Junichiro. The widowed Mrs. Alice Pemberton is the chaperon they hired in Australia (Crucible of Gold, 7).

Captain Berkley and Maximus has Gaiters as his surgeon and Horrocks as his assistant. Captain Harcourt and Lily and their crew: First Lieutenant Richards and Larring as the ground-crew master. Captain Warren and Nitidus, Demane and Kulingile (he’s begun sprouting horns; Tongues of Serpents, 6), Captain Granby and the “all-important” Iskierka who is pregnant with Temeraire’s egg, Captain Sutton is the oldest of them with much seniority and Messoria, Dulcia, Captain Augustine Little with Immortalis along with his crew, including Lieutenant Totenham who has finished reading a tatty novel.

Churki, the Incan dragon, is still with Arthur Hammond, who is clinging to hopes of his ambassadorship to China. Gong Su is the representative for Mianning (he had been the cook for Temeraire!).

Arkady is a feral Turkish dragon accompanied by Tharkay, a half-Nepalese/half-British independent who has been incredibly useful since Black Powder War, 3. Arkady is wondering how his and Iskierka’s egg, Caeser, is doing. And he’s perfectly situated with that rat Captain Jeremy Rankin (Tongues of Serpents, 6).


Crown Prince Mianning is the heir to the Celestial Throne and has a pro-Western stance. His dragon is/was Lung Tien Chuan. Huang Li is the minister who will oversee the egg’s protection and nurturing. Minister Ruan Yuan will inspect foreign ships in Guangzhou. Lord Bayan prefers the old ways as does General Fela who is suppressing the White Lotus rebellion. Ran Tian Yuan was the White Lotus chief. Ten years ago.

The Emperor’s dragon is General Lung Shao Chu, Temeraire’s uncle, who is also the minister of the breeding office and the overseer for the program. Lung Shen Shi is a common blue dragon and brilliant in handling supply. Guan Fei is one of Shen Shi’s human lieutenants. Their divisions, etc., are measured in niru and jalan. Lung Yu Fei and Lung Zhao Yang are some of Chu’s soldiers. Shao Ri leads one jalan; Colonel Zhao Lien leads the third.


Chikuzen Province
Junichiro is a ronin student to Kaneko Hiromasa who made a promise to Jizo, he who guards travelers. His overlord is Lady Arikawa, a gray dragon. Matsudaira is a magistrate who cannot think outside the lines. Lord Jinai is the river dragon our dragons encounter when they try to acquire levers. Lady Kiyomizu “Kiyo” is the dragon who helps them.

Nagasaki Harbor
Wen Shen is a Chinese dragon physician. Mr. Doeff is the commissioner. John Wampanoag is a merchant dragon from Salem, Massachusetts, who owns the Lacewing. He’s in business as Devereux, Pickman, and Wampanoag. He’s also in communication with the Federalist president of the U.S., Tecumseh.

The dragons of Japan are Sui-Riu, water-spouting dragons. Think extremely powerful fire hose! I think the bakufu is the law of Japan. Three years ago HMS Phaeton took hostages and fired on Nagasaki. The ship was sunk with all hands.


Alexander is tsar. General Barclay de Tolly only knows how to run; the placid General Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov replaces him. Colonel Toll and Vasya are some of his idiot aides. Colonel Ogevin. Brigadier General Tzvilenev‘s wife has had her baby. Kapodistrias is a Greek diplomat. Bagration is to hold at Borodino. Generals Bennigsen and Docturov are furious. Generals Chichagov and Tormassov must unite their forces. General Wittgenstein may try to re-take St. Petersburg. General Raevsky.

Captain Ivan Rozhkov of the Twenty-sixth Regiment is partnered with Vosyem, a gigantic dragon who would rather lie upon her great pile of treasure. These Russian dragons are nasty, as are their captains! Captain Vasya promised General Tutchkov he would get the news back. Grig is a duplicitous little dragon who works as a servant to the bigger dragons.

Captain Dyhern escaped although Eroica did not (Black Powder War) and will join Laurence. Baron Sarkovsky is a cousin of Dyhern’s father. Countess Andreyevna will soon experience a greater horror. Placet is a Winchester and courier for the British embassy partnered with Captain Terrance. Josiah and Linden are American dragons employed by Calvin Jefferson, a merchant.


Perscitia prefers love not war, and she’s overseeing the building of pavilions for the dragons, although it seems the Brits aren’t following through on their promises. I sure hope they take heed of the Russian dragons’ actions! Admiral Jane Roland of the British Aerial Corps is Emily’s mother and partnered with Excidium.

HMS Tonnant was part of the action at the Nile that Laurence remembers.

The French

Napoleon is assembling Le Grande Armée. His marriage to Anahuarque, the the Sapa Inca, has resulted in a “premature” baby: Roi de Cusco, a.k.a., Joseph Pachacuti Yupanqui. Cardinal Fesch christened him. Jerome Bonaparte is one of Napoleon’s brothers. His marshals include Louis-Nicholas Davout who is harsh about discipline; the snarky Joachim Murat (he’s also the king of Naples; Caroline is his wife) is partnered with Liberté, a heavy-weight Papillon Noir; Marmont; Oudinot; Saint-Cyr is in St.Petersburg; and, Eugène de Beauharnais. Berthier is Napoleon’s chief of staff.

The Cover and Title

Eeek! That cover is scary at first glance, for it’s an extreme close-up of a menacing blue-eyed Temeraire, his black wings hunched forward and encapsulating the iconic pocket watch frame with St. Basil’s Cathedral pictured within and his muzzle appearing to bite into it. The author’s name is in gold at the top while the title is the red of blood at the bottom. The series information is in black at the very bottom.

The title covers so many possibilities, for the Blood of Tyrants can be interpreted so widely.


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One response to “Book Review: Blood of Tyrants by Naomi Novik

  1. I like the deep theme in this one. My sister would love it. I can already hear her ranting about big government. LOL And that cover is spectacular. Great review, Kathy!

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