Book Review: Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik

Posted April 5, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 6 Comments

Book Review: Victory of Eagles 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.

Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik
Genres: Military Science Fiction
Published by Random House on July 8, 2008
Pages: 332
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

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Also by this author: His Majesty's Dragon, Throne of Jade, Black Powder War, Empire of Ivory, Tongues of Serpents, Crucible of Gold, Blood of Tyrants

Fifth in the Temeraire historical military science fiction series and revolving around a Celestial dragon and his captain.

My Take

I love Victory of Eagles, and I hate it. I love that Temeraire forms up his own fighting unit — prison break!! — and confounds the English. That colonel business cracked me up. And Temeraire gets one of his dearest wishes, lol. He gets his chance to incorporate some of what he learned in China and makes a number of farmers happy.

It’s a matter of proving that dragons and women are as capable as men and deserving of respect. Temeraire manages some of his pet equalities…yay!…and it’s a treat to read of this, for it is embarrassing how humans treat the dragons. Like cattle with no intelligence, no feelings. And then Temeraire rips ’em a new one with some mathematical problem or a bit of philosophy.

Yep, he’s got ’em over a barrel. He manages to talk a wide range of dragons into helping him. UNharnessed, if you please. And it’s adorable how the unit has changed what with Temeraire in command and both humans and dragons attending planning sessions.

Gotta give Napoleon credit for respecting dragons. The English are doing their usual, thinking their way is the only way of doing things. And anyone not English — and a male human — is obviously inferior. I mean, why wouldn’t one accept that dragons have a better idea as to their capabilities (and not those generals who haven’t the slightest clue how to best use them) and allow them to do their own strategizing? They certainly have an excellent example with the brilliant colonel out in the countryside! As for the women captains, lol, Jane certainly has no time for their opinions as to a woman’s intellect or capability, lol. She really tore into and ignored them, refusing to accept the men’s blusterings.

It’s also patriotism. Oh, not patriotism to a government that slips and slides around on its promises and has no honor, but patriotism to one’s country. Some of that “honor” is the lack of real justice in nineteenth century England and how Laurence’s mates were treated right after Laurence came back from France.

Laurence’s meeting up with Temeraire is too funny. Although, it becomes progressively less funny as Temeraire begins to understand and worry about his captain. Novik very nicely incorporates a dragon perspective on treasure and appearances with Temeraire learning the meaning of chain of command and what responsibility it incurs. All part of Novik’s character arc for him, as Temeraire comes to understand more the ramifications of Laurence’s committing treason (Empire of Ivory, 4).

It’s that dual third-person point-of-view that allows us into Temeraire’s and Laurence’s thoughts. Temeraire’s confusion as to why Laurence is so unhappy when he has every reason to be relieved. Laurence’s shame for what he must do with no real hope.

On a side note, I’m not sure how the whole gifting thing came up at the breeding pens. Novik didn’t lead up to it at all. It was just there.

The Story

Pen Y Fan is part of Temeraire’s “parole”. If he behaves, Laurence won’t be hung. It’s not a promising start, especially when the “neighborhood bully” comes to call.

Even with Laurence sprung from prison, it becomes worse now that Napoleon has invaded England.

Yet worse are the guerrilla attacks incorporating despicable tactics. Ones that shame Laurence to the bone, and yet engenders a respect in the villages and towns of the countryside.

The Characters

Temeraire is a black Celestial dragon with a divine wind. William Laurence is his captain. Gong Su is the Chinese cook who knows just how Temeraire likes his food. Emily Roland, Jane’s daughter, has been a runner. Keynes and Dorset are surgeons. Blythe is the armorer. Fellowes and Allen reappear. Lord Allendale is Laurence’s disapproving and now ill father. Jones and Peyle are footmen and Martha is one of the maids on the family estate, Wollaton Hall. George is Laurence’s oldest brother.

All Laurence’s friends have been taken over the coals: Berkeley, Chenery, Jane Roland, Little, and Sutton who rides Messoria, a Yellow Reaper. Worse, First Lieutenant Ferris has been broken.

Captain Tharkay is half-British, half-Nepalese, with his fingers in more pies. He’s the one who can speak the ferals’ language. Arkady is the leader of the ferals. Gherni and Wringe are some of the ferals. Dunne and Wickley had been Temeraire’s wingmen but now captain ferals, as they have a a gift for languages.

Admiral Jane Roland had been Laurence’s lover; she rides Excidium. Frette is Jane’s aide-de-camp. Captain Berkley rides Maximus. He and Lily have promised Temeraire that they’ll not let the government hang Laurence. Captain Hollin, Laurence’s former harness-master, now rides Elsie. Captain St. Germain rides Mortiferus; she was formerly assigned to Gibraltar. Celeritas had been the dragon in charge of training in Scotland. Rightley. Nitidus, a Pascal’s Blue whose rider is Captain Warren.

Captain Granby is riding the quixotic Iskierka, a Turkish fire-breather with very decided views on what she will and will not do (Black Powder War, 3). Sipho and Demane are African boys Laurence brought back in Empire of Ivory and are part of Iskierka’s crew.

Pen Y Fan is…
…the breeding grounds in Scotland where dragons are sentenc…, er, sent. Mr. Lloyd is the grounds-master. The bossy Perscitia is a cross-breed of a Malachite Reaper and a Pascal’s Blue who gave up her captain. She doesn’t like fighting, but adores mathematics. Moncey is a Winchester courier; he’d managed to get away from the Corps. Laculla. Requiescat is a bullying Regal Copper. Gentius is an ancient Longwing (Captain Haulding had been the useless officer whose absence made it possible for his real female captain to go up to a real rank). Reedly is a mongrel half-Winchester. Majestatis tries to be fair. Minnow is a feral. Ballista and Armatius are Chequered Nettles. Chalcedony is a Yellow Reaper. Rictus is a Grey Copper. Velocitas, Palliatia, Dirigion, Ventiosa, and Gladius are yet more dragons. Other dragons in the unit include Anglewings.

The Lords of the Admiralty
The nasty Lord Mulgrave is the First Lord. Jane Roland wasn’t appointed admiral for Dover. That honor went to the incompetent Admiral Sanderson who rides a Parnassian, Annimosia. Admiral Collingwood.

Admiral Horatio Nelson captains Victory, the lead ship with the Minotaur, the Prince of Wales, the Neptune, the Superb, and nine more ships-of-the-line.

HMS Goliath is…
…where Laurence is imprisoned. Captain Puget, Lieutenant Frye, and Midshipman Meed are all that’s left.

General Wellesley. Rowley is one of his aides. General Sir Hew Dalrymple is in command of the military forces. General Burrard will take the left flank. Sergeant Goren. In a later battle, Colonels Bree and Featherstone take the center. Colonel Rethlow will back them with artillery. Generals Paget and Ollen get their orders.

The Ministry
Perceval is Prime Minister. Lords Bathurst and Liverpool are the new Foreign Secretary and Secretary of War. Lord Eldon is Lord Chancellor. Giles is with the Ministry. And Temeraire wants a word.

Some of the officers are grateful for Laurence’s actions in Empire of Ivory, including Captain Hesterfield, Von Pfeil, Captain Dyhern, Captain Prewitt, Captain Latour, Gounod, and Reynolds.

Others despise him: Captain Geoffrey Windle, Captain Miller rides Devastatio in courier service, Maclaine, and Martin who is now part of Orchestia‘s crew (an Anglewing captained by Fenter) and very much against Laurence and Temeraire.

Captain Tom Riley had been a friend of Laurence’s and captain of the HMS Allegiance, a dragon transport. Now he’s married to Captain Catherine Harcourt who rides Lily (Empire of Ivory). They have a son. Poor guy. He had no notion babies must be fed every two hours, and Catherine has gone off to the coast for battle. Lord Purbeck is first lieutenant and despises Laurence.

The three eggs are a Yellow Reaper, a cross between a Chequered Nettle and a Parnassian, and Arkady and Wringe’s egg.

Bertram Woolvey is the man who married Laurence’s love, Edith Galman. They have a son, James. Sutton-Leeds is Woolvey’s drunk friend. I think Gavins is Lord Holland‘s man. Darby (a.k.a., Janus) is one of Holland’s stablehands. Lady Hamilton is also still in occupied London.

The Reverend Daniel Salcombe is the quite insulting know-it-all. Georgie is a lad from Twickenham.

The French

I think the emperor, Napoleon, rides Accendare, a Flamme-de-Gloire. Lung Tien Lien is the white Celestial who fled China in Throne of Jade, 2, and now advises Napoleon. Marshals Lefèbvre, Murat, and Davout are in England. Talleyrand is here for a peace conference; Liberté is the dragon he’s riding.

Dragons in l’Armée de l’Air include:
Grand Chevaliers are the largest of the French heavyweights; Fleur-de-Nuits; Pêcheur-Rayés; Papillon Noirs; Roi-de-Vitesses; Pou-de-Ciels; Garde-de-Lyons; Honneur-d’Ors; Chanson-de-Guerres; Defendeur-Braves; and, Chasseur-Vocifères.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a range of yellows and browns with the dark brown roiling seas and the two battling ships, the flare of the cannons bright against all that dark. The background gradually lightens to a sunny yellow at the top. The author’s name is at the top in a shadowed deep orange while the title is bigger and below it in a deep brown. Both are embossed. Just below center is a black dragon, hovering in mid-air, holding a banner with the series information in the same yellow.

The title is a win, a Victory of Eagles.

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6 responses to “Book Review: Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik

  1. Thank you for a very thorough review of this book – you effectively brought out some of the main themes which runs through this really strong and thought-provoking series. I love it:).

    • Thank you. I keep trying to review without giving things away…and one day I’ll really get it right! There are so many great points that Novak makes that run parallel with events throughout history and/or now, and I’m fascinated at how well she pulls this all together

  2. YAY I’m SO happy to see another fan of this series!! I haven’t reviewed each book as I binged them back to back until I was caught up. I will be doing it for the future books though.

    • Oh, yeah, Brooke. Big time. My review for The Tongues of Serpents will be coming up in May, and I’m waiting for the next after that in the series. I hate waiting!

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