League of Dragons is the final book in this remarkable series, set in Napoleonic times, where dragons are roaming the world in significant numbers, both in feral groups or domesticated. And in their gritted struggle, the English and French are using dragons to wage war on each other. The series starts with Temeraire when a very special egg Captain Laurence is transporting on his ship suddenly starts to hatch… And as the hatchling immediately bonds with Laurence, his naval career is abruptly over and he finds himself seconded to the less prestigious Dragon Corps. I’m not good at following long-running series, but I fell in love with Temeraire and have made a point of reading every book. The first four books predate my blog, so my reviews start with Victory of Eagles, the fifth book in the series.
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!
So does this final episode satisfactorily wrap up the story, tying up all the loose ends and give us a suitable conclusion to the adventures Temeraire and Laurence have endured? Oh yes. Inevitably over such a long-running series, the quality of the stories will vary. But League of Dragons is back in the original theatre of war that caused all the initial mayhem. And the book starts during the closing stages of the terrible defeat Napoleon’s army suffered at the hands of the Russians – only in this version there are brutalised, starving dragons in the mix…
I was immediately sucked into the story, enjoying the blend of fact and fiction Novik weaves around this grim chapter in European history – and enjoying the warm relationship between Laurence and Temeraire all over again. Novik is a highly accomplished writer, who manages to give us a strong sense of 19th century sensibilities and customs without lapsing too much into the flowery, highly descriptive writing style of the time. I also love the humour that runs through the book engendered by the draconic desire for a hoard and decoration. In some of the books, when the pair have been stranded on the other side of the world, fighting for their lives, that humour hasn’t been in such evidence. It was also lovely to meet up with some of the original supporting characters, again.
There are some wonderful battle scenes, alongside the ongoing drama as to whether Napoleon will prevail in his vision of dividing the world up into draconic territories to bribe the majority of the world’s dragonkind to support his campaign in Europe. I whipped through this book in just over two days, reluctant to put it down as I was engrossed in the story, really caring for the two of them – and genuinely concerned that Novik might just have them go out in a blaze of glory… As it happens, the ending is entirely satisfactory and while I’m sad to think I won’t again be pulled back into this vivid, engrossing world, I’m delighted it was so successfully concluded.
My firm recommendation is to go back to the beginning of this enjoyable, original series and start there – I really wish I could join you and do it all over again…