The Temeraire Series Sticks the Landing: Non-Spoiler Review of League of Dragons

Hello, everyone! I had been recapping and reviewing Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, one novel a week, leading up to the release of the final volume, League of Dragons—but now League is out, and so I am bringing you a spoiler-free review of it! (I read a galley provided by the publisher.) This review also avoids spoilers for prior books; if you want to refresh your memory, you can catch up at the reread index, which contains much longer and more detailed posts than this one.

Please, no spoilers in the comments; there will be a spoiler post for League in two weeks in which I will delve into as much minutia as I can get away with (we’re skipping a week to give people time to read and because I will be away). In addition, I’d appreciate it if you would avoid or obscure major spoilers for later books, as a lot of people are behind.

Let me put the conclusion up front: League of Dragons sticks the landing, and if you like the series overall, you should read it. It handles gracefully the general challenges of concluding a long series, and it has lots of the best parts of the series to date, and not that much of the worst.

The general challenges are, by this point, fairly well known. The final book of a long series has to address long-standing problems, without being boringly obvious; surprise the reader, without being unfair; maintain continuity, without letting past decisions unduly constrict the story; and give the reader a satisfying sense of where the important characters wind up, without overstaying its welcome.

I think League of Dragons does well on all these fronts. Some of its major plot elements made me say, yes, of course this is important to the overall resolution, because it’s been important all along; and some of them made me say, huh, I did not realize that was going to be important, but it makes sense and I liked it. The continuity was frankly impressive, not in the sense of dates or numbers or places (the series has occasionally struggled with specifics like that, though I don’t know how obvious that would be if you’re not binge-reading or doing an analytical reread), but in the sense that I almost never thought and that is the series having a better idea for the purposes of plot. (I believe I spotted one retcon, but it was on a very small point, and frankly, it’s so delightful that I don’t care.) But the cohesiveness is more active than that: The final three books were plotted as a unit, and it shows. Plus, the book calls back to things from even earlier, in ways that delighted me but won’t be intrusive if you don’t remember earlier books as well. Finally, while we learn about the end-of-book state of a whole lot of characters, we don’t visit all or even hear about everyone, in a balance that worked for me.

With regard to the characteristics of the series itself, this book is not free from the elements that I have disliked, but it gets those out of the way early. Specifically, the books I liked least in the series had slow pacing and more rehashing of Laurence’s previously-accomplished character growth than I would have preferred. (Those would be Tongues of Serpents and Blood of Tyrants, if you haven’t been following the reread.) This book does start a bit slow and does have another iteration of Laurence struggling with his past actions. But as I said, this is confined to the first section, and the book also has an abundance of the things that I love about the series: deep and inventive worldbuilding; fabulous action scenes; so many complex characters and relationships that have been built up over the series; humor (I literally laughed out loud multiple times); and the general project of taking the nineteenth century and making it better. If you, too, liked those things about the series, then you can read the rest in confidence that it’s worth it.

There’s not a lot more that I can say, because I promised no spoilers—I don’t even want to give a general sense of the shape of the book, for fear of spoiling those people who stopped reading after, say, Tongues of Serpents (the Australia book, which seems to be pretty common). But League of Dragons is an ending to the series, it is a definitive one, and it is a satisfying one. Go read it.

League of Dragons is available now from Del Rey.

Kate Nepveu was born in South Korea and grew up in New England. She now lives in upstate New York where she is practicing law, raising a family, running Con or Bust, and (in theory) writing at Dreamwidth and her booklog.

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