It’s time to go to war: Laurence, Temeraire and the younger dragons are left to patrol the Channel as the British gather their forces to defeat Napoleon at Cadiz. But the French emperor has a trick or two up his sleeve…
If I’ve described any previous episode of Temeraire as a rollercoaster, it’s because I didn’t know what Naomi Novik had in store for us at the end. Oh my. The boys are in active service, and all the ingredients simmering away in the pot come to the boil.
Our boys’ first mission is as postal service, carrying letters from one Admiral to another. On the one hand, this seems like a very tame thing to be doing, but it’s actually pivotal: it’s Will’s first exposure to his old Service since joining the Air Corps. Delightfully, it’s clear he has finally, fully moved on from his old life: he chafes at the hierarchical strictures, undermines etiquette at dinner to support his fellow aviator, and nearly bites the head off an old friend who dares to cast aspersions on Temeraire.
Captain Will Laurence is not appalled to be ‘chained to such a life’. He is deeply in love with a lifelong companion, and by the end of the book he’s realised he never even gave Edith (now married elsewhere) a second thought. Bad Will, frankly, but not entirely surprising.
Captain Roland decides this is a good point to straighten out a few things with Captain Laurence. Like checking up on her daughter’s aptitude. And finding out if he can be quite so straight-laced with no clothes on. This entire scene is delightful, not least because Will assumes she’s about to invite him to bed – and indicates in a hugely embarrassed and indirect way that he’d be prepared to oblige (seemingly out of politeness!) – only to realise that’s not what’s happening. And then it does.
Even more hilarious is his inability to watch her crumple her kit into her bags to go to Cadiz. No matter how much he has become an airman, Will Laurence may never get past his Naval attachment to neatly folded clothes. However, he does seem to have learnt how to watch his lady friends fly off to kick foreign ass without him. Well done, Will.
Needless to say, as soon as the bulk of the Air Corps are as far from England as they can be, Napoleon’s plans kick into action and there is DRAMA. We are on the rollercoaster now, because we have a traitor in camp (no prizes for guessing who, but a moment of silence for thinking about the impact on a dragon when his handler is executed for treason) and a beloved Levitas fatally injured (still sobbing; still not okay).
I appreciated that Will broke Air Corps ranks sufficiently to request that Hollin be given the chance to tame the hatchling expected at Chatham – it’s not as good as punching Rankin in the face, but I have hopes this may yet happen in future. I also enjoyed the chat Will had with Temeraire about duty and treason; given the number of
hints declarations that Temeraire really doesn’t give a fig about the law, I have to assume that at some point between now and Book 9 he will be put in a Difficult Situation with an Impossible Decision (that won’t be the least bit hard for him to make unless his attitudes change as he gets a bit older). For now, we have the Three Muskedragons swearing All For One and One For All when it comes to getting each other – and their handlers – out of trouble.
First, though, they must survive a HEOWGE battle in which our darling dragons and their riders are ludicrously outnumbered. The fact there’s another 8 books in the series rather reduces the tension, mind.
“I think this is what you have meant by duty, all along; I do understand, at least this much of it.”
…and it turns out that Temeraire does have a grasp of duty after all – at least to a point. Outnumbered in every respect, it never occurs to him to just fly off. He will fight to the death at Will’s command – and fight they do. Temeraire has a secret weapon (so secret even he didn’t know about it), which also neatly points him out as not a Chinese Imperial, but a Chinese Celestial. That’s one special dragon, people. The sort of special that is likely to have political repercussions for both the British and the French, and which will – I have to think – be the focus of book 2. Yay, politics!
I appreciated that Naomi Novik managed to tie up most of her loose ends and give us sight of most secondary characters before the end of the book – all without seeming forced, and in such a way to highlight how much Will has changed since being adopted by Temeraire. The stiff young aristocrat has unbent and fallen in love, and the rapidity with which he can become a giant green ragemonster if someone insults his beloved is adorable. Not least because Temeraire could literally sit on any of these people if they annoyed him, and neither the Air Corps nor anyone else would be likely to do much about it.
…so at some point, I want to see him meet Will’s Dad.
The #Temeraire live tweet-alongs continue on Sundays at 9pm BST. We’ll be starting Throne of Jade on June 12th.