Blood of Tyrants takes place during the Napoleonic Wars and is about a British captain in the Aerial Corps who fights Napoleon's armies around the world from dragon back. Blood of Tyrants is the eighth book in the Temeraire series. The main character is Captain William Laurence, a former ship's captain in the British Royal Navy who, after harnessing a newly hatched dragon, joins the officers of the British Aerial Corps and their dragons to battle the seemingly invincible armies of The Tyrant - Napoleon Bonaparte. Together with his dragon Temeraire, a head strong but intelligent creature, Laurence travels the globe in pursuit of Britain's strategic interests. At the beginning of Blood of Tyrants, Laurence and Temeraire are shipwrecked off the cost of Japan. Laurence has been thrown overboard and is lost and alone on the shores of a hostile country, with no memories from the past eight years of his life.
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As Laurence fights his way through a country that considers him a criminal, back to a ship that he doesn't remember, Temeraire struggles to save the ship and his friends, all the while refusing to believe that his beloved captain is dead. Finally, the two reunite at the port of Nagasaki. Now Laurence faces a different struggle, learning to pick up the threads of his new old life, which he's not sure he wants.
From Japan, Laurence and company travel to China, Temeraire's birthplace and reluctant ally to the British crown. Here they find political strife threatening to tear the country apart. An isolationist faction plots to assassinate the emperor's heir, while attacking imperial forces along the southern border. Laurence and Temeraire, along with the other dragon crews of their formation fly south with the Chinese aerial army to help the emperor quell the insurrection there. Meanwhile, Laurence struggles to remember the details of his forgotten past, but the more he learns the more he wishes it could stay forgotten.
Victorious in the south, the British dragons return to Peking, where the emperor grants them the use of his dragon army for the war against Napoleon. The tyrant, Laurence learns, has invaded Russia, and the Russian army is flying before him like ships before the wind. When they arrive in Moscow, they find the Russian Army in Chaos. St. Petersburg has fallen, and every defense thrown against "Bonnie" has been crushed.
With the help of their superior air assets, the allies are able to check the progress of the Grande Armee, but it is not enough to stop the French from capturing the capital. In the end, it is the coming winter and the havoc that Laurence and his dragons reap on the French supply chain that force the emperor to retreat towards the border. But the cunning general will not be defeated so easily. He gains the support of disillusioned Russian dragons and turns the table on the allies, decimating the supply drops so crucial to maintaining the massive force of Chinese dragons. Which side will claim victory as the legendary Russian winter approaches? Find out in League of Dragons, coming in 2015.
Best part of story, including ending:
This book combines everything there is to love about fantasy with everything there is to love about historical fiction. It's a story about dragons, but it presents them so realistically that you almost forget that you are reading a fantasy novel. Naomi Novik does an excellent job of bringing the real 19th century era to life for the reader, not some idealistic, aristocratic reminiscence. When you read about Laurence's struggles, you feel that you understand the sentiments of people in that time, even if you do not share them. In addition to being almost painfully suspenseful and wildly entertaining, it is also an intriguing alternative history. Just how would dragons have affected early 19th century military tactics? What struggles would they face? How would history up to that point be different if dragons had existed? Naomi Novik presents interesting answers to all of these questions, and it's wonderful.
Best scene in story:
Throughout the first half of this book, Laurence is struggling with the memory loss caused by the shipwreck. The life he finds himself in is not the life he wished for at the time when his memories end, but as he remembers more and more, he starts to remember the feelings he had before the actual memories return. My favorite scene is the scene where Chinese insurgents are trying to kill Temeraire and Laurence finally realizes the reasons for all of the choices he has made up until that point – choices he doesn't remember – he made because of his love for Temeraire, and he comes to the conclusion that he wouldn't change any of them.
Opinion about the main character:
Captain William Laurence, having spent most of his adult life in the Royal Navy, has a prickly sensibility and an unyielding since of honor. Above all, he always seeks to do what is right, because it is the right thing to do, which makes him very easy to admire. But he is also a real character, with faults, failings, and vices. Sometimes his different ideas of honor come into conflict and he is forced to navigate the grey space between what he knows to be right, and what his orders dictate.