I'm back home after London/Scotland/Bad Hitchhiking Trip of Sexual Harassment (...er, despite what I wrote in the last few posts, I chickened out of putting my thoughts in order in the form of quasi public introspection about that. I may finish it, I may not,) and I'm trying to catch up on the book reviews on Goodreads, so I'm filling in here as well, even if it isn't Wednesday. (Here tends to include more personal and emotional reactions that seem less relevant to Goodreads, where I try to be more objective or analytical, or am just more reticent.)
Blood of Tyrants, aka Temeraire #8:
Here's the thing: I don't like Temeraire (the dragon) very much. On the other hand, I adore Lawrence. I don't know how weird that makes me - everyone seems to go on about how awesome Temeraire is, but I can't say that I've ever taken a poll (hmmm...) - but I just find Temeraire kind of precious and twee and trying-too-hard as a character. Yes, clearly, he's both very smart and very young (and, well, a giant super powerful dragon) and some of that precocious naivety thing is very much in character, but that doesn't mean I find that character particularly interesting. He is also usually the voice of extremely modern, comfortable notions in the book, which is both out of his time and seems bizarre for, well, a giant super powerful dragon.
Lawrence, at least in the early books, has moments where he's much more difficult and where he goes against the grain of obvious modern sentiments. He also has a pretty compelling character arc, where he basically has his entire life turned upside down and has to come to terms with it while still trying to hold on to the social codes and notions of propriety that are important to him. In short, I find Lawrence by far the most interesting thing about the Temeraire books.
By and large though, the more they move away from the English milieu (with the enslaved dragons, with the large ship-like crews, etc) the less Lawrence has to do. He becomes more eyes on the action in China or wherever, and has less interaction with the people that are his - often mutually uncomfortable - peers and colleagues and that's just less interesting to me. (Again, also, the China stuff is often just...easier. This fictional China is just a lovely utopian place where dragons are equal and women are equal and everyone is just nice and sensible. Boooring. The contradictory, varied, less inherently moral mess of Europe is far more compelling.)
Unfortunately, this is one of those series where I feel increasingly like i'm reading at cross purposes to what the author is writing. It's like Novik is a good enough writer that when she turns her attention the stuff I care about, she can't help but follow through and make it interesting, but most of the time her attention is somewhere else. So, yeah, basically I quite enjoyed the last book, because it had more of that crew interaction, focus on minor characters and Lawrence being run ragged, and this one started out pretty good with a focus on Lawrence, but then lost it completely for breakneck scheming shenanigans in perfect China and yet another big battle against Napoleon. (The Russian sections in particular felt under-developed, while the China stuff maybe dragged.)
In short, I guess i'm glad the series is winding up while I'm still happy with it, and I'm looking forward to whatever Novik does next.