Victory of Eagles
The fifth volume of the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik, released in the United States by Del Rey (a division of RandomHouse).
Following the events of the previous book, in which William Laurence and his dragon Temeraire committed treason by bringing the cure for the Dragon Plague to France, Temeraire is being housed at the Pen Y Fan Breeding Grounds, and has been told that his captain will not be executed as long as he behaves. Despite resolving to comply, Temeraire is unhappy about conditions at the grounds, and continuously worries for Laurence’s life. He eventually makes two acquaintances; Perscitia, a dragon who has an unusual knack for mathematical theories, and Moncey, a Winchester who is able to leave the grounds and return with information from the other coverts.
One day, Requiescat, a Regal Copper pays Temeraire a visit, and tells him they will have to trade caves, due to the hierarchy system in the breeding grounds. Temeraire, who enlarged his own cave to better suit himself, refuses to do so, and takes the matter to the Dragon Council, a group made up of the largest dragons in the breeding grounds. Before a clear conclusion can be made, Moncey returns with news of the current war situation; [[|Napoleon Bonaparte|Napoleon]] has just invaded Britain. In addition to this, he tells Temeraire that Laurence was imprisoned on the HMS Goliath, but that it was destroyed in the assault against Napoleon.
Unknown to Temeraire, Laurence is alive, having being evacuated from the ship with several officers prior to the sinking. Although he is initially imprisoned again on land, Tharkay soon arrives on the feral Gherni and frees him, telling him that Jane Roland, now in control of the Dover covert, has ordered his temporary release so that he and Temeraire can help the Aerial Corps. Despite an argument with the commanders about his loyalty, and a brief brawl between two groups of aviators who either support or condemn his actions, Laurence is flown by Hollin and his dragon Elsie to Pen Y Fan.
However, Temeraire, believing Laurence to be dead, decides to leave the Breeding Grounds and fight the French forces. He successfully convinces the rest of the Breeding Ground dragons to join with him and win prizes and earn capital, so they can afford to build pavilions for themselves. After recruiting the Herdsmaster, Lloyd, to join them and help obtain a supply of food, the entire complement of dragons abandons the Breeding Grounds. Laurence arrives too late, and finds the Breeding Grounds empty. However, the dragons have unwittingly left a trail of clues as to the direction they are heading in, and Laurence and Hollin decide to follow them.
At Wembley, Temeraire and the other dragons discover a French outpost. Planning an attack, they completely decimate the forces there, and claim the area as their camp, so they can plan their next attack from there and watch the movements of the French forces. Meanwhile, Laurence and Hollin, who are still following the trail, are stopped by Miller; an aviator on his way to deliver a commission to whoever attacked the French, who orders Hollin to return to Dover with Laurence. As they start to do so, a Petit Chevalier attacks the group and wounds Miller’s dragon, Devastatio. Luckily, Reqiuescat, who is nearby, arrives and chases away the French dragon. Unsure of who they area, he escorts them back to their base, where Laurence is re-united with Temeraire.
Temeraire later accepts the commission, and with Laurence’s help, writes a letter to the British commission saying as much, as well as warning them of an upcoming attack by the French. The next day, Iskierka and Arkady’s ferals arrive. Iskierka tells them that the commanders did not believe Temeraire’s message, but she did, and thus she has come to fight. Sure enough, the French soon launch their attack, and the commanders quickly call for the dragons to fly to London; Temeraire regaining several members of his crew upon arrival.
Arthur Wellesley, one of the commanders, agrees to a meeting with “Colonel” Temeraire along with the other commanders. The group ultimately decides to fight to keep London, even though they are out-numbered, and Roland counsels against it. Wellesley then agrees to allow Temeraire and his band of dragons to determine how to deal with French Fleur-de-Nuit bombers the evening before the attack. Roland proposes setting up fake camps, with straw redcoats while Temeraire has his unharnessed dragons pretend to fight them, so the dragons of the Aerial Corps will be fresh for battle.
The next day, the battle begins. Perscitia comes up with an idea to put the straw redcoats and paint on the back of the unharnessed heavy-weights, so the French lose men in doomed boarding parties. Under Roland's command, the dragons of the Corps meet the French thereafter, doing considerable damage. The battle is a lengthy one, and late into the battle, Temeraire notes the absence of any Grand Chevaliers, and Marshal Davout, both of whom Temeraire’s company had spotted not long ago. Realising it to be a trap, Roland rushes away to tell Wellesley, and the British forces are just able to get away before Davout attacks their rear. Despite this, the British are forced to retreat.
Laurence, Temeraire and his group are able to stop at Wollaton Hall; although George Laurence; who is assuming Lord Allendale’s duties because he is sickly, will not let Laurence inside the house, because of his treason, but allows the aviators and their dragons to stay, and sends them food from the kitchens. Lady Allendale comes to assist, and Laurence inadvertently introduces her to Roland, revealing to her the secret of female captains. After she leaves, Roland and Laurence finally talk about his treason. Roland tells Laurence she would not have let the foreign dragons die, but rather sneak the cure to them without the Ministers knowing it. She blames him for making a spectacle of it all, and for now forcing those who care for him to suffer watching him be killed.
Several of the dragons from the Breeding Grounds start to complain about the battles, the difficulty in finding food and the chance that Temeraire alone will receive anything at the end of the war. When Roland sends Temeraire's group to guard Wellesley's retreat, Temeraire uses the opportunity to convince him to pay every dragons for their work in future; the salaries replacing the money normally spent on supplying them with food, provided that they behave. Temeraire recounts this to the other dragons, who are pleased by this news of consistent treasure, save for Iskierka, who prefers obtaining treasure by force.
The next day, while the dragons do guard duty, Temeraire notices that Iskierka and some of the ferals are gone. Interrogating Wringe, he gets her to admit that Iskierka and the others have gone back to London to win prizes. Temeraire's group is forced to go after them, and they soon find the missing ferals, along with Tharkay, who tells them that Granby has been taken prisoner, and Iskierka with him.
Laurence and Tharkay set off for London under cover of dark, hoping to rescue Granby with as little fanfare as possible. After deducing the location of Napoleon and Lien from the remarks of the locals, and assuming Granby and Iskierka must be nearby, Laurence and Tharkay head for Kensington Palace; Laurence chancing upon Bertram Woolvey and his wife Edith on the way. After explaining the situation, Woolvey agrees to take them in his coach to Kensington Park, but demands that they take him; so he does not appear a coward to Edith.
Upon arrival, Laurence, Tharkay and Woolvey witness Iskierka arguing with Lung Tien Lien; they have evidently come to the right place. Aided by a man named “Janus” working in the stables, they quickly dispatch several French guards, and wearing their coats, sneak into Kensington Palace. Granby is rescued, but Woolvey is killed by the French. Laurence takes Woolvey's wedding ring, to return to Edith, and the rest of them manage to get away on Iskierka; alerted to their presence.
At camp, Temeraire receives a message ordering his company to join up with Wellesley, which they do after Iskierka returns to camp. Upon learning of the reason behind their late arrival, Wellesley lectures Temeraire and Iskierka, threatening to send Granby away for good if she does not follow orders. Wellesley then asks Laurence if he was able to discover anything about the location of Davout’s forces during his excursion to London, and it is revealed that he is in London, having moved his army using an edited method of Chinese transport on dragons. Perscitia explains the method; the French dragons carry some of their troops ahead, while the rest continue marching, and after the dragons have reached their destination they return for the still-marching remainder, allowing their forces to cover greater land. Using this intelligence, Wellesley commands the British troops to do the same, and the dragons then carry the regiments to the Loch Laggan covert. There, they find a Papillon Noir, Liberte, and French Marshals already waiting for parley.
Liberte tries to seduce the British dragons to the French cause, by telling thm of conditions in France. Heading inside to the meeting between the French Marshals and the Engligh ministers, Laurence is forced to interrupt the parley to explain the situation to Wellesley; that it cannot be chance that the French have brought an English-speaking dragon. Wellesley brings this up, prompting the French Marshals to put an end to the meeting and calm Liberte. The ministers begin to discuss the French offers; despite Wellesley’s call to fight back, they favour giving in to Bonaparte's demands, due to the threat of fresh troops from France arriving, until Roland arrives with news that the Aerial Corps has stopped a new landing attempt at Folkestone. The news of the victory heartens the ministers and they agree to put Wellesley in charge of taking back the country.
Temeraire is finally reunited with Maximus and Lily, who were with Roland's forces at Folklestone, even though Catherine Harcourt is still ill after giving birth to her baby. Maximus and Lily are both still mindful of their promise to help Temeraire rescue Laurence, should the government attempt to execute him.
While planning the next move, one of Wellesley’s orders is that Temeraire is to lead a group of dragons to harass the French forces. So as not to offend the dragons who will remain behind, such as Ballista, the de-facto leader at the Breeding Grounds, a system of rank is set up for the dragons, with oversized epaulettes attached to their harnesses indicating their exact position. Heading to Edinburgh to discuss their mission with Wellesley, Laurence is met by an old man in nightwear, who jabbers madly. Laurence soon recognises him as none other than the King of England, George III. The combined weight of Woolvey's death and seeing the unwell King in Edinburgh causes Laurence to give in to despair.
Seeing his captain so unhappy, Temeraire starts to understand the full meaning of Laurence's sentence of treason. He learns that Laurence has lost most of his capital in a lawsuit over the slaves they freed in Africa, and he is also no longer "Captain" but "Mr. Laurence".
Laurence is given the details of his mission; to attack the French scouts and supply-lines, but without taking prisoners. Laurence is briefly commissioned as commander of the operation, since it is not all above-board, but requests written orders for the other captains, should they ever be held accountable for their actions. The group sets out on their mission, annihilating French forces across the country, although none of them are happy with their tasks. During this time, Laurence discovers that Napoleon has found a way to pay him for the cure; he has ordered Wollaton Hall not to be attacked or pillaged, so it remains the only house in the countryside unmolested. After two months of such attacks, Tharkay arrives with the ferals and calls Laurence on his behaviour. Laurence, agreeing with Tharkay’s words, begs forgiveness of Temeraire, and sends word to Wellesley that he will no longer continue the slaughter. However, Wellesley himself soon arrives along with the rest of the British forces; who are moving south in preparation for the final battle against Napoleon.
The battle begins, with Wellesley’s initial plan involving holding the centre until a specified time and then deliberately giving it up; spreading around Napoleon's forces in the hopes of capturing him. The battle goes poorly, until Perscitia has the idea to create alcohol-soaked bundles for Iskierka to set alight. This breaks the French lines, and the British dragons attack. The signal to yield the centre is given, and the final element of Wellesley’s plan is revealed; Admiral Nelson and the British Navy have snuck in under the cover of heavy fog and clouds, and they directly attack the French forces with their cannons, annihilating both infantry and dragons.
The French sound a retreat. As the British Army closes in on Napoleon, Lien takes to the air, and begins using the Divine Wind on the sea. Temeraire and Laurence head after her to stop her, but she uses the Divine Wind to create a giant wave that sweeps through the British Navy, destroying fourteen of the seventeen ships, and claiming the life of Nelson. In the confusion, Napoleon is rescued by a courier, and Lien carried away by several Petit Chevaliers, along with the remaining French dragons, who all flee to France. The remaining forces surrender. Britain has won.
Two weeks after the battle, as the dragons begin to reap the benefits of their salaries by building pavilions, Laurence is approached by Wellesley; now the Duke of Wellington, as a result of his victory at Shoeburyness, who tells him that his sentence is to be commuted to deportation to Australia; an act that Laurence recognises as an attempt to remove Temeraire from Britain, in case he one day repeats Lien’s deadly attack.
To help with the building of an Aerial Corps in New South Wales, Roland, who has been named Admiral of the Air, and, at Wellington's insistence, is now a Peer of the Realm, sends three dragon eggs with Laurence, as well as some aviators, who will all travel to Australia on the HMS Allegiance, which will be refitted to carry prisoners. Tharkay joins the group; wanderlust driving him to their destination. As they set sail, another unexpected guest joins them; Iskierka, who, with Granby, has followed the HMS Allegiance far enough that she will not be able to fly back, and as such will be forced to go with them. Laurence sits with Temeraire, and the two begin re-reading the Principia Mathematica, to pass their time.
For more detail, see Characters introduced in Victory Of Eagles.
Unlike the previous books, no appendices were included.
- Whereas the previous novels were narrated strictly from the point-of-view of William Laurence, about half of Victory of Eagles is told from Temeraire's perspective, giving the reader more insight into the dragon mind.
- The cover of Victory of Eagles was the first (and currently only, save for In His Majesty's Service) cover to not have a Dragon character on the cover, instead featuring a metallic image of a dragon.
- Victory of Eagles was the first novel of Temeraire to be published in hardcover in the United States. The other four were mass market paperback originals.
Deviations From History
Aside from the obvious additions of dragons, the events in Temeraire follow the history of our own world quite closely. However, several differences do occur throughout the series. In "Victory Of Eagles", the following differences occur:
- Napoleon Bonaparte's conquest of Britain as detailed throughout the book never historically occured, and is an invention of the author's. At this time, French forces were invading Spain in what is known as the Peninsular War.
- As a result of the events in Africa in the previous book, Spencer Perceval has replaced the Duke of Portland as Prime Minister, some two years before he historically did.
- HMS Victory and thirteen ships of the Royal Navy are sunk in the fictional Battle of Shoeburyness; which also claims the life of Admiral Nelson.
- Wellesley gains the title "Duke of Wellington" as a result of his actions in the Battle of Shoeburyness, instead of in 1809 in Spain at the Battle of Talavera.
- As a result of the invasion of Britain, George IV is made Prince Regent in 1808; three years earlier than historically.