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Captain William Laurence
Main (human) character and primary narrator. Initially skipper of the HMS Reliant
, where Riley was his Second Lieutenant, he became captain of dragon Temeraire nearly by accident. However, he and Temeraire quickly became inseparable.
- A Father to His Men: Cares greatly for his crew and is very considerate of them, whoever they may be. For a more close to literal, foster-like relationship, there's his relationships with Temeraire, Emily, Dyer, Demane, and Sipho. He even gets a reputation for being a good captain for midwingmen because of the care he takes over their education.
- Broken Ace: During Victory of Eagles.
- Butt Monkey: Half the humor is the petty indignities Laurence gets subjected to.
- There's a Running Gag through the first couple of books where Laurence is presented with an unusual social situation and immediately assumes something scandalous is happening. He mentally chastises himself for jumping to conclusions, only for the other characters to embarrass him by cheerfully confirming his first impressions.
- Character Development:
- In His Majesty's Dragon, he's straight-laced, excessively polite and easily scandalized by socially ambiguous situations. His Catch Phrase could be "duty", since he manages to work the word into every other sentence; "duty" is probably mentioned here more times than in all the other books combined. By Crucible of Gold, he's largely informal with his friends and colleagues and not critical about things like mixed-race or homosexual couples. While he's polite to his acquaintances, he won't hesitate to be rude and/or sarcastic if they offend him or his friends. He also flat out states that he will never again follow orders that conflict with his personal sense of justice.
- Lampshaded by Lawrence himself in Blood of Tyrants, after he regains his memories. He muses that the man he was eight years ago would have placed his duty above everything, up to and including his personal happiness and the welfare of his friends. The man he is now, however, would not allow society's disapproval to prevent him from doing what's right. He's very pleased he has become such a person.note
- Deadpan Snarker: During the course of the series, he gradually loses his straight-laced attitude and develops a sense of humour, often dropping sarcastic one-liners.
- The Fettered: Laurence will outright refuse to do anything he feels is dishonorable and he will always follow orders. If the two things are at odds, he'll feel absolutely miserable and try to convince whomever's giving him the orders not to do it. He veers into The Unfettered in Victory of Eagles and Tongue of Serpents after he's discharged; he willingly uses dishonorable and dirty tactics to win the war in England, then outright refuses to follow Rankin's orders in Australia to murder the rebels. Somewhat snapped back after he's reinstated in Crucible of Gold although even there he says to Temeraire that he will refuse to follow any orders that he finds immoral.
- Fish out of Water: At the beginning of the series, he had no idea how to function in the Air Corps, and is rather dismayed at the level of informality common amongst aviators. Later, he is excruciatingly uncomfortable as the Emperor's adopted son.
- Hates Small Talk: Inverted. Laurence really enjoys conversation and finds a great deal of pleasure in formal dinners and social events.
- Heel Realization: Twice over. Throne of Jade and Black Powder War both open his eyes on his beloved country's barbaric treatment of dragons. The second time is coming to terms with the magnitude of his betrayal.
- The Hero
- Humble Hero: Laurence disliked flashy clothing even before his exile, and dislikes putting on airs even when by rights he might be entitled to them. This is one difference between his worldview and Temeraire's that is largely played for laughs, since if Temeraire had his way Laurence would be decked out in jewels at all times.
- Heroic BSOD: His treason against Britain. He knew the personal consequences before he did it, but after seeing that the King driven insane by the invasion of Britain, he becomes a Death Seeker. For a while it really looks like he's crossed the Despair Event Horizon, but by the end of the book He's Back, having accepted that he did the right thing and he'll just have to endure being despised.
- Honor Before Reason: Epitomizes it and it constantly causes immense problems for him.
- In Black Powder War: Laurence finds himself in a position to flee the doomed campaign to defend Prussia from France, thereby getting Temeraire and his men out of danger and back on their original mission. However, he feels that doing so would be pretending they could do nothing more to help, so he decides to stay until Warsaw falls and everyone starts scrambling for the coast.
- And then there's the critical point of this principle on the plot, which haunts him in later books: averting genocide by giving the cure for the dragon plague to the French, saving thousands of dragons in the process, but also committing treason against his country. When Jane chews him out for not simply bribing someone else to do it in secret, he responds that it would be treason either way.
- By the point of Crucible of Gold, when he takes it upon himself to flatly refuse to help a potential ally put down a slave rebellion, his fellow aviators more or less just shrug and go "Well, it's Laurence, what did you expect?"
- I Regret Nothing: Even before his memory comes back, he tells Temeraire that he wouldn't change any of the choices he made, treason included.
- Knight in Sour Armor: After five books of trying to explain some things to Temeraire and realizing how many laws and beliefs he takes for granted are actually terrible when he says them out loud, seeing that Britain treats dragons horribly, diplomatic intrigues, and realizing what lengths the Admiralty will go to for the sake of victory, Laurence has become quite a Deadpan Snarker—in Blood of Tyrants, he finds it quite plausible that England would deliberately fuel the opium trade in China. Despite this, he retains his personal sense of honor and his fierce loyalty to Britain.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: Takes a blow to the head in Blood of Tyrants. He forgets the previous eight years of his life, meaning he remembers nothing of Temeraire or his time as an aviator and still thinks he's the captain of the Reliant. A more accurate portrayal than is typical in fiction, as his memory returns in fits and starts and even when it returns, there are holes he suspects will never be filled.
- Amnesia Danger: Emotional rather than mortal danger. As a result of his amnesia Laurance thinks of Temeraire as pleasant company at best, and without the knowledge of everything the two have sacrificed for each other he keeps making blunders that strain their relationship.
- Lawful Stupid and Stupid Good: Laurence's actions at the end of Empire Of Ivory. This is made quite clear when Admiral Roland tells him in Victory Of Eagles a simple thing he could have done other than being a stiff-necked idiot, which would have had the desired effect of saving the Continental dragons without getting himself branded as a traitor. Although given his comments when Jane suggests a way he could have accomplished the same thing without revealing his actions, it strongly suggests he would have gone right ahead with his big show of insubordination even if he had thought of it, making this more Honor Before Reason.
- My Country, Right or Wrong: Unless they're about to start a campaign of biological terrorism...
- My God, What Have I Done?: ...but that cure directly led to the invasion of Britain.
- Neat Freak: From the point of view of other aviators, who are happy to go around in wrinkled coats while he carefully stows his things in bandboxes and is so pained by Jane's haphazard packing that he's compelled to do it himself.
- Officer and a Gentleman: Laurence is a well-mannered son of a Lord who much enjoys dining and parties, and he also has a reputation of a fighting captain in both Navy and Aerial Corps.
- Parental Substitute: To Emily Roland, Demane and Sipho.
- Risking The King: An admirable habit for a naval captain, but outright idiocy in an Aerial Corps one according to his new colleagues—a dragon will damn all orders to save an endangered captain, and if Laurence died Temeraire would be out of commission for a good while (if not permanently) from grief, if he didn't just kill himself avenging Laurence.
- Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Unsurprisingly, given Laurence's character. It's one reason why he refuses to give up Temeraire to China and Yongxing. When Napoleon offers him political sanctuary and rich rewards for delivering the remedy for the dragon plague to the French, Laurence abhors the notion.
- So Proud of You: From the most unlikely source he could imagine and for the action that caused him the greatest pain in the series: the Emperor of China and Lung Tien Qian both praise him for delivering the coughing fever cure to the French.
- Supporting Protagonist: The series centers on Temeraire and his adventures. Laurence is nearly the Deuteragonist: he serves as Temeraire's mentor and closest friend, provides exposition, and due to the lack of rights dragons have, often answers for Temeraire's actions.
- 10-Minute Retirement: He decides to just roll with being in exile and set up a permanent dragon pavilion at the end of Tongues of Serpents but Crucible Of Gold opens with him being called back into service.
- To Be Lawful or Good: Hugely in the fourth book, and he keeps being dogged by this for the rest of the series. When the British government plans to spread a plague among the French dragons that will likely spread to kill off most of the dragons in the world, he feels morally compelled to bring the French the cure, even though it's an act of treason against his own country. And after all that, he's still Lawful enough to go right back to Britain and let himself be arrested for it. Indeed, he expects to be executed for it, and rejects merely going into voluntary exile to save his skin. He transgressed and had to face the music.
- The Unfavorite: Laurence is a younger son of Lord Allendale, who disapproves of almost every action Laurence has taken ever since he ran away from home to join the Navy. Laurence has long since made his peace with this strained relationship; usually he'll simply try to find a way to avoid his father's ire where possible. Their relationship warms a little in Empire of Ivory when Laurence returns from China with a thoughtful gift and a newfound willingness (urged on by Temeraire) to help the British abolition movement... but this hopeful trend is shattered when Laurence's treason coincides with (or perhaps aggravates) a sudden failure of his father's health.
Lt. Granby was initially hostile to Laurence, as he was friends with the aviator chosen by the Corps to perform a hostile takeover of Temeraire's affections. However, once they had flown together in action, they got their bickering sorted out and he became both Number Two
and close friend to Laurence. In this capacity he also became captain of Iskierka, a fire-breathing Kazilik, in Black Powder War.
- Bling of War: At Iskierka's insistence and to his mortification. Granby (or rather Iskierka) owns three or four dress jackets, only one of which he can wear with any sense of humility, because the others are so covered in ludicrous gold frogging, jewels and other massive decorations that they're too heavy to wear.
- Butt Monkey: Poor Granby! He has it rough even by comparison with Laurence. He nearly got killed with extreme regularity as a member of Temeraire's crew, and then he became the Kid with the Leash to a fire-breathing Leeroy Jenkins, with all the perils that implies. After losing his arm - and giving his dragon an ultimatum - things seem to have improved for him. If only because it was time for Laurence to be the Butt Monkey again.
- Fire-Forged Friends: He's rude and passive-aggressive to Laurence all over Loch Laggan, but after the formation is ambushed on the way to Dover and they prove their mettle to each other, Granby makes a formal (and then much less formal) apology for being such a 'scrub'.
- Handicapped Badass: Has lost an arm by the end of Crucible of Gold; is no less awesome.
- Henpecked Husband: Played for Drama. He feels deeply uncomfortable that he has basically no control over Iskierka, and feels like he's a terrible captain.
- The Lancer: To Laurence.
- Straight Gay: Revealed in Crucible of Gold when Iskierka arranges for a marriage with the Inca Empress, then blabs about his relationship with Little. Laurence, to his credit, never makes a big deal of it (as he's quite familiar with the Hello, Sailor! phenomenon).
Half English and half Nepalese, Tharkay is an exceptional guide and translator. Due to the era's views, however, he cannot follow his father into English politics.
- Deadpan Snarker: His dry and sarcastic humor initially makes Laurence mistrustful of him.
- Half-Breed Discrimination: Unfortunately, in this time, there isn't much he can do about it.
- Mr. Fanservice: Tharkay, very much so. A snarky, mixed-race wanderer with a troubled past, who trains birds of prey, speaks several languages and had some Ho Yay with the main male character? Checks all the boxes.
- Stealth Hi/Bye: He makes a habit of this, which is rather disconcerting when he is guiding people through a desert and the like. This is intentional, as he would rather be openly mistrusted for good reason than passive-aggressively mistrusted for a bad one.
- The Unfettered: The one upside to being unacceptable in Western society.
- Yet subverted at one point in Victory of Eagles. When Laurence prepares to engage in dishonorable guerilla warfare, Tharkay points out that a gentleman can temporarily sink into savagery and be regarded as a desperate hero, but someone of Tharkay's background would simply be exterminated.
Naval captain of the HMS Reliant
, Riley inherited his ship from Laurence. Later takes on the Allegiance
, a huge ship built specifically to transport dragons.
- Heroic Sacrifice: He dies trying to save the Allegiance from sinking in Crucible of Gold. Depending on your feelings, this may be an Alas, Poor Scrappy moment.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: He was this to Laurence prior to capturing Temeraire's egg, and they still remain close friends after Laurence goes to the Corps—the relationship is significantly strained in Empire of Ivory when they go to Africa, however, and are unable to politely avoid the topic of slavery.
- Noble Bigot: Due to his father owning slaves and several plantations, he's an adamant proponent of slavery. He at one point outright calls a black woman sub-human. Despite this, he's still shown to be a good person. At the end of Empire of Ivory, he finally relents on it.
- Officer and a Gentleman
- Shotgun Wedding: Played with: he insists on marrying Harcourt, even though she thinks it's no big deal.
Captain of Maximus.
- The Big Guy
- Boisterous Bruiser
- Brutal Honesty: He has no sense of tact and will often spout the pressing but highly impolite question that everyone else has on their minds (like who the father of Harcourt's impending child is).
- Large Ham: Which is why when in Empire of Ivory he isn't hammy, that the reader knows the dire straits Maximus is in.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Berkley typically comes across as stoic and brusque, but Maximus is his one enormous weak spot.
Captain of Lily, one of the Longwings who will not accept anything but female captains. Her existence (a female serving officer) is kept rather secret by the Aerial Corps.
- Action Girl: She's an excellent captain and good at hand-to-hand combat, too.
- Action Mom: Starting in Empire of Ivory, which sees her increasingly pregnant while running around Africa and getting captured by dragons there.
- Her Heart Will Go On: After she gets the news that Riley died.
- Hostage Situation: Gets caught in one at the end of His Majesty's Dragon when Choiseul tries to kidnap her and Lily; it ends with a brawl between him and Laurence, and her clonking Choiseul over the head.
- The Lad-ette: Like many other female aviators, although it takes her a little while to achieve it.
- Took a Level in Badass: Goes from being a Shrinking Violet in Book 1 to being a serious formation leader in Book 4.
Captain of the Longwing Excidium. Roland serves as the Reasonable Authority Figure
for the Aerial Corps, and Laurence enjoys serving under her.
- Action Mom: To Emily.
- Ascended Extra: She, like the rest of the British cast, was completely absent from books 2 and 3, other than Laurence writing letters to her from time to time. She briefly has roles in books 1 and 4, but it isn't until Victory of Eagles that she becomes pivotal to the plot.
- Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Her relationship with Laurence comes off as a little more than a strong affection on Roland's part, until Laurence sees in Victory of Eagles exactly how pained she is by his betrayal. She later lays into him - not for the treason, which she approves of, but because he did it in a way that not only ruined the careers and lives of others but left him under a sentence of death.
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: She has a big, conspicuous scar down the left side of her face from some long-ago battle.
- Hero of Another Story: It seems like any time we get news of her adventures elsewhere, she's winning some hugely important battle.
- Lady of War
- The Lad-ette: She is far more mature than the usual frat-boy-with-a-vagina archetype, but she is no more ladylike especially by early 19th century standards of such.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: To Laurence, and when she takes over from Lenton, the Aerial Corps as a whole.
- Four-Star Badass: Though she briefly got busted down in Victory of Eagles because of sexism, she was quickly reinstated.
Jane's illegitimate daughter, who is being groomed to take over Excidium when her mother retires. She doesn't know who her father is (Jane doesn't much care), and on at least one occasion she has been mistaken as Laurence's
natural daughter, to his embarrassment and Jane's amusement.
- Action Girl: As would be expected. Lampshaded in the eighth book, when she starts teaching her chaperone Mrs. Pemberton how to use a pistol and the latter remarks that Emily is a more capable protector than herself.
- Child Soldier: As a daughter of an aviator, she got put to the Corps early.
- Heir Club for Men: Inverted, thanks to Longwing preferences.
- Is That Cute Kid Yours?: Lord Allendale is under the impression she is his son's biological daughter. Lawrence cannot explain without embarassing both himself and his father, not to mention revealing a secret of the Aerial Corps. Later, Lady Allendale sends her jewelry. Naturally, Jane finds the misunderstanding incredibly amusing.
- Parental Substitute: She may consider Lawrence "stuffy"note , but he's the closest thing to a father she ever had.
- Plucky Middie: One of Laurence's most capable (and luckiest) officers.
- Tomboy: To the extent that several people actually assume she is a boy.
- She Is All Grown Up: Or rather, she's getting there fast—and causing Laurence a lot of headaches.
Promoted to Temeraire's 2nd Lt. in Throne of Jade
and 1st Lt. in Black Powder War
after Granby becomes Iskierka's captain. Gets dismissed from the Corps in Victory of Eagles
. As of Crucible of Gold
, he follows Lawrence around the world.
- Drowning My Sorrows: In Crucible of Gold, Lawrence notices his face bears the tell-tale marks of a heavy drinker. Fortunately, he gets better.
- I Regret Nothing: When asked directly, he says he would rather have been hanged for doing the right thing (giving the cure to the French) than viewed as a lying coward.
- Locked Out of the Loop: Lawrence hoped he would be safe if he didn't know what Temeraire and the captain planned; he was wrong.
- Modest Royalty: He's from a noble family both very old and extremely rich, if the size of the family manornote is any indication. You'd never realize it from the way he acts.
- The Scapegoat: Since the Board can't hang Lawrence until the war is over, they settle with his first lieutenant's dishonorable discharge from the Aerial Corps.
An African child who aids Laurence during the adventures of Empire of Ivory
. For lack of any other option, Laurence ends up taking him and his brother Sipho home with him to Britain, where they become members of Temeraire's flight crew.
- Big Brother Instinct: Very protective of his brother, to the point that as they grow up Sipho finds him a bit overbearing.
- Child Soldier: Although he started relatively late in his aviator career to still be considered much of a child.
- Jumped Into The Cockpit: How he got Kulingile.
- Field Promotion: Essentially. He goes from being a Plucky Middie to the captain of a dragon, even though there are going to be difficulties in getting the Corps to acknowledge this.
- Hot-Blooded: He has a quick temper and a tendency to get into fights if he's not kept busy.
- Parental Substitute: He may not show it due to his independent nature, but he respects Lawrence for the protection he offers to him and Sipho. When the captain is lost at sea and presumed dead in Blood of Tyrants, he's worried the other aviators will send the two kids back to Africa and take Kulingile away from him.
- Puppy Love: Him and Emily. Whenever someone tries messing with Emily because she's a girl Demane flips out. And in Tongues of Serpents Emily tells Laurence that he has asked to marry her numerous times, but she refused: they'll practically never see each other because they'll both have dragons in the Corps.
- You Can't Go Home Again: Laurence feels compelled to keep Demane with him, since he and his brother don't have anything to go back to.
An African child who followed his brother Demane with Laurence's crew.
- Badass Bookworm: Unlike Demane, he takes to his studies like a fish. By his early 20s, he's already publishing accounts of his adventures with Laurence and Temeraire.
- Child Soldier: Although he's done less soldier-ing than both his brother and Emily have.
- Foregone Conclusion: Sipho will survive the events of the story to become a scholar. One of his works also shows that the Tswana will ultimately broker a peace and it's implicit that Britain becomes less racist by the time Sipho begins to publish his works.
- Nostalgic Narrator: Zigzagged. Sipho writes at length about the adventures of Temeraire, but only in a scholarly context, and he doesn't seem to be the Narrator proper. However, his works overlap with the novels and Tongues of Serpents is presented as his account of the events in the novel, due to his map prefacing the story.
- Parental Substitute: Both Lawrence and Temeraire look out for him and make sure he's properly educated.
The commander of the Dover covert in Book 1. After Obversaria's death, he is put on a quieter post and Roland takes his position
- Collateral Angst: Obversaria's death and Lenton's breakdown sets a grim tone for Book 4.
- Despair Event Horizon: The death of Obversaria shatters him, and he has to step down from his position.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Helped Laurence find his feet and get acclimated to the different culture of the Aerials Corps in the first book. He also had no objections to Laurence manhandling Rankin when Levitas was dying and was rather surprised that Laurence even apologized for it.
A more conventionally raised captain—meaning he treats dragons like idiotic beasts and sneers at anyone who seeks civil rights for anyone.
- Birds of a Feather: Caesar is Rankin in a dragon's body.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: At first, Laurence takes a liking to him because he's the only aviator who acts polite and friendly to Laurence when he first arrives, and he assumes the reason the other aviators avoid Rankin is because they're uncomfortable around someone who acts upper-class. Nope; it's because Rankin abuses his dragon and is a snobby Jerk Ass to the other captains. The sheep's clothing is entirely off by Tongues of Serpents.
- Jerkass: He comes from old money and has been raised to believe dragons are inferior to men and are to be bullied and disciplined into submission (an outdated mode of thinking, but one that is still supported by the admiralty). His neglect of his dragon, and his refusal to allow anyone to interfere, leads to his first dragon, Levitas, being fatally wounded in action and nearly left to die alone. In the sixth book he shows up in Australia announcing he's to be given a new dragon. Fortunately, Caesar turns out to be more than willing to stand up to him.
- Jerkass Has a Point: In the sixth book, Rankin is sometimes the voice of reason. A dismissive and insulting one, but the voice of reason nonetheless.
- Laser-Guided Karma: In the form of Caesar, who refuses to be treated like a dog. Granby gleefully notes that Rankin is going to have a lot of trouble managing him.
Introduced in the second novel as the primary diplomat sent to China on behalf of England. After the events of that book, served for some years before being called away to enlist Laurence and Temeraire in resolving a crisis in South America.
- Ass in Ambassador: Reversed trope, where he annoys his side.
- Functional Addict: The Inca give him coca leaves to chew so he doesn't get airsick. From then on and into the next book, he's always looking for some when the situation gets stressful. (Which is all the time.) It doesn't hamper his diplomatic abilities, though.
- Hidden Depths: He's not afraid of dragons at all. Most Westerners turn tail and run when they see one; Hammond quite casually talks with Temeraire, going so far as to reprimand him for his less than tactful comments about the Chinese.
- Implacable Man: Has deliberately cultivated this reputation. People may not like him, but everyone knows he can get a job done.
- Let's Get Dangerous: When an attack is imminent, he's not afraid to grab a sword and fight alongside the battle-hardened aviators.
Introduced in Tongues of Serpents
, he's one of the aviators sent to Australia along with three dragon eggs to start a new covert. As of Crucible of Gold
, he's Temeraire's 1st Lt.
- Always Second Best: To Ferris.
- Parental Abandonment: He's a foundling from Dover.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Temeraire gives him a hilarious one in Blood of Tyrants, explaining why he's not too fond of him:
Temraire: (to a dumbstruck Forthing) Why will you not buy a shirt? Even if you do not buy a particularly decent one, you might buy something clean; and that coat is nothing like green: not at all. Whoever could wish to acknowledge you as a connection in any way when you look like an untended scare-crow? The hands before the mast have a neater appearance, and I know that Laurence has given you a hint, now and again—
- The Unfavorite: As a first generation aviator, he didn't have a chance of promotion in England; hence, the trip to Australia. When he gets promoted to first lieutenant, Temeraire doesn't like him because of his shabby clothes.
Historical Domain Characters
A genius naval commander and one of Britain's finest military minds.
- Combat Pragmatist: One of the architects of the plan to spread the dragon plague to France. Laurence considers this a Moral Event Horizon.
- For Want of a Nail: Zigzagged. Dragons mean that Trafalgar played out somewhat differently—Nelson is wounded by dragonfire, but survives and becomes a national hero who significantly changes the course of British policy regarding slavery. But then, In Spite of a Nail, he dies in a naval battle off of Britain's coast when Lien sinks the whole fleet.
- Glory Seeker: At one point Laurence points out that Nelson loves glory no less than Napoleon does: he's just pursuing glory in a way Laurence applauds. Nelson recognizes it himself:
Lord Nelson: "I have never heard anyone say that I love glory less than other men."
- Historical Hero Upgrade: Played straight and defied. Nelson survives in the novels when he died in Real Life and consequently goes on to greater military success, but is also a staunch advocate of slavery.
- Killed Off for Real: By Lien.
- The Rival: Invoked by British newspapers, as he and Laurence are both popularly-regarded military men who have contributed greatly to Britain's fight against France, but fight in different services and disagree on the issue of abolition. In reality, Nelson and Laurence admire each other, and Nelson even invites Laurence and Temeraire to campaign with him at one point.
The Emperor of France, formerly a nobody from Corsica.
Chrétien-Louis-Joseph de Guignes
- Affably Evil: He's shown to have a charming if very forward and aggressive personality.
- Anti-Villain: Sure, he plans to conquer all of Europe through military force, but he's also genuinely interested in improving the lives of his citizens, and has been steadily granting dragons more and more rights and freedoms ever since Lien became his ally.
- Appeal To Novelty: Laurence (who is of course biased) alleges Napoleon of being radically progressive.
- Big Bad: Naturally, as the books are set during the Napoleonic Wars.
- Glory Seeker: Said to be his primary motivation.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: Subverted. He is not only a genius military commander but a forward-thinking liberal who, as he did in our version of history, has done a great deal for equal rights. He's still trying to conquer Britain, so Laurence and Temeraire oppose him on principle, but there is respect accorded to all, and Laurence admits to Temeraire (somewhat uncomfortably) that no monster could have accomplished what Napoleon has.
- Worthy Opponent: Considers Laurence one, almost verging into Friendly Enemies territory. Laurence is less comfortable with the idea, but he still has respect for the man's genius and accomplishments.
- Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Since Laurence brought the cure to France, Napoleon has never missed an opportunity to thank him, be it with words or actions. Whether this is genuine gratitude or an attempt to sow discord among Laurence's allies is left ambiguous.
Bonaparte's ambassador to China, and later to other countries.
Arthur Wellesley (Lord Wellington)
- Affably Evil: He's unfailingly polite, and he and Laurence first meet on a positive note. The relationship is damaged, come Crucible of Gold, when logistical and security concerns force him to strand his captives - Laurence, Temeraire, and the rest of their companions - on a deserted island with no hope of escape until the French come back for them, with just enough supplies to stay barely alive.
- Ass in Ambassador: Thoroughly averted at first, thanks to his charm, charisma, and courtesy, up until the aforementioned stranding.
- Apologetic Attacker: Quite so. He couches his plan to strand Laurence and company in the politest terms of most sincere regret.
- Friendly Enemies: He has a polite and supportive relationship with Laurence, despite their being political enemies. After the events mentioned under 'Affably Evil', he is not upset at his own plans being foiled, or at least doesn't show it.
An obscure British general who rises to the occasion during Victory of Eagles
in order to repel the formerly-undefeated Corsican.
Also known as Lung Tien Xiang, second son of Lung Tien Qian, Temeraire was given by the Chinese to the French and then captured in the egg by the English, with whom he serves alongside
Lung Tien Lien
- The Atoner: Temeraire feels massively guilty for losing Laurence's fortune and is constantly trying to find ways of getting it back that Laurence would approve of. He flat-out doesn't believe Laurence when he says it doesn't matter to him.
- Cunning Linguist: One of the advantages of being a Celestial is that he can pick up languages very quickly.
- Omniglot: As of Crucible of Gold, he can speak a variety of languages, if not all of them perfectly fluently. He knows English, French, Chinese, Turkish, German, Xhosa, Durzagh (the language of feral dragons), and Quechua.
- Genius Bruiser: He's one of the smartest dragons in Britain, and also a heavy weight.
- Green-Eyed Monster: To his displeasure, Temeraire keeps losing members of his crew to become captains for newly-hatched dragons. He's even more possessive of Laurence, to the point of getting cagey at any other dragon that seeks attention from him.
- The Hero: Since the books start with Temeraire as a hatchling, the books are almost a Coming of Age story for him. His perspective on the world changes the thinking of many around him, and he's excellent at winning new allies who can help him and Laurence deal with whatever problems happen.
- Honor Before Reason: As much as he doesn't understand Laurence's tendencies for it, Temeraire also holds onto honor, mostly out of a desire to improve the lot of European dragons.
- Lightning Bruiser: He's big but fast, capable of turning on a dime and even hovering in the air, which most other dragons can't do. To top it off, he also has the Divine Wind; Temeraire, like other Celestials, is a formidable force.
- Make Me Wanna Shout: The Divine Wind.
- Man Child: As of the third book, he has reached his full growth, but is only 18 months old and has an appropriately simplistic worldview.
- Meaningful Name: In multiple languages!
- The Temeraire was a French sailing ship which was famously captured by the Royal Navy and put back into service; this has very obvious resonance with our dragon, though this was not Laurence's thought at the time.
- As for the word itself, Temeraire is the French word for "temerity," meaning "bravery" or even "audacity," two things Temeraire scarcely lacks.
- 龍 天 祥, Temeraire's Chinese name (Lung Tien Xiang by Novik's not-quite-historically-accurate transliterationnote , Lóng Tiān Xiáng in modern pinyin), means "Dragon Heaven Auspicious". While all Celestials go by Lung Tien [Whatever], "auspicious" means "Born Lucky" and "promising success." This has certainly proven true for Laurence and England.
- Military Maverick: In Prussia, he's very skeptical of their dragons' rigid formations, and he has little regard for what the Admiralty thinks. But when he plans tactics on his own and flies in formation with dragons, his ideas are usually quite good.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Unlike Laurence, Temeraire isn't inclined to beat himself up over their part in enabling France's invasion of England. What he failed to realise, however, was how thoroughly Laurence would be ruined for it. When Temeraire learns that Laurence's imprisonment left him unable to contest a ten thousand pound lawsuit he nearly has a heart attack. He comes to see the loss as a huge mark against his ability to take care of his captain, and he resolves to find a way to pay Laurence back.
- Spare To The Throne: Temeraire is a twin. His brother Lung Tien Chuan was assigned to Prince Mianning, heir to the current Chinese emperor, and Temeraire packaged off to avoid his becoming a Spanner in the Works. (This sticks Temeraire with an Ironic Name as well.)
- Tsundere: An extreme type A towards Iskierka; Temeraire's internal narration is full of belittling comments about her, culminating in Crucible of Gold where he finally relents and decides to give her an egg. Wounded pride also plays a part. Lien had just revealed that Celestials cannot cross-breed, and Iskierka (being the Bratty Half-Pint she is) immediately needles him about his failures in mating. His thought process is less that he likes her and more that she's, well, conveniently available. Having said that, he does credit her for the occasions when she pulls her own weight.
- Undying Loyalty: Like most dragons, he is deeply protective of his crew (especially Laurence), which provides an effective source of comedy relief.
- The Unfettered: Temeraire himself has some qualities of The Unfettered, although this may be more a case of True Neutral or even Blue and Orange Morality. He has no sentiment of patriotism (at least until his Character Development in the fifth book), no innate drive to be helpful toward humans he's never met, and no particular dislike of France or Napoleon. Like most of the dragons of England, he only helps the British to keep his humans happy. His efforts to reconcile his attitude and Laurence's for the sake of their friendship gives the series a philosophical aspect.
- Warrior Poet: The tendencies are encouraged by Laurence's habit of reading to him, and when he visits China it's set.
An albino dragon—white is the color of death in traditional Chinese culture, and is considered horribly unlucky. Despite being one of the very few Celestials available to the nation, Lien was treated as an outcast... until a prince named Yongxing took pity on her, and the two became inseparable
. Too bad Yongxing was plotting to have Laurence killed, which Temeraire of course wasn't going to stand for...
- Badass Bookworm: As a Celestial, Lien was exempt from taking the civil service examination. She took it anyway and became the zhuangyuan of her cohort.
- Big Bad Duumvirate: With Napoleon. They have different goals—she's out for vengeance and he's a conqueror—but since she wants vengeance on a pair of Brits, their goals fit hand-in-glove.
- Broken Ace: In China, thanks to her albinism.
- The Dragon: To Prince Yongxing and later Napoleon.
- Dragon Lady: Taking this trope from the Chinese point of view—fierce, powerful, and smart, she quickly secures an alliance with the person most likely to help her make Laurence and Temeraire's lives an absolute hell. Her battle strategies are extremely effective.
- Dragon Ascendant: After Yongxing dies, she goes into exile to join Napoleon for a chance to utterly destroy Temeraire and Laurence.
- Evil Albino: In China the color of her scales are looked upon as unlucky, but many people and dragons outside of China find her color admirable and beautiful.
- Evil Counterpart: To Temeraire.
- Make Me Wanna Shout: She also possesses the divine wind, and knows how to use it better than Temeraire as well.
- Minored in Asskicking: Direct combat is viewed as beneath Celestials in China, so prior to her encounter with Temeraire, she had zero experience with it. After she allies herself with Napoleon, she quickly revolutionizes warfare tactics in France, refines her Divine Wind, and becomes much more of a martial threat.
- Out of Focus: Despite her stated desire to see Temeraire and Laurence suffer, she hasn't done a whole lot in recent books (though her influence on France's dragon breeding techniques is becoming apparent). For the most part, Napoleon drives the plot. In Blood of Tyrants, she's believed to be keeping an eye on Napoleon's newborn son, so this might have crossed into Put on a Bus territory.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Her arrival and alliance with Napoleon has revolutionized and improved the lot of every dragon in France, and most of them regard her with hero-worship. This doesn't extend to the humans of France.
- Wicked Cultured: She's a scholar in various fields, and her knowledge comes in great use for Napoleon.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: She's ostracized for being an albino, and only one person ever shows her any affection. When he dies, she has nothing to live for but revenge.
A Regal Copper, the largest breed of dragon available to Britain (though French Grand Chevaliers are known to be larger, and sometimes Petit Chevaliers as well). Like his captain Berkley, Maximus can be grumpy, but their hearts are in the right place.
- The Big Guy: Maximus takes this position for granted. When Kulingile shows up, there's a certain amount of friction.
- Brutal Honesty: He seems to have picked this habit up from Berkley, and sometimes uses it on Berkley, like when he points out that Berkley's too thin and ill himself worrying over the dragon plague.
- Not So Invincible After All: Maximus is so big he has trouble with the concept that anything could be a danger to him. Consequently he tends to underestimate serious threats, referring to a virulent plague as "a cold" and a cannonball to the chest as "a scratch."
- With Catlike Tread: Makes a brief and extremely unsuccessful attempt at stealth in Empire of Ivory.
A Longwing, one of a breed that spits acidic venom, much prized in Britain due to their lack of firebreathers. Lily is typically the center of any formation so that she can deploy her ranged attacks unmolested.
- The Chick: She's not aggressive and often acts as a mediator when Temeraire and the other dragons in formation are getting on each others' nerves for one reason or another.
- Fluffy the Terrible: Zig-zagged. Lily is a huge acid-spitting dragon, but personality-wise she is very sweet and gentle.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Protests very openly with Harcourt's marriage to Riley, and is even jealous of Harcourt's son.
- Hollywood Acid: It's green, it smokes, and it can burn through warships. There's an offhand mention in one book about how a tiny splatter of it on the foot is lethal. (Then again, given what Hydrofluoric acid can do, that last may not be as far-fetched as it sounds.)
A Grey Winchester, one of the small speedy dragons used for courier services. Of course, his master is Rankin, so you can imagine how well he's treated.
- Died in Your Arms Tonight: Well, emotionally, in Rankin's.
- Dying Alone: Averted, thanks to Lawrence's forceful intervention.
- I Just Want To Be Loved: All Levitas ever wanted his whole life was Rankin's affection. Tragic, considering Rankin is a complete jerk.
- Parental Neglect: Well, from Levitas' perspective. Dragons regard their riders as most treasured possession or their child or their parent. Rankin treated Levitas quite badly, not that he hated his loyal dragon partner, he just didn't care.
- Sacrificial Lion: Levitas brings vital news of the Dover invasion back to Britain just in time. Rankin gets a medal. Levitas gets to die in agony.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: He's always trying to please Rankin, but Rankin continues to treat him like an animal.
The leader of a band of feral dragons encountered on the way to Turkey by Laurence and Temeraire. Reckless and prone to posturing when he thinks his leadership is threatened. Tharkay eventually convinces him and his gang of ferals to fight for the British against Napoleon.
- Always Someone Better: Arkady's self-important insistence on leadership doesn't apply to Iskierka - she's accepted as unofficial leader when she's around. Unfortunately, their bad habits tend to reinforce each other.
- Loveable Rogue: The adjective usually applied to him is 'piratical'. He has no loyalty to Britain or enmity toward France - he's in it for the regular meals, the excitement and the occasional shiny object.
- Mildly Military: After joining the Aerial Corps. He has very little patience for things like "discipline" and "orders", as unlike most other harnessed dragons he wasn't born into the service.
- Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Being a feral, he's classed as a lightweight (and not the biggest of them). But having lived his whole life wild, he's also stronger and a better fighter than any other dragon in his weight class.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Like any bandit chief, he's got a loyal gang of boisterous, gluttonous thieves to back him up. Molnar and Wringe are the two that are most often mentioned.
- Small Name, Big Ego: He likes to exaggerate his role in things.
Enters into the series as an egg promised the British by the Sultan in Istanbul. The egg hatches on the way home, and Granby takes custody of her. Iskierka is an impulsive, self-important and utterly wrong-headed, but as Britain's one and only firebreather, the Corps is forced to give her a fair bit of leeway.
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: She gets distracted easily by gold, riches, and other such valuables, or even the prospect of some.
- Bling of War: She's fond of displaying her treasure, and insists Granby dresses to match. Note that while the humans find this behavior ridiculous, all the other dragons are jealous. The only thing stopping them from outfitting their own captains this way is the fact that Iskierka, with her talent at capturing enemy ships, is the only one who can afford it.
- Blood Knight: The only thing she likes better than fighting is looting the prizes she wins by fighting.
- Bratty Half-Pint: She comes out of her shell particularly willful, and gets only worse after, as the Admiralty and the Corps tend to look over some of her faults as she's a very valuable dragon.
- Break the Haughty: In Crucible of Gold, Granby finally finds the willpower to put an end to her obnoxious attitude. He flatly states that, while he loves her, a dragon who won't obey orders is of no use to a loyal captain of the Aerial Corps, and while it breaks his heart he will leave her for another dragon if she doesn't grow up. Iskierka is aghast.
- Enfante Terrible: She displays bloodthirstiness straight out of the egg, by wanting to kill French dragons attacking.
- Fiery Redscale: Her scales are colored red, black and violet.
- Hot-Blooded: Is she ever. There's no fight that she won't try to take on; when an Inca dragon challenges her to Trial by Combat, she's delighted.
- Glory Hound: There's nothing she likes better than showing off and flaunting her victories.
- Innocently Insensitive: In Crucible of Gold, she loudly announces that Captain Little is Granby's lover, not understanding that homosexuality is considered a crime, nor why a homosexual man would be really unwilling to have sex with a woman.
- It's All About Me: There are at least four major crises precipitated by this attitude.
- The Lancer: To Temeraire. She'll always advocate the more proactive course, and sometimes she has a point.
- Leeroy Jenkins: Her tendency for rushing into any battle for blood and glory is slightly moderated when it gets Granby captured.
- Playing with Fire
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: She and Arkady find kindred spirits in each other, and she's later seen taking prizes in concert with him and his gang of ferals.
- Spoiled Brat: Completely and utterly rotten, much to Granby's despair. Even without the Admiralty doing almost anything to hang onto heavyweight dragons and those with special abilities, Iskierka has a deep-seated belief that "I breathe fire, therefore I'm always right."
- Stalker with a Crush / Stalker with a Test Tube: Wants an egg by Temeraire that would have both her flames and his Divine Wind.
- Stop Helping Me!: She outfits poor Granby in Bling of War and takes off after prizes constantly despite his efforts to restrain her, because she thinks he's the best and should therefore have the best clothes and best wealth. She's so eager to cover him in glory that she offers him as a husband to the Incan empress. She does not consult Granby in any of this.
A dragon who disdained harnessing when she was hatched, Perscitia was relegated to the breeding grounds, where she and her prodigious intellect wasted away for at least four books. Then Temeraire happened.
- Gadgeteer Genius: She later figures out how to work the cannons, and devises other strategies for Temeraire's regiment.
- Insufferable Genius: And while she easily keeps a grudge if anyone corrects her, she's not that bad an example.
- Put on a Bus: Like Gentius, Requiescat, Minnow and the rest of Temeraire's Ragtag Bunch of Misfits from Victory of Eagles, she hasn't been seen or heard from since.
- The Smart Guy: She gives Temeraire a run for his money; she independently derives the binomial and Pythagorean theorem, and just doesn't quite know the proper names for them.
- The So-Called Coward: Almost unique in being a dragon with no hunger for battle, though she has no problem with supporting her allies in their battles. Since 'war machine' is the only career path allowed to British dragons of her size, she's very sensitive about her 'shortcoming.'
The first of three eggs sent to Australia to hatch. He was born from Arkady and Wringe, and his assigned and accepted captain is Rankin. Though he's not pleasant, he's more disposed to stand up to Rankin and picked his own name.
- Birds of a Feather: A self-centered whiner who cares mainly about status? Perfect for Rankin!
- Jerkass: Much like his captain.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Rankin's first dragon rejected him: his second was an Extreme Doormat. Caesar, on the other hand, is willing to be a companion, but refuses to be a servant.
- Gold Digger: He's okay with being Rankin's dragon once he finds out that Rankin is from a rich, important family.
- Spoiled Brat: From birth, and not much better after.
A Greyling who is part of the courier service. He's the first other dragon that Temeraire meets after hatching, and rather subverts Temeraire's obvious expectations. Very fast but somewhat lacking in intelligence.
Introduced (as an egg) in the sixth book. At birth he appears to be deformed, but when Demane is allowed to keep him, he not only survives but turns out to be a beast of exceptional size, larger than a Regal Copper (Britain's largest established dragon breed).
- Beware the Nice Ones: Like most dragons, his Berserk Button is any harm threatened to his captain.
- Big Eater: Until he neared his adult size, "I am hungry" was his Catch Phrase.
- The Big Guy: One wonders even how big he would be if he had been given all the food he wanted as a hatchling. His size has made Maximus, the previous Big Guy, rather jealous: but Kulingile is too easy-going to have a real rivalry with.
- Gentle Giant: Like Maximus, he's a big sweetheart.
- I Just Want to Be Normal: He's massive, golden and intimidating. He even speaks with an unnerving reverb. But all poor Kulingile wants is to be like everyone else.
- Magikarp Power: As a hatchling, his airsacs were so large he could barely move. Only Demane will take care of him; the aviators and dragon-surgeon wanted to mercy-kill him. Later, it's revealed that the airsacs are so big because he is, at full growth, one of the largest dragons anyone in the cast has ever seen. There's one (known) contender in the Incan Empire of his scale, and the Sui-Riu in the eight book are larger (but flightless): but he's still substantially larger than any European dragon.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Ordinarily he is laconic and friendly. On the other hand, when Demane (in Crucible of Gold) or Sipho (in Blood of Tyrants) are endangered, he's a Person of Mass Destruction.
- Voice of the Legion: After he finally outgrows his young high-pitched voice, his voice is described as echoey and as if several people are talking at once.
An Incan dragon with vibrant, feather-like scales. Formerly of the Incan air force, she was tasked with escorting Temeraire and the rest to meet the Sapa Inca. When they had to flee she decided to come with them, having taken a liking to Hammond.
- Abhorrent Admirer: Non-romantic variant. Hammond isn't overly fond of dragons, being prone to airsickness. Churki can't take a hint, however, and eventually he resigns himself to the idea.
- Babies Make Everything Better: She insists that Hammond marries at least several times and gives her many children to care for. By the time they reach Japan, she's become impatient with his "reluctance".
- Crazy Cultural Comparison: As far as dragons are concerned, anyway. Since Incan dragons are now always the head of ayllu, and because they have gold laying around everywhere, she considers taking on Hammond as a serious promotion and isn't nearly as interested in hoarding.
- Four-Star Badass: She served in the Incan Army and won many honors. Now she's returned home to her mother to win the greatest honor in her country, a human family to look after.
- Mama Bear: To Hammond. Incan dragons are even more this than most dragons, having lost so many of their people to epidemics.
- Screw The Money I have People!: Dragons from the Incan Empire value their people above all earthly materials and are extremely possessive of them. Churki understands money is sometimes a necessity, but it is nothing compared to having a human family, and she berates any dragon who argues otherwise.
- This Is My Human: Upon learning Hammond isn't properly part of Temeraire's crew, she starts trying to convince him to stay in South America with her where she can take care of him. When he, in desperation, tries to deflect her attention by saying he has a large family in Britain and can't make such a commitment, she decides to go home with him so she can look after all of them.
- Wise Beyond Her Years: At twenty, Churki is relatively young in dragon years, and for a heavyweight, hasn't come of age yet to be responsible for her own ayllu. Yet she's an excellent tactician that can adapt to any given conflict in any situation. She, like her mother, regards the Napoleonic Wars as silly and childish. Her knowledge of local botany and natural medicine is unrivaled.
A Sui Riu water dragon, and one of the noble guardians of Japan. Several hundred years old, she sheltered Laurence and Junichiro who were on the run from the law that forbade foreigners outside of Nagasaki.
An old and experienced officer of the Chinese Aerial Corps, introduced in Blood of Tyrants
. In charge of the expedition that saw Laurence and Temeraire earn Chinese reinforcements for England, then in charge of the reinforcements as they head to Russia.
- Old Soldier: Unlike others in China, Chu is respectful Laurence and Temeraire but doesn't bow and scrape before them. He knows his work and won't tolerate backtalk from anyone short of the emperor.
- Put on a Bus: Takes a volley of cannon fire to the back from a French ambush. He survives, but his convalescence takes him out of action for the rest of the book.
- Retirony: Briefly mentions wanting to retire to the mountains when the war is over, only to be grievously injured in the first battle. Played with a bit - he's not killed, although his injuries may result in forced retirement.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Even when it appears England is conspiring to undermine Chinese internal stability, he's willing to listen to Laurence and Temeraire's defence and even help them look for evidence.
- Stealth Mentor: Since he can't openly tell Temeraire what to do, he phrases his advice in the form of asking questions Temeraire has no good answer for. Overlaps with Servile Snarker, as he clearly doesn't have much regard for British aerial tactics.
- Veteran Instructor: Teaches Temeraire about tactics, particularly the idea that you can't manage a battle from the front lines.