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This Alternate History series sets out to answer a vital question that has intrigued historians for centuries: What would The Napoleonic Wars have been like if the countries involved fought them with dragons?

The series centers on William Laurence, a Navy captain who takes possession of a French ship transporting a valuable dragon egg home. Unfortunately for Laurence, the egg is very close to hatching when he takes it on board, and an "unharnessed" dragon who doesn't choose a captain within a day of hatching becomes feral and thus useless for anything but breeding stock. He ends up harnessing the baby dragon and naming him Temeraire, after the second HMS ''Temeraire'' (there is also a reference to the first HMS Temeraire which like Temeraire himself was originally captured from the French); the books center on the pair's adventures together.


The series:

  1. His Majesty's Dragon (2006) (Published as Temeraire in the UK), in which Laurence and Temeraire must adapt to the ways of Britain's Aerial Corps, and participate in their first battle to keep Bonaparte from seizing the British Isles.
  2. Throne of Jade (2006), in which Temeraire, identified as a rare Chinese Celestial, is courted by a royal Chinese ambassador who wants him to return to the Middle Kingdom and is willing to separate him from Laurence to do so. While Temeraire learns about his true heritage, Laurence must untangle the motivations of the Chinese, without offending the single most powerful empire of the age...
  3. Black Powder War (2006), in which Laurence and Temeraire, still in China, receive orders to visit Istanbul and obtain there three dragon eggs, purchased by the British government. After all, the war against Napoleon is going poorly, and three dragons might make all the difference. And then there is the matter of Lien, an albino Celestial who has decided Temeraire is her Arch-Enemy and will stop at nothing to see him defeated...
  4. Empire of Ivory (2007), in which the reason for Britain's recent poor fortunes in the war become clear: her dragons, one and all, have caught an Incurable Cough of Death with no known cure. But after it becomes clear that Temeraire caught said illness during his voyage to China, and was cured of it using mushrooms unique to Africa, they are dispatched back in a desperate quest to find more...
  5. Victory of Eagles (2008), in which Laurence and Temeraire are separated in disgrace after the events of the previous novelnote , despite the war reaching a fever pitch. Napoleon has finally invaded, and Temeraire takes it into his head to organize as many dragons as he can find, even those unharnessed, into an irregular fighting force for the most desperate battle Great Britain has ever faced.
  6. Tongues of Serpents (2010), in which Laurence and Temeraire are Reassigned to Australia (rather than executed) after Napoleon's repulsion and attempt to make a fresh start for themselves on the new, wild continent.
  7. Crucible of Gold (2012), in which Laurence is re-instated to help in the war against Napoleon. He has turned his sights on the Inca Empire and Brazil both, and only Laurence and Temeraire are near enough to help in time...
  8. Blood of Tyrants (2013), in which Laurence and Temeraire attempt to travel to China to muster help against Napoleon's victories. But there are Chinese intrigues at play, and Napoleon is marching against Russia—and, just to make life interesting, a shipwreck leaves Laurence stricken with Laser-Guided Amnesia...
  9. League of Dragons (2016) is the final novel of the series, in which Napolean's endeavours to invade Russia through her harsh winter have been temporarily halted by Temeraire and Laurence, the Russians, and the Chinese. But when startling news comes of Temeraire's and Iskierka's egg having been stolen from the Imperial palace in China, Temeraire and Laurence are forced to leave the frontlines in an effort to take it back. But this comes with its own host of complications...
As well as
Golden Age and Other Stories (2017) which includes short stories set in the Temeraire universe (for the most part).

The series was remarkable in that, upon reading the manuscript for the first novel, the editor was so excited she asked the author, Naomi Novik, to finish the next two quickly for an unusual push: after three years of writing, the first three novels were released back to back over the course of three months.

Peter Jackson had reportedly optioned the movie rights to the series, and had also been heard to debate airing them as a miniseries instead, to make it harder to be Cut Short (a problem that His Dark Materials, The Inheritance Cycle and even The Chronicles of Narnia fans can speak of from experience). However, in 2016, Novik has said the rights have since reverted to her and there are no plans for an adaptation at this time.

Provides examples of:

  • A Boy and His X: An Esteemed British Gentleman And His Dragon.
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Temeraire gifts Laurence an ornate antique Chinese dao sword at the end of Throne of Jade, since he lost his old dress sword at the beginning of the book and has been stuck with a battered old cutlass ever since. He winds up having to use the sword in combat when aiding the Prussians a book later, against a French aviator boarding Temeraire, and it cuts the boarder's head off with no resistance. Laurence is left completely stunned and gawking at the body for a few seconds until his midwingman cuts the boarder's body loose.
  • Acid Attack: Certain breeds of dragon, such as the Longwings, are capable of spitting highly corrosive acid from bony nozzles growing from the sides of their jaws, an ability that makes them highly valuable in war. They are descended from naturally occurring poison-spitting dragons, which were selectively bred for stronger poison until this became so concentrated as to become actively corrosive.
  • Action Girl: See Action Mom and consider all the childless female aviators and dragons there must be.
  • Action Mom: Female aviators with children (read: most female aviators) remain in combat. Since dragons almost always outlive their captains, said captains are expected to have children who will hopefully be amenable to the dragon after the original captain's death. Since one very valuable breed of dragon, the acid-spitting Longwing, will only accept female captains, Action Moms are probably rather common. Also, technically speaking, any female dragons that have laid eggs which have hatched.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms
    • In His Majesty's Dragon, Laurence pets a young Temeraire's recently-sprouted facial tendrils, only to realise from his reaction that they are clearly an erogenous zone.
    • Early on in Black Powder War, Temeraire bathes in a mountain lake, and innocently reveals afterwards that he had a bit too much fun frolicking on the rocks in the water - prompting Granby hastily to order the crew to pour out the water they've just fetched from the lake for drinking.
  • Aerith and Bob: Played with. American dragons often have human names with both a given and surname, with many of them melding European and tribal names. African dragons (at least the ones with the Tswana) have human names as well, as they're believed to be reincarnations of great members of the tribe. European dragons, however, tend to have impressive Latin (or Canis Latinicus) names because they're typically chosen by young men who think they sound cool, making Lily the Longwing stand out as one of very few British-born dragons whose name doesn't follow this pattern. Even the titular Temeraire was named after a ship.
  • Alien Blood: Dragon blood is near-black, a trait shared with sea serpents and bunyips. This implies that all three share a common ancestor — though nobody really comments on it, as the series takes place during the Napoleonic Wars, forty years before Charles Darwin codified the theory of evolution.
  • All There in the Manual: According to a drabble Novik wrote on her Livejournal, Tharkay's English father tried to name him George, of all things, which his Nepalese mother's side of the family deeply disapproved of. Rather understandably, Tharkay does not answer to that name, and since both of his parents are dead before the story even starts and no one ever appears in the books who would even be aware of the moniker, there's no reason for it to ever come up.
  • Alpha Bitch: Miss Montagu is a sort of proto-Alpha Bitch. Though sitting beside him at dinner, she ignores Laurence, in his parents' own house, right to the edge of rudeness, entirely because he was an aviator. Later she makes a point of telling him his ex-sorta-fiancee had gotten married while he was fighting for England.
  • Alternate History: For obvious reasons. The presence of dragons results in a kind of Fix Fic to some of the worst tragedies of the imperialism. Although the British still control India and use opium as a trade tool against China (and the Ottoman Empire and Russia are no vacation destination either), China is still powerful, the Tswana in Africa could claim to be the strongest nation in the world, the Inca in South America likewise remain extremely formidable despite the depopulation caused by European diseases, the United States has colonists and natives working in harmony with dragons, and Australia, whose natives put together a trade network with China, casually declares independence and keeps it. Even Napoleon's tyranny in France is begrudgingly admitted by Laurence to at least be getting put to better use in many ways than Britain's own petty, short-sighted government. Blood of Tyrants reveals that the President of the United States is Tecumseh, suggesting better relations between Native Americans and settlers. In addition, Alexander Hamilton is implied to still be alive in 1812 and to have run for (but lost) the presidency (though whether he survived the fateful duel or it never happened is never mentioned).

    Golden Age and Other Stories gives us an alternate history of this alternate history, one where Temeraire's egg wound up on the shores of a small island rather than in Laurence's care, where he is raised by a pack of ferals and taken to piracy, which Laurence comes to put an end to. Laurence is still a captain on the Reliant, Riley is his second, and for some reason O'dea is part of the crew instead of being sent to the Australian penal colony.
  • Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: The dragons all come in a variety of colors and stripes, and the dragons in South America even come in colorful feathers. Chinese dragons, however, are noted for their solid coloring over their bodies.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The series ends with Napoleon and Lien defeated, Laurence and Temeraire restored to fortune and respectability, and a standing invitation from Tharkay for them to settle on his lands where Temeraire would be the only civil dragon in a newly established Parliamentary district. While the main conficts have been resolved, the fight for full rights for dragons continues.
  • Animal Wrongs Group: Played with. In Blood Of Tyrants, the French officer Murat — a personal favorite of Napoleon— unleashes the starved feral dragons from Russia's breeding grounds, which has devastating effects on the enemy's supply lines and innocent peasantry. Murat defends himself to Laurence by asking, quite justly, how anyone could look at the starving, hobbled beasts and not want to free them on the spot. Laurence replies that by freeing them to such a destructive aim, all Murat has done is guarantee that all of these dragons will be ruthlessly exterminated, sooner or later. It's very likely that Murat's true motives are a combination of compassion and military cunning.
  • Anti-Climax: League of Dragons has some interesting developments with Temeraire's and Iskierka's egg, but the plot derails considerably for a duel with a mad baron that contributes nothing to the plot. The book does not end spectacularly, in that there is no "final epic confrontation" the series has been building up to, though there is a great battle that breaks the back of Napoleon's forces and coalition. Napoleon has lost his formidable momentum showcased in the previous titles, being beaten back and cannot manage any offensive. Lien herself does nothing bold or desperate in her quest for revenge against the titular character and/or his captain, save perhaps the initial stealing of Iskierka and Temeraire's egg.
    • Lampshaded, as Laurence is thoroughly annoyed with the official embellishments of the battle that elevated his and Temeraire's contributions (significant but not something any other heavyweight couldn't have accomplished) while marginalizing the Tswana's (whose unexpected support made the victory possible).
    • Many of the last battles in League of Dragons aren't even depicted. It just cuts straight to their victory. This includes the final showdown between Lien and Temeraire, which the reader is only told in hindsight was an easy win for Temeraire.
  • Appetite = Health: Among other symptoms, the sick dragons in Empire of Ivory lose their appetites, which actually exacerbates their illness due to malnutrition. In the case of Regal Coppers, they waste away until they can no longer support their own weight and suffocate. Their human companions try to fight this by over-spicing their food so they can still enjoy it despite their deadened sense of taste.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: In Tongues of Serpents, Temeraire wonders how Laurence can believe in the Holy Spirit while scoffing at claims that the men were being dragged off by vengeful spirits in the desert. After all, if you profess the existence of one spirit, why are others out of the question?
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Right when things are bleakest in Victory of Eagles, Tharkay shows up and asks, "Laurence, what are you doing?"
  • Ascended Fanfic: This is basically a fanfiction of the Aubrey-Maturin series that got changed heavily and got made into a book, according to Word of God.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Iskierka and the ferals tend towards the hyperactive. And bling-loving, though the latter is fairly common among dragons.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Granby grows increasingly mortified by his lack of control over Iskierka as she does everything from outfit him in outrageous and impractical Bling of War to try and marry him off without his permission. He finally confronts her and tells her to behave more practically... and reminds her the greatest treasure he could ever want is her. She, in turn, insists that her efforts were for his benefit and not just because she wanted to show him off.
  • Big Bad: Napoleon, of course, at least from the POV of the British. Whenever we actually see him, he's characterized as an Affably Evil Anti-Villain.
  • Big Eater: Proportionally, dragon hatchlings in general. Temeraire managed to put away his weight in meat within a day of hatching. (This, of course, is necessary for the rapid growth that characterizes young dragons). In absolute terms full-grown dragons may qualify as well given that a heavyweight would call a whole cow every third day short commons. Kulingile is at the far end of the bell-curve. When he was a hatchling, he practically ate his weight in kangaroo meat several times over. Even after adolescence, he is more focused on food than any of the other dragons (which is saying something!).
  • Bilingual Bonus: There's not much, but occasionally there are snippets of a non-English language transcribed.
  • Blasé Boast: In the Encyclopedia Exposita piece from Black Powder War, the Reverend Salcombe humblebrags about his own puny accomplishments in draconic studies in comparison to the impressive depth of knowledge shown by Sir Edward Howe for a long paragraph... before launching into his "thesis", which insults everyone who doesn't think dragons are, in terms of intellect, roughly equivalent with a particularly intelligent dog. The Reverend appears in the first chapter of Victory of Eagles in person, but Temeraire knows of his work and refuses to even grant him an interview unless he can solve a very simple geometry problem (specifically, an application of the Pythagorean Theorem). Rev. Salcombe does not get an interview. (Though Temeraire finds himself regretting the loss of intellectual stimulation.)
  • Bleed 'em and Weep: During the Last Stand in Throne of Jade, Emily and Dyer kill their first man, who had attacked Keynes- Dyer knocks the attacker over, and Emily slits his throat with one of Keynes's surgical instruments. Afterwards, the little ensigns, no older than twelve or so, have to drop out of the battle for a few minutes to vomit in a corner.
  • Bling of War: The dragons take after the more Western stereotype of favoring gold, riches, and shiny things, and certainly appreciate a little sparkle to their battle gear. Victory of Eagles even has Temeraire convince some authority figures to give ranks to the dragons, as shown in the epaulettes stitched to their harnesses.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Most dragons have some shade of this. Dragons explicitly don't care about nations, politics, honor, or even humans aside from their captains unless they're taught to. The only thing they all can seem to agree on is that stealing eggs is an unconscionable crime (even if they care nothing for hatchlings).
  • Bond Creatures: Emotional rather than psychic, and Victory of Eagles has several examples of how this doesn't always work out. The hope that descendants will take on the bond after death doesn't always hold either; Rankin was supposed to be the third captain of long-timer Celeritas, who had served with his family for two generations, but Celeritas chose to go captainless instead of letting the asshole ride him, and Rankin ended up as a courier, until his dragon dies and he gets a new one more suited to his temperament.
  • Break Them by Talking: When Lien meets Temeraire after the death of Prince Yongxing, Lien delivers a very matter-of-fact speech in which she specifies that she does not wish to kill Temeraire.
    Lien: ...I will not kill you, or your captain... I will see you bereft of all that you have, of home and happiness and beautiful things. I will see your nation cast down and your allies drawn away. I will see you as alone and friendless and wretched as am I; and then you may live as long as you like, in some dark and lonely corner of the earth, and I will call myself content.
  • Breather Episode: Tongues of Serpents has little in the way of dramatic plot advancement, and is more about our heroes settling into their new life while Europe's power in the wider world begins to dwindle dramatically.
  • Brick Joke:
    • At the beginning of Black Powder War, there is a fire aboard the Allegiance that damages the dragon-transport ship enough to delay Laurence and Temeraire's departure from China for at least a month, and which smoke-damages Laurence's normal bottle-green aviator's coat. He has to dress up for a dinner, however, and nobody on his crew has a coat that will fit him in the shoulders, so he has to make do with a padded silk Chinese-style tunic-coat with embroidered cuffs that slightly inflames his sense of impropriety. At the dinner, a couple people make some remarks about aviators and Laurence supposedly styling himself a Chinese prince, which offends Laurence and Granby, but that's about it. One book and a full in-story year later, Laurence, Temeraire, and crew finally arrive home in Dover near the start of Empire of Ivory and meet Jane, who remarks, "You are a damned sight; whatever has happened to your coat?" And then you realize that he wore a padded Chinese-style silken coat for a full year while tromping through China and the desert, putting up with Tharkay's initial hostility, meeting the Sultan in Istanbul, breaking into the harem bathhouse and escaping Istanbul with the dragon eggs, fighting through Prussia for months on end in the mud and rain and putting up with their command, conveying the king and queen of Prussia to safety, and finally escaping back to England with hundreds of Prussian soldiers and feral dragons in tow and the French on their tail.
    • Iskierka is told that in order to have "capital" (which she understands to be treasure) she must capture enemy ships. This leads to a cute bit where she steals a fisherman's boat and the other dragons need to return it, and nothing much more is made of it while Laurence and Temeraire go off on their adventure through Africa. A few hundred pages later, however, they return and find that Iskierka and Arkady's ferals have made a regular habit of seizing French ships, and that she's won five Prizes from thim since they've left, all of her own accord as her captain Granby can't stop her.
  • Brutal Honesty: Most dragons are frank and straightforward, finding little or no reason to lie, although they understand obfuscation and omission. This causes Laurence a lot of embarrassment, when Temeraire just won't shut up about uncomfortable subjects.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Literally; see Fantastic Racism. In Britain, dragons raised there from the egg simply don't feel that they are being mistreated (except in certain cases of obvious abuse/neglect) until Temeraire comes back from China and tells them about how dragons are full citizens with their own property and rank. In Russia, however, their methods of dragon control are far less subtle.
  • Call-Back: In Blood of Tyrants, Laurence ends up repeating the "Friends, Romans, Countrymen" speech from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar to a dragon, and remarks that there's a dragon present in the scene. This is a nod to the short story "Vici", where Marc Anthony becomes the first person in the Western world to harness a dragon; albeit accidentally.
  • Changeling Fantasy: Temeraire is for all intents and purposes a Chinese prince growing up as a common (okay, not-so-common) British Beast of Battle.
    • Inverted from the Chinese point of view in-universe, who don't approve of Temeraire fighting.
  • Changing of the Guard: We switch to Temeraire's POV while Laurence is indisposed in Victory of Eagles. From that point on they share the spotlight, even switching perspectives in the middle of scenes.
  • Child Soldiers: Children begin their time in the Aerial Corps as cadets from the age of seven, far younger than the Navy's required age of twelve. Not much angst involved though; if anything, the profession would mean better prospects for the children, especially in the Corps, where most of the children are illegitimately-born or from lower standing.
  • Childhood Marriage Promise: Laurence and a girl he knew, Edith, made a half-serious marriage proposal when he was thirteen and she was nine, just before he went off to join the Navy. Given that this occurred in early nineteenth century Britain and both parties are from minor nobility, their families regarded this as something of an actual engagement. But when he became an aviator at thirty, his prospects and suitability greatly reduced by it, they had to call it off.
  • Children Raise You: Laurence has had to reevaluate many of his preconceptions about dragons, morals and other nations over the years when he found he couldn't justify them to Temeraire, who never met a tradition he didn't question.
  • The Complainer Is Always Wrong: Subverted. Requiescat, a dragon bully and a Big Eater, is not as supportive of Temeraire's insistence on forming the other dragons into a militia, asking, "Treasure and battles are all well and good, but what d'you mean to do for dinner?" After a Gilligan Cut, we next see Temeraire... trying to figure out how to keep a hundred dragons fed.
    "Supply-lines," Gentius said, dolefully, shaking his head. "War is all about supply-lines; my third captain told me."
  • Contrived Coincidence: While most of the other books handle this lightly, there are two critical ones that relate directly to the fourth book, Empire of Ivory. First, Temeraire happens to be in just the right spot two books prior to accidentally ingest the cure for the lethal disease devastating his homeland, and second, Temeraire's crew just happens to have with them a long-lost daughter of the Tswana.
  • Court-Martialed
    • A captain whose dragon is killed is automatically court-martialed in much the same way that naval captains are automatically court-martialled for losing a ship. (In the rare event that they survive, that is. Typically they fall to their deaths with the dragon.)
    • Laurence himself is court-martialed for treason between books four and five for giving the cure for the dragon plague to France and found guilty.
  • Crossing the Desert: They cross the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts from China to Turkey in Black Powder War, and through the Australian Outback in Tongues of Serpents.
  • Cultural Posturing: The Chinese toward Europe (and fair enough, considering that in China, dragons are ordinary citizens and accorded all due rights and protections), and a bit from Temeraire regarding a heavyweight trying to bully him: "My ancestors were scholars in China when his were starving in pits." (Seemingly a reference to Benjamin Disraeli's epic Cultural Posturing, as recorded on that trope's page: "My people were kings and princes, when yours were galley slaves.")
  • Cunning Linguist: Dragons absorb languages they hear in the shell at a very accelerated rate. With most breeds this ability fades a few weeks after hatching, but Imperials and Celestials retain it over their entire life. This usually leads to Temeraire serving as translator when the crew are in unfamiliar territory; he can typically hold a conversation within a few days of hearing a new language.
  • Diamonds in the Buff: Downplayed and combined with Fan Disservice in Empire of Ivory. At a fundraiser party for the Aerial Corps, Temeraire compliments an aging noblewoman in a low-cut dress in the style of her youth on her vulgar, gaudy emerald necklace, which happens to be the only thing covering her bosom.
  • Deathbringer the Adorable: Dragons tend to have grandiose names, due to their namers often being teenagers, that sometimes don't match with their personalities or sizes, such as a Winchester courier named "Devastatio". This can also devolve into Canis Latinicus; "Volatilus" is derived from the Latin word meaning "swift" or "winged" (both of which apply to Volly, a courier dragon) but isn't properly conjugated.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: All over the place. Because it's set in the early 1800s, the abolition of slavery is extremely controversial, female captains in the Aerial Corps have to be kept secret for fear of scandal, and single parents are regarded with horror.
    • Since the central characters are British, Napoleon is going to be an antagonist by default—even when the British government is clearly unjust in treating dragons as animals and Napoleon seems quite reasonable by comparison, embracing the idea of draconic rights as soon as Lien comes to France. However, Laurence and many of his compatriots start questioning the morality of their government (especially after the events of the fifth book). And in any case, Laurence's primary objection to Napoleon is that the guy is trying to conquer Europe, which naturally results in death and deprivation for most of the continent.
    • Humans and dragons are often at cross-purposes when it comes to priorities. Laurence shakes his head over Temeraire's materialism and how easily swayed dragons are by the promise of flash and riches. Temeraire, meanwhile, can't understand how Laurence could value honor over ten thousand pounds, to the point where he thinks Laurence is lying in an attempt to assuage his guilt.
    • Dragons and humans have very different ideas about parental responsibilities. Dragons just don't seem to get why human children should be so useless after they're born, while any healthy dragonette is perfectly capable of looking after itself once it's decided to hatch. This is used as a recurring source of humor throughout the series.
    • And there is culture shock among dragons themselves, mainly between the old world and the new world. Thanks to European diseases like smallpox ravaging the human population, Incan dragons now value people far above gold. This becomes a minor issue when they go into battle as they can be held hostage with any member of their crew, not just the captain.
  • Determined Widow: Mrs. Pemberton in Crucible of Gold.
  • Did They or Didn't They?: Emily and Demane in Crucible of Gold, after returning from finding the pirate ship and running headlong into the mutiny attempt. Emily never actually denies they did anything else besides explore the island. Blood Of Tyrants implies they didn't, as Emily laments not having done anything before they are to be separated. Golden Age and Other Stories confirms that Demane turned her down— which Roland firmly blames Laurence for.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": A very sneaky example; one of Temeraire's older formation-mates is a Yellow Reaper dragon called Messoria. Messor is Latin for 'reaper'.
  • Dope Slap: Temeraire was on the receiving end on one occasion from Obversaria, a smaller but wiser dragon, for running off halfcocked when he believed Laurence was in danger.
  • Dragon Hoard: Dragons are naturally inclined to collect shiny things, with actual value an important but ultimately secondary concern. However, only Russian dragons present with true hoards: sleeping on them and being enraged by tiny bits of it going missing included.
  • Dragon Rider: The entire concept of the series. However, people ride dragons in a different manner than most books; for example, they almost always have crews, each person fulfills a different duty, the handler is mostly there for guiding the dragon, and getting boarded is often a hazard in battles. There's a strong, and probably intentional, resemblance between the Royal Air Corps of this series and the bombers of World War II.
  • Dramatic Irony: Briefly in Victory of Eagles as Novik uses the Switching P.O.V. between Temeraire and Laurence, so while the reader knows Laurence isn't dead, Temeraire still thinks so. Blood of Tyrants, on the other hand, lives on this for a good two parts of the book, and it is brutal. One would expect so since Laurence doesn't remember the last 8 years of his life, so he has no idea he's an aviator, is Temeraire's captain, his best friend is dead, that he's a prince of China—Oh, and that he committed treason, an act that directly led to the invasion of England by Napoleon.
  • Dream Team: Though they aren't always together, Temeraire's circle of friends includes some of the most intelligent, experienced, or dangerous dragons in the world.
  • Eagleland: Laurence takes a few jabs at America in His Majesty's Dragon, thinking if Temeraire continues on his path he'll be complaining about taxation without representation and throwing tea into the harbor. In later books one learns that the Americans have not really militarized their handful of allied dragons—they tend toward self-employment as couriers, freight carriers and so forth, although at least some of them are also members of the local militias. This is compatible with the early colonists' moral opposition to a standing army: similar standards would naturally apply to a militant dragon corps that could be so easily employed in a coup. Their integration into society is complete enough that they are permitted to own and manage large trading companies, and they're even named like the humans around them, with both given names and surnames.
  • Easy Logistics: Constantly averted. A running subject that gets mentioned at least a couple of times per book is the inherent difficulty of keeping multi-tonne flying carnivores fed, innovating solutions to this is a major advantage to whoever comes up with them, and in Blood of Tyrants the lack of proper infrastructure poses considerable problems for the Chinese reinforcements sent to aid Russia even before the starving inmates of the latter's breeding grounds are set loose.
  • Egg McGuffin
  • Eternal Sexual Freedom: Used rarely and always justified. Dragons are too important for anything short of treason to be levied at their captains, so aviators live in "a sort of outrageous libertinage" (as the rest of the world sees it)—not constantly having orgies by any means but quite happy to receive casual sex, even in some cases from direct subordinates or superiors. Captains of the longer-lived breeds are encouraged to provide a child or two to the Corps, however they can, to be potential future captains for their dragon. Even an illegitimate female child has a chance of being a good thing.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Directed towards dragons. Used in a somewhat Anvilicious manner, because the series also enumerates the many forms of very real human discrimination still in place in 19th-century Britain, but because this often has to be brought home to the creatures-of-their-time characters, not the reader, it's also Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped—parallels are drawn between the fight for draconic and various types of human rights, but they are never equated and the fights take place at different times and places. It also varies from culture to culture. Britain is comparable to Europe outside of France's sphere of influence, Russia is reputed to be even worse, the Islamic world has long regarded Dragons as having souls, Napoleon and Lien have instituted considerable reforms in France, China regards them as (large, winged, thumbless) citizens of various stations according to their capabilities, and dragons are actually revered as returned ancestors among the Tswana of Africa.
    • Among the Inca, in ages past there was a normal tribal structure among the humans, and having a dragon as a member of your tribe was seen as a sign of great status, and an indication of remarkable capabilities to have attracted them. Now, various plagues have reduced the human population to the point where virtually every tribe has a dragon as its chief, and having a great many men is seen as a sign of status for the dragons and kidnappings are unfortunately common among dragons who seek to increase their own group or replace losses from disease. It's not quite to the point of slavery, but many of the draconic citizens do seem to view their people as possessions.
    • As of Blood of Tyrants, we learn what Russia is like: their heavyweights are colossal and have treasure heaped upon them after every battle. They're also spurred on by their handlers with violence (one man nearly takes off Napoleon's head with a well-placed stab to his dragon), and the tiny lightweights are knocked around by the heavyweights and whipped by the humans in between being forced to fly all over carrying messages and bringing food and water to the heavyweights, while fed only on scraps the heavyweights don't want. They endure it because if they don't they'll be sent to the breeding grounds. Temeraire and Laurence wonder why they wouldn't just flee the grounds, and later learn the reason. The dragons in the breeding grounds are chained with hobbles similar to the one Arkady was held prisoner in earlier in the book, injuring them and preventing them from even flying, and fed even less. The Russians don't change their ways quickly enough to prevent the French from using this against them.
  • Fantastic Religious Weirdness: Pops up from time to time, although dragons tend not to be religious. In Empire of Ivory, for example, Laurence has a brief discussion with a preacher about whether dragons are included with humans in original sin. The two of them conclude that that is not the case, as dragons are not mentioned in the story of Adam and Eve. (The preacher also mentions that he doubts the serpent and dragons are connected, because the serpent was cursed to crawl, and dragons, of course, fly.)
  • Feathered Dragons: Zig-zagged. Most of the world's dragons are scaled, but the Mesoamerican breeds have colourful full-body plumage. This causes a minor altercation in the seventh book when an Incan dragon says that Temeraire's glossy black scales, of which he's very proud, look like he was horribly burnt.
  • Field Promotion
    • Granby is field-promoted near the end of Black Powder War from Laurence's lieutenant and second-in-command to Captain in the middle of a warzone in Prussia upon harnessing Iskierka, matching Laurence in rank. The promotion is confirmed at the beginning of Empire of Ivory once they return home to Dover, with a minor ceremony of Laurence pinning the second set of bars befitting a captain to Granby's coat.
    • Demane 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. The Corps eventually confirms his promotion by the final book, League of Dragons, so that he can be dispatched against Napoleon.
  • Fingore: In Blood of Tyrants, Tharkay is held in captivity and his fingers are broken as he's tortured for information.
  • First-Episode Twist: Temeraire is from China. He's originally identified as an Imperial, but his sonic attack identifies him as a Celestial—one of, it is believed, less than two score alivenote —and was meant to be Napoleon's personal steed. Of course, this raises the question of why China was sending a valuable, nay priceless, dragon to France...
  • First-Name Basis: In stark contrast to literally everyone else in the cast and even the other cadets/ensigns/midwingmen around their age, Demane and Sipho are consistently referred to by first name only in defiance of the Last-Name Basis custom of the time period (although this is likely because both brothers are kept together on the same captain's crew). Their surname, Dlamini, is literally only revealed twice- the first time in the Encyclopedia Exposita piece at the end of Empire of Ivory, which is written by Sipho some twenty or thirty years after that book, and the second time in the final book of the series.
  • Fish out of Water: Temeraire, Laurence, their crew, and their companions, as they journey into various territories and are exposed to cultures often radically different from England.
  • Flashback Nightmare: Temeraire has nightmares about losing Laurence his fortune.
    Temeraire still woke occasionally with a start from dreams in which he heard Roland saying again, “He has lost his fortune,” and found the eyes of all his friends upon him accusingly, horrified, as they all repeated in unison, “Ten thousand pounds.”
  • Fluffy the Terrible: In direct contrast to her cohorts, who generally have grandiose-sounding Canis Latinicus-esque names, Lily's name is short, not Latin, and fits her almost ladylike personality as one of the kindest and most affectionate dragons. She is also a Longwing, Britain's most deadly breed, with scary-looking face-spurs that spray acid that eats through stone and flesh at a truly alarming rate. There's also "Kulingile," whose name means "all is well"... and is going to be, it is believed, the biggest dragon in all of Christendom. (Which puts him in the running for biggest dragon period, since other cultures aren't quite as obsessed with breeding for maximum size as the West.)
  • Foil: Laurence and Temeraire are the most prominent examples, with Laurence's rational, honourable behaviour contrasting Temeraire's unrestrained romanticism. The series also likes to introduce minor characters that serve as foils to them both:
    • Rankin, like Laurence, is from nobility and went through life thinking of dragons are beasts to be tamed. However, Rankin never came to see dragons as people, as he lacks the sense of ethics that prompted Laurence to adjust his thinking.
    • Temeraire has foils in the other Celestials. His brother and mother are both scholarly companions to Chinese royalty and seem a bit put off by his battle scars and love of fighting. With Lien it was almost intentional: he was sent away from a life of luxury in China for political expediency, while she chose to abandon said life in China and deliberately set herself up in France in opposition to Temeraire. (To say nothing of their obvious color contrast, most Celestials being black and Lien being an albino.)
    • Riley and Granby were both first lieutenants to Laurence at very different stages of his life, and their differing attitudes reflect that.
  • Food Porn: From the second book onwards the series starts getting these descriptions as Temeraire becomes more critical of what he eats.
  • Foreshadowing
    • In His Majesty's Dragon, after meeting Celeritas, an unharnessed dragon who nonetheless is trusted to train both dragons and humans, Laurene is stunned by the implications. Public knowledge of dragons is that unharnessed or feral dragons are useless for anything but breeding and that only a harnessed dragon can be trusted. (Celeritas had two captains, but refused a third when he saw what a pillock he was.) He then remembers a proposal put forward in Parliament to exterminate all unharnessed dragons in Britain, including the ones in the breeding grounds, to save money. The rumor was that it was only stopped because every Admiral descended on London at once to reveal that the Corps would mutiny if any such thing occurred. This reflection is used to demonstrate how Laurence's opinion is already changing—he had thought the proposal wrong, but only as the sort of bureaucratic short-sightedness that would risk a ship costing thousands of pounds to save ten shillings on sailcloth. He also hadn't believed the rumors, even with stories of the lack of discipline in the Aerial Corps—but now considered his own indifference with horror. Of course they would have rebelled; how could they not? But aside from these considerations of character, the passage also foreshadows future actions, such as the attempt at turning the dragon plague into a bioweapon, and Laurence and Temeraire's own reactions to these plots.
    • During their discussion on freeing the inmates of the Russian breeding grounds (or else), General Kutuzov agrees with Laurence in principle but warns that they cannot be released unless a steady food supply is worked out and cites a bit of artwork on a nearby wall as an example of Russian fears dating from as recently as the late 1600s. Laurence looks at the scene depicted and notes that even the most vicious dragon would not bother with a frightened maiden of six or seven stone (84-98 pounds) with 100 stone (1400 pounds) of freshly killed horse at its feet, whereupon Kutuzov bluntly replies "There were not always horses." A few weeks later, after a hundred-odd three-quarter-starved dragons are cut loose and pointed at the Russian supply train by Marshal Murat, several, stymied by the troops defending their food...went for the hospital tents.
  • Fragile Speedster: The courier or lightweight class of dragons were bred solely to be as quick as possible and are generally manned by a single officer. They usually aren't deployed in battle because they would easily be defeated by midweight and heavyweight dragons, but they can generally outfly them, and so in war are most commonly scouts. In Blood of Tyrants, the Russian Cossacks have "flyweight" dragons, and they work as irregulars and skirmishers.
  • Freudian Excuse: As revealed in Blood of Tyrants, Russian dragons are indeed the savage bloodthirsty creatures most Europeans regard dragons in general as... then we see that they spend their formative years pinioned, half-starved at best, and largely treated with the sort of abuse that would make most humans psychotic.
  • Frivolous Lawsuit: Laurence loses his life savings after the "traders" he and Temeraire retrieved from outside the ruins of a British slave port sued over them cutting loose the two-hundred odd slaves they still had chained up (they were less polite about the matter than they could have been, but there was no way to secure them on a ship already packed with refugees from the destruction of Cape Colony).
  • Fully-Clothed Nudity: In His Majesty's Dragon, when Laurence meets Jane Roland for the first time, he immediately goes into a minor panic because he's not wearing his coat, his shirt isn't tucked in, and his neckcloth is untied, which his upperclass manners absolutely mandate when meeting a lady in public.
  • Gay Euphemism: In Crucible of Gold, a Closet Gay captain admits to a confidant that he's an "invert", an actual archaic term for a gay person. Justified because the time of the books predates the modern meaning of the word "gay" and the coining of "homosexuality", although in real life, "invert" wasn't used until later in the century either.
  • Genius Bruiser: Most dragons, emphasized the larger they get. Many dragons often delight at thinking over or debating mathematical problems, and can do complex computations without a need for pen and paper. Laurence eventually weaponizes this trait to keep large groups of unruly ferals in line... by minutely detailing the distribution of prize shares after successful battles.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: Although he doesn't slap him, Tharkay's discussion with Laurence at the end of Victory of Eagles has much the same effect and intentions.
  • Glass Cannon: The Spanish Flecha-Del-Fuego breed is a lightweight-class fire-breather.
  • Good Bad Girl: The female aviators, rather like the male ones, tend to have more of this than might be expected. See also Eternal Sexual Freedom.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Laurence's father Lord Allendale is an unpleasant snob who treats his son with coldness and contempt, but he's also an ardent campaigner for the abolition of slavery.
  • Green-Eyed Monster
    • Dragons can get jealous very easily over another dragon's wealth, but they get especially jealous with the attentions of their captains. The spouses or other loved ones of aviators find that they also have to compete with the aviator's multi-tonne dragon for their attention.
    • Temeraire is this for part of Blood of Tyrants, but considering that at the time Laurence is suffering from amnesia and doesn't have as strong a bond with Temeraire, it's not surprising that he's over-reacting to anything that could separate them.
    • Iskierka appears to do this in Blood of Tyrants when Lung Qin Mei enters the scene in an attempt to breed a new Celestial companion for Mianning, but in her case she's more offended that her own egg from Temeraire is being passed over.
  • Groin Attack: Harcourt mentions in passing that she once poured coffee into the lap of a man sitting beside her who wouldn't stop bothering her. At her male conversation partners' aghast reactions, she says she would have struck him instead, but she would have had to get up and rearrange her fancy gown upon sitting down again.
  • Half-Breed Discrimination: Since Tharkay is half-Nepalese but educated by his high-born British father, he's discriminated against in English society and always a little out of place in Asian society. There's little or none of this in dragon society, as feral dragons interbreed as they will and human dragon breeders are always looking to experiment with new crossbreeds that might prove advantageous; the only prejudice comes when the result of a pairing isn't perceived useful.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: The casual, if period accurate, use of "my dear" among male friends. The word "queer" is also used to mean strange.
  • Hero of Another Story: The series is crowded with characters who would be quite acceptable protagonists.
    • Senior Captain and later Admiral Jane Roland. Whenever she gets deployed somewhere offscreen, you can count on something awesome happening.
    • Tharkay seems like a pulp hero in the tradition of Allen Quatermain or Indiana Jones.
    • Prince Yongxing, if the story were told from his point of view, might come off as an intriguing, doomed antihero.
    • Emily Roland is another contender. The whole Temeraire series would be a prequel, in this case—showing her early years before becoming Excidium's captain.
  • Heroic Bastard: Quite common among the Corps, but particularly Captain Harcourt and Emily Roland. It's not like the dragons care.
  • Heroic BSoD: Laurence, during almost all of Victory of Eagles as he struggles to deal with his actions in the last book and being called a traitor.
    • Laurence again, briefly, in Blood of Tyrants. He relearns, rather improperly from Temeraire, that he had committed treason during the 8-year window that is presently a gap in his memory. This knowledge nearly drives him over the edge, causing his comrades to become greatly concerned for his wellbeing. This, in turn, results in a Heroic BSoD for Temeraire: witnessing Laurence's reaction made him realize just how heavy a role he played in all the recent misfortunes in Laurence's life, making him believe that he is undeserving of Laurence as he only does him no good. A damn good thing that it doesn't stick for long after.
  • Historical Domain Character:
  • Historical Fantasy: Dragons in the Napoleonic Wars! There are some changes made to history (see Fix Fic, above) as a consequence.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade/Historical Villain Upgrade:
    • Thoroughly subverted. Considering the genre, setting and background of the human main character, you would expect that the longer survival of Admiral Nelson would be a good thing and that Napoleon would be vilified, but it turns out that Nelson delays the outlawing of slavery, finding it a Necessary Evilnote , and Napoleon is described rather positively for being the Big Bad.
    • Later in the series, The Duke of Wellington arrives. He's unspeakably rude and a Manipulative Bastard, but also the first Briton to reject, without prior evangelization, the Fantastic Racism leveled against dragons. (He also has the astounding track record of being the first character to make multiple dragons see reason.)
  • Hypocrite: Captain Poole is quite the insufferable oaf, hating Laurence for not following government's orders, i.e. treason. Never mind that Laurence was committing treason to save dragons from a wasting death that Poole's own dragon doubtless came close to enduring.
  • I Didn't Mean to Turn You On: Turns out the whiskers growing around Temeraire's mouth are an erogenous area. As Laurence casually fondles them, he is mortified to realize that Temeraire really likes being touched there.
  • Idiot Ball: invoked by Admiral Roland later in the series. This is after Laurence and Temeraire have returned to England and been convicted for treason. While most people are mad at them for violating "My Master, Right or Wrong," Jane holds no such compunctions: she wholeheartedly agrees that Laurence made the right choice in being Good rather than Lawful. The problem is that he did it publicly with banners flying, taking a number of his subordinates down with him... as opposed to simply sneaking some mushrooms to one of the captured French soldiers and "allowing" that man to escape.
  • Inappropriately Close Comrades: Lack of concern about this sort of thing this is part of the more relaxed attitude taken by the Aerial Corps relative to other branches of the military.
  • Intoxication Ensues
    • In Throne of Jade, Temeraire gets drunk on a sauce made from a mushroom found while they're in Capetown. (Given the mushroom's medicinal properties, it could be seen as analogous to any number of modern medicines that can result in altered states of mind when indulged in.)
    • Hammond becomes quite fond of a certain South American leaf after taking a remedy for getting airsick, as advised by Churki in Crucible of Gold.
  • Improbable Antidote: The mushrooms in Empire Of Ivory. Largely justified as the idea of trying strong-tasting, smelly, or bitter herbs and foods as potential cures is basically the way pre-modern medicine worked. It took many days of such trial and error to find one that worked.
  • In Spite of a Nail
    • Has an interesting tension with For Want of a Nail. Having dragons for the entirety of recorded history hasn't actually changed that much; European history seems basically the same up to the Napoleonic wars. In Africa and the Americas, the differences from actual history are considerably larger—for example, while the Incas and other American peoples were ravaged by European diseases which prevented them from gaining global influence and allowed European colonization of plagued-out areas, the addition of dragons allowed them to force out the invaders and made the names "Cortez" and "Pizarro" into cautionary tales. China in this universe, far from being in decline, is a major power that Britain must needs treat with respect (though a great many Englishmen still hold racist attitudes towards the Chinese—and anyone not English, for that matter), and the African human/dragon empire in Empire of Ivory is strong enough to drive the European colonists and slavetraders clean out of sub-Saharan Africa. As noted below in the Meaningful Background Event entry, the Tswana eventually expand their anti-slavery campaign to the Americas, with all the profound implications that carries.
    • In North America, the native Americans and colonists somehow joined forces against the British, and later formed a governemnt, on equal terms; the current president when the story takes place is Tecumseh. Despite this drastic change to American politics, Hamilton was apparently still a leading Federalist figure (and the Federalist party still existed, for that matter!), to the point where one dragon notes that they would have preferred to have him as president.
  • Interspecies Romance: In a non-sexual sense. Handler and dragon are Heterosexual Life-Partners (or Platonic Life-Partners, as appropriate) for all intents and purposes. Much ado is made about how aviators with wives couldn't bear to have to split time between them and their dragon.
  • Interservice Rivalry: As an extension of society in general, the other branches of the British military aren't terribly supportive of the aerial corps. Understandably, the Corps responds by bristling back. The Navy and the Corps in particular seem to share a fair bit of enmity, which makes things rather awkward for Laurence at first.
  • Invincible Villain: Napoleon is perceived by many as completely unstoppable, particularly after his victory at Austerlitz — which even on The Other Wiki is described as "the greatest victory achieved by Napoleon," and "a tactical masterpiece, in the same league as other historic engagements like Cannae or Gaugamela."
  • Is That Cute Kid Yours?: Laurence's father, out of the loop about the presence of women in the Corps, assumes Emily is his son's illegitimate daughter. Awkwardness ensues, since Laurence can't correct the one without revealing the other. Made even worse by the fact that, while Emily isn't his child, he is sleeping with her mother—who finds the whole situation hilarious. (This just causes further confusion in Blood of Tyrants, when he's dealing with amnesia.)
  • It's Raining Men
    • At the climax of His Majesty's Dragon, Napoleon attempts to bypass the British blockade by constructing dragon-carried troop transports while decoying much of the Aerial Corps to Spain. It would have succeeded, were it not for Temeraire's breath weapon kicking in.
    • In Black Powder War, Napoleon and the banished Celestial Lien, who apparently has a spot on his General Staff adapt a form of Chinese mass transit (dragon harnesses with lots of straps for carrying large numbers of passengers) to gain vast mobility advantages during his invasion of Prussia. Temeraire figures it out in Victory of Eagles so that the majority of the English army can avoid the same fate.
  • Irony: "I will see you bereft of all that you have, of home and happiness and beautiful things. I will see your nation cast down and your allies drawn away. I will see you as alone and friendless and wretched as am I; and ''then'' you may live as long as you like, in some dark and lonely corner of the earth, and I will call myself ''content''." In the end, Lien and Napoleon are exiled to the remote St. Helena, where they will spend the rest of their days cut off from everyone else. Napoleon is left a broken man, betrayed by his wife who now rules all of France as regent to his infant son, and with no more allies to speak for him.
  • Just Following Orders: While under charges of treason and sentence of death, Laurence takes an order to Leave No Survivors, but protects his subordinates from accusations of war crimes by having a general give them all signed orders that command them to do what Laurence tells them to, without specifics. This protects his crew by leaving only Laurence—already facing the ultimate penalty—as the only one responsible.
  • Kangaroo Court: Several of those sitting on Captain Laurence's court martial were involved in the plan he and his dragon foiled. Even if he were willing to mount a defense, the fix was in.
  • Karma Houdini: The wicked slavers who screwed over Laurence's first fortune in his absence never face justice. Even worse, the evil ministers in Parliament who devised their genocidal plan for the world's dragons are never even named, nor face their well-deserved retribution.
  • Kicked Upstairs: Emily Roland, after the events of the fourth book force her off of Temeraire's crew, is brought on by one Captain Sanderson (known only for getting beaten out of a promotion to Admiral of the Dover covert by Jane, Emily's mother) as a "Fifth Lookout". Since there are only four directions to look on a dragon, this makes her as necessary as feet on a fish. Small wonder she defects back to Laurence's command when she has the chance.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Napoleon's inability to cut his losses is increasingly evident to Laurence by Blood Of Tyrants. His consort Anahuarque does not have that problem; when it becomes clear her husband is merely prolonging his final defeat at the climax of League of Dragons she subtly sets him up for capture by the Coalition forces in return for letting their son be crowned Emperor of an only somewhat truncated French Empire if he and Lien accept exile to Saint Helena.
  • Land of Dragons: China is depicted as the nation with the most dragons, the best dragons, and the most complete integration of dragons into society.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Laurence in Blood of Tyrants, due to an injury sustained in a storm. At first he doesn't remember who he is, but he quickly remembers everything before finding, hatching, and harnessing Temeraire; as such, he thinks he's still captain of the Reliant. He eventually begins to recover after locating Tharkay in China, whereupon he recalls his aid during Victory of Eagles.
  • Last-Name Basis: All over the place, a given considering the setting. Absolutely everyone refers to Laurence by his last name, including his lover and Temeraire, and himself in his internal narration. The only exceptions are his family and people who have known him since childhood. And Granby and Tharkay.
  • Little Miss Badass: Emily Roland kills her first man at age eleven during the Last Stand in Peking by slitting his throat with a surgical instrument. When attacked by bunyips (burrowing dragons) in Australia a couple years later, she shoots one twice, calmly reloading, while the grown men with her run in fear.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Quite a lot of the conflict in the series lies in the fact that the aviators see themselves as moral compasses to their inhuman if generally benevolent dragons, whereas the politicians who call the shots regard those aviators as monster jockeys.
  • Lizard Folk: The bunyips in Australia are tunneling reptilians.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: A byproduct of the series' globetrotting nature. Each trip introduces new players, new officers, new dragons, etc., etc....
  • Make Me Wanna Shout: The Celestials' "divine wind" is a roar powerful enough to shatter wood and stone and cause avalanches.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Tharkay's parents, a white man and a Nepali woman, which results in Tharkay being ostracised from English society, and feeling unwelcome in Nepal.
  • Mama Bear: Averted. Certainly those cadets' mothers who are also aviators care for them, and will protect them from unfairness, but they tend to be a bit more practical, seeing as how their children are going to go in hard service, and think it's best if said children take knocks so long as said knocks are earned.
  • The Mario: In the appendix of His Majesty's Dragon, Sir Edward Howe explicitly calls out that the Yellow Reapers are often denigrated for being so common, even though the reasons they are so common are what make them invaluable assets. They're clannish and not swift flyers, but on the other hand aren't fastidious about food, are easygoing as a rule, aren't bothered by any but the most extreme weather, and are bred easily with dragons of all sizes, having contributed to nearly every British-bred dragon's bloodline.
  • Married to the Job: Most aviator captains. It's explicitly pointed out that it's hard to fight with a dragon for your spouse's affections.
  • Meaningful Background Event: Tongues of Serpents gives several mentions of events in other lands that don't impact the plot of the book but affected the series going forward, most notably the Tswana expanding their assault on the slave trade into Europe and the Americas.
  • Meaningful Name: Lots of the dragons have these.
    • Iskierka means 'little spark'. In the real world it's the name of a Polish light aircraft.
    • Excidium the Longwing's (i.e. Britain's acid-strewing substitute for a fire breather) name means 'destruction' in Latin.
    • The best example is probably Requiescat the Regal Copper; it means 'to rest' and he's a lazy bastard. However, it is also the R in R.I.P., and he's old and retired.
    • Perscitia is very clever; guess what her name in Latin is.
    • Temeraire is French for "reckless/foolishly brave" ("temerity" is the closest word in English). It was also the name of a French ship that was captured and then used by the Royal Navy, much like Temeraire's egg. This is an Invoked Trope—that's exactly the meaning Laurence had in mind when he named the dragonet who crawled out of that captured shell.
    • "Maximus" is Latin for "biggest" or "greatest", as befits the largest specimen of the largest breed in Europe.
  • Meatgrinder Surgery: Implements for dragon surgery wouldn't look out of place in a forge; standard operating procedure for removing shot is to yank the lead ball out with tongs and then cauterize the wound with a red-hot piece of iron.
  • Medieval Stasis: Invoked and averted. Perscitia realizes that technology is becoming more and more effective, and fights so hard for dragon civil rights because at some point, a gun is going to be effective as a dragon; ergo, dragons are going to lose their place as military beasts sooner or later, and will need to have other options for their lives. It's been made clear that some humans will stoop to 'exterminating animals', so the clock is ticking.
  • Mildly Military: The combination of English society's general wariness of dragons, the practical necessity of physically separating dragons (and by extension their captains and crews) from society at large, the fact that a dragon often won't be useful to the Corps if separated from their captain, and England's dire need for fighting dragons has resulted in the Aerial Corps becoming a uniquely un-military subculture. Aviators aren't court-martialed or removed from their dragons for anything short of treason, and activities that would net a demerit in other branches of the military get little more than a slap on the wrist in the Corps so long as they don't directly affect the dragons. Many aviators willingly sleep around with each other and prostitutes, and nobody much cares if those pairings are between a superior and subordinate, same-sex (so long as it's kept quiet), interracial, out of wedlock, or produce illegitimate children. All but the most basic protocol and formalities have largely been done away with, to the point that most aviators go around in disheveled uniforms and only have the barest notion of how to behave in polite society. The one notable exception is that unlike other branches of the military, dueling is strictly forbidden because it's no good to lose a fighting dragon to their captain dying in a duel.
  • Mirror Reveal: Laurence wakes up on a beach in Japan at the beginning of Blood of Tyrants with no memory of how he got halfway around the world. When he finally sees a mirror, he's shocked at how much older and more scarred he looks; he then asks about the date and learns that his last memories are eight years (and seven books) old.
  • Moe Greene Special: In Throne of Jade, Prince Yongxing is accidentally killed by a huge flying splinter going straight into his eye when a giant wooden stage platform is broken in the midst of a dragon fight.
  • Money Fetish: As in most depictions, dragons are covetous and like to have (and show off) expensive things. However, they're usually pretty fair about it, having a low opinion of thieves and not really understanding the appeal of gambling. They will happily accept gifts, though, to the point of being fairly susceptible to bribery.
  • My Beloved Smother: Temeraire comes off this way to other dragons in Tongues of Serpents when it comes to Rankin trying to harness a dragonette.
    • Churki becomes this way over Hammond and his family after she decides to adopt them, much to hammond's displeasure.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: A very, very common position in the nineteenth century. The trope is generally deconstructed as characters such as Yongxing, Lord Barham, the Sapa Inca, and (to a lesser extent) Moshueshue place their nation's interests above any morality. Laurence is deeply patriotic, but in the course of the books comes to feel that loving his country means helping it to improve its morals, not abandoning his own.
  • Never My Fault: Lien spends most of the series seeking revenge against Laurence and Temeraire for the death of her companion, Prince Yongxing. She never admits that if Yongxing hadn't gone fifteen thousand miles out of his way to involve them in his court intrigues, his death would not have happened.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: How Napoleon inevitably loses the war. Had he not called for a Concord, his potential allies would not have seen how grandiose his plans were in comparison to what he was actually capable of doing. Furthermore, his scheming and blind romanticism allowed the Incan Empress—poised as his wife—to maneuver behind his back, losing him the support of the Incan dragons when the time came and allowing the Empress to rule all of France as regent to his infant son. The combination of the Incan's retreat and the arrival of the Tswana effectively costs Napoleon the war in one fell swoop.
  • No Infantile Amnesia: Not surprisingly given their level of development upon hatching, dragons clearly remember the later parts of their gestation, and learn languages spoken around them while in the egg. Some are even capable of holding off hatching for a few days if they understand it's not a good time to do so.
    Temeraire: "It is not terribly interesting [in the egg], that is why we come out."
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: In Empire of Ivory, after King Mokhachane has Laurence brutally beaten for refusing to give up intelligence on the Atlantic slave trade and the poor guy nearly dies of infection as a result, Prince Moshueshue tries a different tack—he waits for Laurence to heal up before calling for him again, and sits him down for drinks. Unlike most examples of this trope, Laurence willingly answers Moshueshue's questions, and so the prince gets quite a bit of valuable information that goes on to influence the events of later books.
  • The Not-Love Interest: Laurence and Temeraire. Also implied of most dragons and their companions. Dragons see their humans as something between a parent, a child, and a prized possession, and usually their humans return the affection, being willing to sacrifice a great deal for their partner's happiness. It's mentioned that aviators don't often get married, partly because their job makes it inconvenient, but also because their dragons get jealous.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Several characters work their way around the political and Chinese court intrigues in Throne of Jade by pretending to be less aware than they really are of what's going on. Sun Kai, for instance, pretends to not understand English for most of the book.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Unsurprisingly, given how generally racist and sexist British government and society were at the time, the Admiralty causes many of the problems that the Aerial Corps has to deal with.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Laurence, most notably, but implied to be expected of Navy officers. Not so much aviators, though out of respect for him his crew starts imitating his formal habits.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome
    • Senior Captain and later Admiral of the Air Jane Roland has two: leading half the air wing at Trafalgar, and in Victory of Eagles stopping the second French landing at Folkstone. The entire second half of Victory of Eagles can be said to be one for Wellesley, as he directs the entire English counterpush without Laurence's involvement.
    • Frustratingly, the climax of League of Dragons keeps Temeraire's final battle against Lien entirely offscreen, and with very few details.
  • Oh, Crap!: Napoleon's victory at Austerlitz causes this in His Majesty's Dragon.
  • One Drink Will Kill the Baby: Averted during Harcourt's pregnancy. She still avoids wine, claiming it upsets her stomach.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted, both with humans and dragons (at least, Chinese dragons). Most humans are on a Last-Name Basis with each other, but often have the same first name. In Blood of Tyrants, there is another dragon named Lien and two named Chu; their full names are: Lung __ Lien and Lung __ Chu.
  • Our Dragons Are Different
    • There are three (known) species in the dragon genus in the wild- the bunyip (a flightless burrower), the sea serpent (with at least two subspecies of different sizes), and the feral dragon. Captured, or rather recruited ferals have been subject to human breeding techniques to produce dozens of 'breeds', a few of which have special abilities, including fire-breathing, a sonic attack, the ability to swallow and expel copious amounts of water, and spitting caustic venom. In the West, all dragons are treated as property of the government and form an Aerial Corps, though in France under Napoleon's leadership they are beginning to be treated somewhat better than Britain or Austria. In China, they have equal citizenship. Just massive, armored citizens with claws and teeth. Military dragons function rather like airborne ships, each with a human crew, including riflemen and bombers. The latter make even those breeds without any special capabilities a force to be reckoned with in war. Each dragon also has a captain with whom he or she shares a special emotional bond. And that's not even getting into the complex air-bladder-related biological handwave inserted as an extra at the end of the first book to explain how they fly in the first place.
    • Unlike in many settings with Dragon Riders, that "special bond" isn't seen as particularly mystical- it functions and is regarded in-story as something more akin to animal imprinting or a parent-child bond, since 99% of dragons' companions are either the first people who feed and harness them out of the egg, or the children of those dragons' previous companions when they got too old to continue work (most dragons having longer lifespans than humans).
    • In Tongues of Serpents, the dragons' bizarre biology is taken to its extreme logical conclusion, which leads to absurdity: a young dragon of a new, unknown crossbreeding is visibly deformed and is almost killed because he can't fly on hatching, but weeks later when his air sacs finally inflate, he can turn in midair by flapping with one wing. Basically, he's floating in midair like a balloon.
  • Papa Wolf/Mama Bear: Dragons of their sex are known to get "broody," becoming extremely protective of eggs in their care, even if they aren't the parents. This concern evaporates almost instantly on the eggs' hatching, since a newborn dragon is fully able to take care of itself. They also have this attitude towards their captains, and more rarely their crews.
    • The sixth book demonstrates how theft of an egg triggers the Berserk Button of any adult dragon custodians, even if they're unrelated. The ninth book shows how such attitudes can be exploited, both to provoke attacks (if you're the one stealing it) or shame the guilty (if you were a dragon complicit in the theft).
  • Pepper Sneeze: Infantry on the ground protect themselves with anti-dragon artillery called "pepper guns", which are exactly what they sound like. Particularly effective against those with breath weapons, but it greatly disrupts flying for almost any breed. It helps that the strain of pepper used is apparently potent enough to cause permanent damage to mucuous membranes — one notorious French fire-breather is recognizable by her one blind eye, a result of a lucky hit from a pepper gun.
  • Pet the Dog: At the climax of the fourth book, only Napoleon seems to understand that Laurence has not betrayed England to aid France. Once he realizes that Laurence fully intends to return and face execution for his crime, he specifically instructs his troops to spare Laurence's family estate in the subsequent invasion of England.
  • Plucky Middie: Emily Roland is the main one and becomes quite the Little Miss Badass even before making Midwingman, but Laurence always has a few to hand.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss: The Admiralty and at times the entire British government seems to be exclusively composed of this trope.
  • Poor Communication Kills: When the British party is discovered red-handed looting a Tswana medicinal garden in Empire of Ivory the revelation that one of the freedmen missionaries among them was in fact kidnapped from the Tswana as a child might have salvaged the situation... had her husband, upon exhausting his Khoi and Xhosa, not dug the name of the people he spent his first six years among out of his memory. Given that the Lunda were known to the Tswana as the people raiding their lands seeking slaves for resale on the coast, Rev. Erasmus was killed on the spot and everything went into the dragon midden.
  • Power Equals Rarity: The most powerful breeds of dragons like the massive Regal Copper or acid-spitting Longwing are also some of least common. The Celestials, of which there's maybe a half a dozen alive at any given time, take it to another level. Justified in that these are heavyweights; they eat more food, take up much more room, and like large mammals reproduce slowly (heavyweight eggs can take years to hatch). Middleweights like the Yellow Reaper make up the bulk of the various air forces, and while a heavyweight is a force to be reckoned with, two or three middleweights can equal them. The excuse given for Celestials is that they aren’t truly a breed in their own right, but an extremely rare mutation of the Imperial breed that also leaves them mostly infertile.
  • Privateer: Laurence and Temeraire consider becoming aerial privateers when Reassigned to Antarctica in the Australian colony. Laurence notes that Napoleon's merchant marine wouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell against a privateer guiding a heavy-weight dragon (due to the expense, there are basically no dragon privateers, let alone ones of Temeraire's ability).
  • Put on a Bus: Lien manages to get herself unceremoniously exiled, after losing the final battle, to an unknown location without a word of dialogue. Rather anticlimatically, considering she established herself as Temeraire's and Laurence's sworn enemy.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits
    • The odds and sods in the Breeding Grounds Temeraire gets exiled to are not exactly prime military sorts by any real measure. The only ones who were either lost their captains to battle or time and didn't care to keep fighting afterward (such as an old lazybones of a Regal Copper) or grew too old to be considered fighters and were retired (like the ancient, half-blind Longwing that remembers Queen Elizabeth's time). They're still dragons, though, so the effectiveness of this Ragtag Bunch of Misfits is much more justified than most. The majority of them were physically as powerful as any dragons, just past their prime or unwilling to take orders from humans, and Temeraire persuades them to join the fight by appealing to their intellect, pride, greed, or hope of better treatment.
    • The crew that Temeraire gets after he and Laurence are transported to Australia and the Allegiance sinks in the Pacific includes a lot of criminals and drunkards.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Wellesley in Victory of Eagles, and to some degree, Napoleon in the short story about Lien's early time in France.
  • Red Shirt: Most members of the dragon crews, since most heavyweights are crewed by ten and upwards. Often they will get a number of mentions as a name without too many distinguishing features and then die.
  • Replacement Scrappy: In-universe; Temeraire views Lieutenant Forthing as this and worse, after Lieutenant Ferris gets thrown out of the Aerial Corps.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Many (British, at least) people in-story have this attitude towards dragons, considering them at worst monstrous and dangerous brutes and at best little more than animals who just happen to be able to talk. In Empire of Ivory, the trope is very nearly discussed as a reason for the Christian West to possess this attitude (a perceived relationship between dragons and the serpent of Eden), though a reverend thinks it over and dismisses it (the serpent was cursed to crawl, and dragons fly). The bunyips in Tongues of Serpents really do seem abhorrent, though.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The trope is regularly invoked- in fact, Lien is the only dragon seen in the books who has opted for Dissonant Serenity.
    • Crucible of Gold presents one in the backstory that is rapidly turning into a cautionary legend. Atahualpa, the Sapa Inca at the time of first contact with the Spanish, was watched over by his dragon Pahuac. The Spanish took the Sapa Inca hostage, demanded a huge ransom, and- once they received it -garotted him anyway. Pahuac did not realize the betrayal was going to happen until it was too late. He hunted down and destroyed every last Spaniard, and then hurled himself off a mountain to his death.
  • Rule of Cool: The use of dragons in general, but there are also swordfights on the backs of flying dragons. This is actually justified in-universe: one of the easiest ways for a dragon boarding party to disable a dragon is to hold its handler hostage, as outright killing them will cause the dragon to go berserk. Therefore, a boarder has to get up close to the handler, and a gun is too easy to kill with.
  • Running Gag: Temeraire attempting to whisper conspiratorially, only for the narration to note that a twenty-ton dragon's "whispers" can still be heard by anyone remotely nearby.
    • Dragons, with their inherent love of shiny things, like their captains to dress up. Laurence, being a practical officer, does not like to dress up. Cue Temeraire trying valiantly to find occasion for Laurence to war his ornate Imperial robes, and Laurence finding every occasion to avoid it, up to and including conveniently kicking them into a fire in the middle of an assasination attempt. Don't worry: Temeraire gets him another set.
  • Sapient Ship: Ships-of-the-line rather than spaceships in this case, but the principle is the same. One of the earliest touching moments is when Laurence compares Temeraire's vocalized fondness for him to what he imagines it would feel like if his old ship had said she liked him for her captain.
  • Sapient Steed: If anything, Temeraire is smarter than Laurence. Laurence even remarks on this once or twice. Given their capabilities, it can be implied that most dragons could probably be smarter than or just as smart as their captains if they cared to be. In particular, in League of Dragons, even the most middling of British dragons is proven to have a fantastic memory and head for math, as long as the math is describing wealth and not abstract numbers.
  • Saved by Canon
    • We know that Sipho will survive the events of the series, as Empire of Ivory and Tongues of Serpents reveal he grows up to write huge books about Africa and Australia.
    • Temeraire would also appear to be quite safe, considering the author has plans to write a short story about him in his old age.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Laurence rejects all offers to be paid for his actions in Empire of Ivory, though Napoleon finds a way to repay him anyway. In Victory of Eagles, he comments that everything he's lost as a result is a small price to pay compared to his conscience. Temeraire is glad he feels this way, but thinks it's stupid that a conscience is so expensive when you can't even show it off to anybody.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!
    • It's demonstrated frequently and eventually stated outright that in any conflict between a dragon's honour and its affections, honour almost always loses. Even dragons who occupy high office will do backflips to weasel their loved ones out of trouble. This is true even in as honor-bound a society as Japan.
    • As of Crucible of Gold, Laurence states that he's not going to obey orders conflicting with his personal sense of justice.
  • Sea Serpents: Sea serpents are primitive cousins of the dragons, which they resemble save for their greater size and relative length, missing wings and webbed feet; some possess an additional set of slender, likewise webbed limbs in front of their forelegs, which are believed to be similar to what true dragons' wings evolved from. Those in the Atlantic are relatively small and largely avoid ships, but the ones in the Pacific Ocean are much larger and more aggressive, as the main characters discover when one attempts to crush their ship in its coils on their way to China. They're thought of as untrainable and animal-level creatures, unlike the sapient dragons, but there are indications that they may be far more intelligent than they're given credit for.
  • Sequel Hook:
    • The first novel has one shoehorned in suddenly in the last chapter (though there hintsnote ); the rest are handled better. Justified as the author was asked to make the novel into a series at the insistence of her editor.
    • Blood of Tyrants ends with Laurence and Temeraire trapped in an escalating war in Russia, with no way to feed their enormous dragon army as winter begins to set in.
  • Series Continuity Error
    • A blink-and-you'll-miss-it one in Tongues of Serpents; Laurence ends up talking with a pair of traders who mention news coming from Santiago in Chile. The next book reveals that the Incan Empire covers Santiago and the majority of present-day Chile.
    • Throne of Jade mentions a historic dragon called "Lung Li Po"; the equivalent of the real-life poet Li Bai, only to then use the name Li Bai in Blood of Tyrants. This could be the result of an in-universe translation issue, however.
    • Throne of Jade mentions that the Chinese aerial corps is all female, but in Blood of Tryants, they appear to be split evenly between men and women.
  • Shotgun Wedding: Amusingly inverted with Riley and Harcourt. The woman of the pair couldn't care less about legitimacy and a girl-child of hers would be assured of a pretty good future. The man, though, due in part to his entailed estate, could use a (legitimate) son to help his chances of inheriting.
  • Shout-Out
    • In Throne of Jade, it is explained that the Chinese aerial corps is composed entirely of women. This has its basis in a legend of one girl who sneaked away from home, partnered with a dragon, and won a great battle that saved China, and as a result the Emperor issued an edict announcing that girls were allowed to serve in the corps. The references to the legend of Hua Mulan are obvious.
    • As are, no doubt, the references to the Amazons of ancient Greek legend, who- of course -were supposed to live in China.
    • The surgeon who gave Janus his nickname in Victory of Eagles has been confirmed by the author as being none other than one Stephen Maturin.
    • The comments of the convicts while they travel into the outback and vanish one after the other are the same as the ones the mooks in the second Crocodile Dundee make while traveling into the outback and vanishing one after the other.
    • There's a subtle reference to Star Trek in Blood Of Tyrants when Laurence, having remembered that Granby and Little are gay, reflects on things he heard about while in the Navy, namely, the relationship between how effusively a certain Captain K greeted his wounded second-in-command, returning from a boarding action.
    • The first time we see Ning, the hatchling of Temeraire and Iskierka exhibit her inherited abilities is in the dead of night and features a description that would evoke the imagery of a certain Night Fury attacking with his signature plasma bolt.
    • The series' heritage as Aubrey-Maturin fanfiction shows in Laurence and Tharkay. Laurence resembles Aubrey in general physical appearance and a select few attributes, being both blond-haired broad-shouldered patriotic English Navy men, skilled fighting naval captains, Fathers to Their Men with an appreciation for the arts, and they become Living Legends over the course of their respective stories. Tharkay and Maturin both speak several languages, have a talent for escaping notice or being underestimated (Tharkay using his race, Maturin using his odd appearance and babbling about natural philosophy), have Dark And Troubled Pasts, snark relentlessly at the protagonist, wind up captured as spies and tortured with their fingers injured, and have macabre hobbies. And like Aubrey and Maturin, Laurence and Tharkay become the best of friends, complete with homoerotic tension.
  • The Smart Guy: Perscitia, a middleweight dragon exiled to the breeding grounds, is a total know-it-all with a love of math problems and a talent for problem-solving. Among other things, she figures out non-Euclidian geometry and how to work cannons.
  • Soapbox Sadie: O'Dea, an Irish convict who dries out during the trip across the outback in Tongues of Serpents and preaches incessantly about the evils of drink after he's recovered.
  • Spare to the Throne: Temeraire. His twin brother is the official dragon for the crown prince of China, and they wanted him (Temeraire) out of the picture to avoid a conflict in succession. Celestials, by custom, have to be attached to emperors or an emperor's family member; well, Napoleon had just declared himself Emperor of France, right? Perfect. And when Laurence accidentally foils this plan, the problem is solved by the Emperor adopting him.
  • Spit Take: Iskierka claims in "Blood of Tyrants" that she doesn't approve of taking foolhardy risks. Hearing Iskierka claim this causes her captain to choke on his dinner.
  • The Stations of the Canon: With the exception of the Battle of Dover, the first three books are basically the real Napoleonic Wars without especial alteration. The dragon plague sends things Off the Rails for a while, but Napoleon's invasion of Russia hardly goes any better than it did in reality, albeit for different reasons. The final book bypasses a showdown at Waterloo and sends him (and Lien) straight into exile—although worries of their escape might be a Sequel Hook, the site of his exile is St. Helena, where Napoleon spent his last days, rather than Elba which he escaped.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Invoked by the Sapa Inca to get herself elected empress. Since dragons are possessive of their people (especially in light of the recent plagues that have decimated the Inca populations), the fact that she isn't supposed to lead wars is actually seen as a positive. She managed to use this Double Standard to strike a blow against the Heir Club for Men!
  • Stealth Pun: Mokhachane, who the Tswana regard as their reincarnated king despite being a female dragon. In other words, a Drag(on) King.
  • Steel Eardrums: Aside from the usual use of this trope (characters weather multiple battles that include rifles, cannon, and other explosions but never suffer hearing damage), the series exploits this trope egregiously when it comes to Temeraire's divine wind. Despite his entire crew working on a dragon whose roar can splinter ships, there's never any major collateral damage to their own eardrums. Either Temeraire's roar is extremely finely controlled, or Novik decided it would sacrifice too much dignity for Laurence and co. to be wearing fluffy earmuffs into battle.
  • Straight Gay: When the subject comes up late in the series, it is treated with period-accurate views by the English aviators- homosexuality is technically illegal and cause for social ostracism, but in reality almost everyone overlooks gay preferences as long as it's kept discreet. All this subterfuge and evasion is fairly confounding to the dragons, who have none of humanity's moral issues on any sexual subject.
  • Suffrage and Political Liberation: European nations treat fully sapient dragons as beasts of war; most of the population isn't even aware of their intelligence. When Temeraire learns that his fellow dragons on other continents are full citizens, he starts to advocate for dragons to gain the vote, political representation, and proper salaries, and convinces other dragons to do the same. By the end of the series, he's succeeded, and one dragon has become a Member of Parliament with the promise of more to follow.
  • Switching P.O.V.: From Victory of Eagles onward, the point of view is split roughly half and half between Laurence and Temeraire.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Several times, as it's a standard method of discipline.
    • In His Majesty's Dragon, Laurence mentions briefly that, when he was still in the navy, one of his past captains took a disliking to him (due to Laurence's good manners) and that he frequently ordered Laurence flogged or beaten. Laurence conjectures that if said captain had not died of dysentery, the abuse might have cost Laurence his life.
    • In Black Powder War, Laurence has to order his own aviators flogged a couple times. Both times he hates to do it but is forced to; once because his man hits a superior naval officer and needs to be appropriately punished to keep the sailors from turning against the aviators, and again when two of his men were caught spying on the Sultan's harem, and flogging was just barely accepted in place of execution. Both times he is hugely uncomfortable with the proceedings. In the second incident he insists on keeping the count himself silently, so he can stop it early and pretend that they recieved more lashes than they actually did.
    • In Empire of Ivory Laurence is himself flogged on the orders of the Tswana king. We don't know how severe it is since it's from his perspective and he loses count at around ten, but he does end up being delirious for a week.
  • Team Chef: Gong Su was originally a dragon chef hired on to cook for Temeraire, and crept into the role of cooking for Temeraire's human crewmen as well by virtue of being the only one on the crew who's any good at it. It later turns out that he's been observing them for the Chinese nobility all along, and in Blood of Tyrants is given authority to extend a prince's invitation to Laurence. Meanwhile, his skill with his knives in combat implies training and experience beyond mere culinary pursuits.
  • This Is My Human: Dragons are highly possessive and protective of their human companions, and can frequently be heard arguing about whose is the best. Laurence eventually begrudgingly notes that it's more the dragons who own the captains, rather than the other way around.
    • Taken Up to Eleven with the Incan dragons, who see people as more valuable than treasure thanks to a plague wiping out most of the human population. It's to the point where "theft" of humans has become a serious, albeit commonplace, crime.
  • Tomboy: Given that women are treated little different in the Corps than men in terms of what is asked of them, are far fewer in number (they are kept a secret of the Corps because of historical sexism), and are so ingrained with the life around them, it's little wonder they end up with few "feminine" personality traits.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The mutinying sailors in "Crucible of Gold," so very much. All they seem to want to is get drunk, to the point of an almost suicidal desire to.
    • Granby basically tells them that they're going to get gutted once the dragons return from hunting. The ones too drunk to run once they spotted the dragons returning got mulched by an enraged Kulingile.
    • The remaining sailors show they learned nothing from the experience when they make it to Inca territory and have to be constantly watched to keep from trying to steal gold from the Inca buildings.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Laurence in Victory Of Eagles. When getting exiled to Australia is arguably the second-best thing to happen to you in the story and a happy ending, things have not gone well.
    • He goes through another one in Crucible of Gold: From the Allegiance getting sunk by a fire, nearly dying in the flight away from the wreckage, his best friend actually dying in the wreckage, being rescued by a convenient but French dragon transport, getting marooned on an uncharted island by the same crew who'd rescued them from the previous incident, to having most of the surviving sailors (most of whom were complicit in the fire that sank the Allegiance) mutiny and try to kidnap him and the other aviators to try and take control of the dragons.
  • The Un-Favourite: Forthing. Temeraire can barely stand him for a number of reasons, but despite this, Forthing does try his best to care for Temeraire when nobody else is around.
    • Also Allen.
      "Oh," Temeraire said. He put his head down very close to Laurence. "Perhaps [the hatchling] could have Allen?" he suggested quietly, with a darting look over his shoulder to make sure he was not overheard by that awkward young ensign, who was presently engaged in surreptitiously running his finger around the rim of the pot, and licking it clean of a few more drops of soup.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Since the Temeraire series is set during the Napolionic Wars, some euphemisms are used that seem unusual today but that were common enough then.
    • In Empire of Ivory, Harcourt says that she is "increasing" when she realizes she's pregnant.
    • To tell Laurence that he's gay, Granby says that he is an "invert." This was one of the earliest terms for a gay man, but seems strange today.
  • Villain Episode: Lien gets one of these in the form of a short story in the new omnibus edition of the first three books, In His Majesty's Service.
  • Walking Disaster Area: Laurence and Temeraire eventually find themselves with this reputation. Between their knack for stumbling into international crises and their penchant for both strictly moral behaviour and unconventional solutions, they tend to leave the world around them in somewhat less stable shape than how they found it.
    "Where you go, you leave half the world overturned behind you. You are more dangerous than Bonaparte in your own way, you and that beast of yours."
  • War for Fun and Profit: Though not confirmed, it is the heavily implied reason why the Incas threw their lot in with the French in Crucible Of Gold. Dragons are the head of all allyus, charged with looking after humans. Material wealth means nothing, especially as inundated as the land is with gold, but their precious population was devastated by diseases brought from Europe by the Spanish invaders, who were ultimately repelled by the unaffected dragons. The dragon-dominated Inca Empire is now desperate for humans. From their point-of-view, if siding with Napoleon promises them many war prisoners and captives, for assisting his "pointless war", then so be it.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: In Blood Of Tyrants Kutuzov informs Laurence that after his exploits in Brazil, he's now of such significance, that spies are monitoring his every move, for he's now seen as dangerous and radical as Napoleon himself.
  • Wham Episode: Novik has managed several of these- logical, but unforeseen, developments.
    • Throne of Jade starts with Laurence being used as a scapegoat to placate an infuriated China, and the action suddenly leaves the Napoleonic Wars in favor of a voyage to China. And another one occurs at the end of the book, when the Englishmen discover the reason for Temeraire's exile (while still in the egg).
    • The climax of Empire of Ivory is a brutal one. The heroes have found a cure for the plague that threatened to destroy England's dragons! Huzzah! And the English government's immediate reaction is to turn the plague into a brutal biological weapon unleashed against Napoleon, forcing Laurence (an Honor Before Reason gentleman to his core) to either commit treason or watch his country commit genocide.
    • Early in Crucible of Gold, Captain Riley and H.M. transport Allegiance are Killed Off for Real in an anticlimatic accident.
    • In Blood of Tyrants there's both Laurence's abrupt amnesia (leading to a series of My God, What Have I Done? moments for him and for Temeraire) and the sudden assassination of Temeraire's older brother.
  • What If?: Effectively, "What if the Napoleonic wars were fought with dragons!" In the beginning the world appears much the same, save for an added dimension to war and a few necessary societal changes. Over time we see more of the world and the way dragons would have affected the course of events, practically to the point of Off the Rails as far as real world history goes.
    • Also, what if Nelson survived the Battle of Trafalgar? Not that major but still cool to see the guy.
    • An emerging theme in the novels seems to be "What if Europe wasn't the only superpower in the early 1800s?" Turns out, when even a muscle-powered society can field an air force... colonialism does not work well. There are several depictions of powerful dragon-centric nations holding their own against the nations that, in our world, rolled right over them. For example, China is still a force to be reckoned with, the Incas still control most of South America, the kingdom of Mysore still holds out against the British Raj, and Africa has now been completely reclaimed by the Tswana, who are now spreading across the world in search of their enslaved kinsmen. All in all, European colonialism seems to be having a rough go of it.
    • Dragons also seem to be able to help societies cope better with disease, even though they are occasionally vulnerable to it themselves. This results in things such as the Tswana not being as devastated by malaria as they might otherwise, as dragons seem to drive away mosquitoes. But there's also the indication that the natives of North America, at least, are much better off than they might otherwise have been. There's also the irony in that a dragon plague from North America to Europe nearly did to Eurasian dragon populations what European diseases did to native American populations in the real world.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?
    • In most of Europe, dragons are considered (by non-riders) talking beasts of burden. In many other lands—including China and, eventually, France—they're considered the same as (if not better than) humans. Possibly an extended Take That! towards the time period's European attitudes towards anything that wasn't strictly European.
    • Among the Tswana, dragons are treated as the reincarnations of respected warriors and elders.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Captain/Admiral Roland's short, but sharp verbal smackdown of Laurence in Victory of Eagles regarding his actions at the end of Empire of Ivory. Note that she was not upset over his treason (although the note he left was a bit of a personal embarrassment), so much as his quite literally suicidal lack of subtlety and discretion.
    • A much more serious one is delivered by Tharkay of all people with regard to some of Laurence's actions during Victory of Eaglesattacking French raiding parties and patrols and not taking any prisoners.


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