When Britain intercepted a French ship and its precious cargo - an unhatched dragon's egg - Capt. Will Laurence of HMS Reliant unexpectedly became master and commander of the noble dragon he named Temeraire. As new recruits in Britain's Aerial Corps, man and dragon soon proved their mettle in daring combat against Bonaparte's invading forces.
Now China has discovered that its rare gift, intended for Napoleon, has fallen into British hands - and an angry Chinese delegation vows to reclaim the remarkable beast. But Laurence refuses to cooperate. Facing the gallows for his defiance, Laurence has no choice but to accompany Temeraire back to the Far East - a long voyage fraught with peril, intrigue, and the untold terrors of the deep. Yet once the pair reaches the court of the Chinese emperor, even more shocking discoveries and darker dangers await.
The second book in the Temeraire series, following on from Temeraire (His Majesty's Dragon), this book opens with a delegation from the Chinese insisting that Temeraire should be returned to it's rightful owner. Laurence is insistent that he will not be separated from Temeraire, and vice versa, leading to a showdown with the government. Laurence is basically forced to accompany the Chinese delegation back to China - a trip that involves a voyage several months long.
Whilst sea faring adventures were part of the first book, it is certainly a much greater focus in this one, (much as I imagine Patrick O'Briens books would be) as the ship that Laurence and Temeraire are travelling on travels the route, calling in at slave ports in Africa, a newly captured port in South Africa amongst other places. Also dealt with is the differences between the members of the navy and the members of the Dragon corps, and the cultural differences between the Chinese and the English.
With Laurence and Temeraire facing danger from some of the more dangerous ship mates, creatures from the deep, illness and other challenges, when they finally arrive in China, it has to be a relief. And yet, they are not yet safe, for a variety of reasons. For both Laurence and Temeraire there is a surprise in store when they see how dragons are treated in China, particularly a dragon as rare and valuable as Temeraire. Finding themselves drawn into Chinese politics much more than they ever thought they would be, the time in China is also a time of education for the both of them.
Whilst the story itself is very entertaining, the only thing that I do wonder about, is that the author seems to approach topics that might be quite difficult to deal with, and then back away again. For example, when calling in at the slave trading port, Laurence explains slavery to Temeraire. It so happens that the captain of the ship comes from a pro slavery family, and Laurence is anti-slavery, so there is opportunity for conflict there. However, when Laurence is forced to think about the way that dragons are treated in England, in comparison with in China, there icorrelationllation between the slavery discussion, and it is kind of just glossed over. The other things that tend to be glossed over are some of the issues around relationships between the human characters of the books.
For all of that, the book is very entertaining, and if you like nautical themed books, this might be an interesting read of that nature, with a twist!!
P.S I am really behind on my reviews...coming up (when I get around to them) are posts on The Dirty Girls Social Club by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, Poison Study by Maria V Snyder, Seducing the Spy by Celeste Bradley and The Ersatz Elevator by Lemony Snicket).
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