History takes flight....Naomi Novik's deliciously addictive Black Powder War skilfully layers the history of the Napoleonic War with breathtaking imagination.
After their adventure in China, Capt. Will Laurence of His Majesty's Aerial Corps and his extraordinary flying dragon, Temeraire, gratefully anticipate their voyage home..
But before they set sail, they are waylaid by urgent new orders. The British Government, having purchased three valuable dragon eggs from the Ottoman Empire, now require Laurence and Temeraire to make a more perilous over-land journey instead, stopping off in Istanbul to collect and escort the precious cargo back to England - and time is of the essence if the eggs are to arrive before they hatch.
A cross-continent expedition is a daunting prospect, fraught with countless dangers. The small party must be prepared to navigate frigid mountain passes and cross sterile deserts to evade feral dragons and Napoleon's aggressive infantry. And they will also have to endure an unexpected menace, for a Machiavellian herald precedes them, spreading political poison in her wake.
Lien, the white celestial dragon, absconded from the Chinese Imperial Court shortly after the humiliating death of her beloved princely companion. Fervently believing Temeraire to be the architect of her anguish, she has vowed to ally herself with his greatest enemy in order to exact a full and painful revenge upon everything and everyone the black dragon holds dear.
This is the third book in the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik, following on from Throne of Jade and on the whole it is a pretty good read.
In some way it felt like a book of two parts as opposed to one whole book. The book follows on from the closing events in the previous book, with Laurence, Temeraire and the rest of the crew waiting for the opportunity to start the long journey home to England. After a disastrous fire on board their ship, Laurence receives orders to make his way to Istanbul to pick up two eggs and make their way to England. It will not however be an easy journey, making their way across China and through to Turkey. Along the way they face hardship and feral dragons amongst other things. Their arrival in Istanbul isn't quite as warm as they may would like, and there are several occasions where the clash of cultures is explored to a degree.
After taking desperate action, the journey towards home continues, but unfortunately this means going through Austria, a land where the Prussians are currently experiencing a fight for their very survival against the might of Napoleon. Laurence and Temeraire soon find themselves forced to take part in the Prussians defence, at great risk of danger and death to themselves and their crews.
With the first half of the book concentrating on the journey from China to Turkey, there was, in my opinion, a stark contrast to the events in the second half, which were very political and more strategically based than we have seen before. It was interesting that Novik took the known facts of the Napoleonic War's 1806 offensives and tweaked them just enough to fit the dragons in, whilst still staying true to the main historical points and outcomes.
If anything, I would say that there was a little less humour in this book, although the addition of a new dragon named Iskierka (a very feisty young lady indeed!), there were still plenty of humourous moments to be had in amongst the darker parts of this book. I was, however, relieved to see that there was less evidence of Laurence referring to Temeraire as "darling" in this book. Not that it didn't happen, but just not as regularly and annoyingly as I found this term of endearment in the previous books. Lien once again provides a looming dark presence within the story, and the alliance that she forms, and her subsequent actions were interesting of themselves.
I would say though, that it does appear as though Novik has backed away from some of the themes that she started to introduce regarding the rights of dragons. I will wait to see whether or not this is a theme that she picks up and follows through with in the next book or not.
The fourth book in the series is out in September, and is to be called Empire of Ivory. Can't wait to get to read it!
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