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Thursday, October 05, 2017

Black Powder War by Naomi Novik

Black Powder War by Naomi Novik

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Adult
Genre: Fantasy, Historical fiction
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Del Rey
Release date: May 30, 2006

Series:  Temeraire #3

Source: Library

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

After their fateful adventure in China, Capt. Will Laurence of His Majesty’s Aerial Corps and his extraordinary dragon, Temeraire, are waylaid by a mysterious envoy bearing urgent new orders from Britain. Three valuable dragon eggs have been purchased from the Ottoman Empire, and Laurence and Temeraire must detour to Istanbul to escort the precious cargo back to England. Time is of the essence if the eggs are to be borne home before hatching.

Yet disaster threatens the mission at every turn–thanks to the diabolical machinations of the Chinese dragon Lien, who blames Temeraire for her master’s death and vows to ally herself with Napoleon and take vengeance. Then, faced with shattering betrayal in an unexpected place, Laurence, Temeraire, and their squad must launch a daring offensive. But what chance do they have against the massed forces of Bonaparte’s implacable army?

This third novel is very much an epic as it is mostly journeying across Asia and Europe (more so than most of the other novels so far). They've managed to appease China in having Laurence adopted as the Emperor's son and sealed good relations with England in the process, and now they must return as England calls for Laurence and Temeraire to escort three dragon eggs from Istanbul home. Temeraire and his crew, along with a slippery guide named Tharkay, travel across deserts and rice paddies of inland China through unknown territories to Turkestan, facing starvation, attacks, and finally betrayal.

At the forefront of this novel is the idea of dragon rights and better conditions for what most other countries see as beasts or property. When Temeraire decides to return to England, he is filled with righteous fire and determined to bring better conditions to his dragon friends. Having seen some of the luxuries in China, they bring back cooks and other Chinese ideas like his decorative dragon claw sheaths, pavilion plans, and sand tables for writing. On their journey though, they must trust their safety to Tharkay, which is in some ways problematic as he keeps disappearing and after the secrets in China, Laurence is wary of more danger. They also encounter a large band of feral dragons, led by Arkady, who wish to see the Sultan of Istanbul and have great battles and stories such as Temeraire tells. When they arrive in Istanbul, they face a mess as their allies have conflicting stories than their instructions. Here they discover that Lien has preceded them across Asia to align herself with Napoleon and turn the Sultan against them. Desperate to return to England and help in the war after having learned of other defeats, Laurence and Temeraire must decide to do things their own way without guidance. Here their bond grows even stronger as they have only themselves and their crew to rely on with the communications silent. Here their honor, choices, and unorthodox kindness to their allies are key game changers in their long journey home, especially in a war that dragon intelligence has altered drastically.

I loved the new characters and setting in this novel, though it does seem like it's a wonder that any of Laurence's crew survives. There is one super heartbreaking moment in this novel that made me cry, but there are lots of great moments too, like finally getting to see Granby having more opportunities. The brush with historical characters is exciting, though I had to do a bit of research about Napoleon and the Prussian royalty. Like always, there is quite a big cliffhanger that drives you on to the next novel. Review coming soon!

Kara is a teen librarian living in the southeastern US with her husband (who listens to books), young daughter (who sleeps with books), and dog (who tastes the books). She loves all sorts of books, but mostly YA, and will never catch up to all of the wonderful things to read.


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