Cover Artist: Craig Howell
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Del Rey Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345522894
Date: 13 August 2013
List Price $26.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /
Napoleon is on the march, and Laurence and Temeraire are on a mission to gain the support of the Chinese Emperor. Things are never simple, but this time one of the challenges comes from an unexpected source, Laurence.
There are three major parts to this novel. The first section is set in Japan, the second in China, and the rest of the book in Russia. In each section there is a challenge that needs to be overcome. Some are easier than others but they do build upon one another until one final event may bring a change to the course of the war.
As the action begins, Laurence has gone overboard and is stranded on an unknown coast. He also has lost several years of memory. In his mind he is still a sea captain. He is found and returned to physical health. The problem is that foreigners are not welcome in Japan. Laurence must reach a safe harbor and try to get away before he is killed.
Temeraire is distraught over losing Laurence while fighting during the storm. The dragon transport is stuck on rocks. Temeraire naturally wants to fly off in search of Laurence, but he can't as he finally has an egg with Iskierka that must be protected. Temeraire must decide who is more important.
This is the penultimate novel in the Temeraire series. The great thing is that Novik doesn't fall into the trap that snares many authors. She doesn't forgo action in this novel, to set up the final battle. In fact she turns up the action. Sure characters are being shuffled around the map, but there is enough action that the shuffling slips into the background.
It sometimes seems that Temeraire is a bit whiny. I tend to forget that for all his size, he is still a young dragon at this point, who really just wants things his way. No different than many people before they grow up. Once I came to that realization, I was less bothered by it. Iskierka is really in a similar situation, for all the maturity of their captains, they are still young and at times behave as such.
Recently I was thinking about how far dragons have come in literature. Once they were simply monsters. Now authors like Novik and Hobb are making them so much more. They are now creatures with thoughts, desires, and dreams that are as complex as any human or alien.
I can't say I started this series when it first came out, but I was pleased when I finally took a chance on a new series. I find this version of the Napoleonic Wars far superior to the much feted Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I found the pacing of that slow and tedious with too many footnotes. I prefer a well written and entertaining novel to one that is heralded as great literature. I generally take that moniker to mean boring.
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