The book takes place in Australia, but it certainly doesnít make you want to go back in time and visit. Which is fair enough; Australia is where the dregs of society and the military washed up, and none of them were particularly happy or particularly honorable about it. The only part I could be a little patriotic about is the familiar theme of ďAustralia: the land itself will kill you deadĒ. That appeals to a certain macabre nationalism.
As a whole, itís not a bad representation of historical Australia (sordid though it is), although at one point the contrasting geography from coast to desert is wildly exaggerated. Laurence and Temeraire and several others attempt to find a passage over the Great Dividing Range (a genuine historical issue, and having dragons would certainly help), but when a precious dragon egg is stolen they embark on a long and dangerous chase across the dry interior.
The books with battles are much stronger narratively; in this book most of the plot has frustration and fear driving it instead of action. The battle at the end is quite memorable, however, in its devastation. Novik never ceases to think up new and original twists on dragon culture and battle technique.
Rating: PG battle violence
Free sample (itís in Australia, so naturally there is a brawl in a bar):
%%That was of course an end to even the barest hope or pretense of civility; Laurence instead pulled Granby back by his arm, out of the way of Agreuthís wildly swinging fist, and letting go struck back with the same hand, clenched, as it came again at his face.
He did not hold back; if brawling was outrageous, it looked inevitable, and he would as soon have it over with quickly. So the blow was armed with all the strength built up from a childhood on rope-lines and harness, and Laurence knocked Agreuth directly upon the jaw: the lieutenant lifted half an inch from the ground, his head tipping back and leading the rest of his frame. Stumbling a few steps as he came down, he pitched face-front onto the floor straight through the neighbouring table, to the accompaniment of several shattering glasses and the stink of cheap rum.%%