In this book we’re back in Britain – and so is Napoleon. He’s finally made a successful crossing and Britain is so desperate they decide to call Laurence and Temeraire back into service. There are some minor issues in re-enlisting the pair, since Laurence was on a ship that went down with all hands, and Temeraire has taken matters into his own hands (talons) in order to defend his country.
Dragons as a whole, although each is most definitely an individual in their own right, have a weakness for treasure and for cows, and a strong bloodthirsty streak. They’re not like humans, no matter how intelligent their conversation. Novik draws their characters with an expert hand.
Laurence has lost a great deal of his moral certainty; he is no longer certain how to live honorably – but readers will love him all the more for his impossible position as a true gentleman caught between his conscience and his beloved nation.
I think the book would be a lot stronger if Napoleon was more of a baddie, but it is nonetheless involving and the final battle is truly fascinating and truly devastating.
Because of the fight taking place in Britain again, and because Britain gets sympathy for being invaded, this is one of the stronger books of the series despite a relatively slow opening. The first book is the best, certainly, but Novik hasn’t grown lazy as the series progresses.
Rating: PG for battle violence.
Free sample (Laurence is in the brig during a battle):
The ball came in down through the ship’s bow and crashed recklessly the length of its lower deck, the drum-roll of its passage heralding its progression with castanets of splinters raining against the walls for accompaniment. The young Marine guarding the brig had been trembling since the call to go to quarters had sounded above; a mingling, Laurence thought, of anxiety, the desire to be doing something and the frustration at being kept at so miserable a post. A sentiment he shared from his still more miserable place within the cell. The ball seemed to roll at a leisurely pace as it approached the brig. The Marine put out his foot to stop it before Laurence could protest.