Black Powder War
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*Starred Review* Captain Laurence had commanded a ship in the Royal Navy (see His Majesty's Dragon, 2006) but was relegated to the aviator corps after bonding with the hatchling from the dragon egg his ship found aboard a French prize his ship had seized. He and Temeraire, the hatchling, are a team now. In Throne of Jade (2006), the admiralty want sent Temeraire to China with Laurence. Temeraire is a Celestial, hence among the very finest of dragons. Indeed, Temeraire, or Lung Tien Xiang, is an imperial prince. At the end of Throne of Jade, the British party, including Temeraire, is free to return to England. In Black Powder War, urgent orders lead them overland to Turkey, where they encounter a vengeful Lung they had worsted in Peking. Laurence and Temeraire reach German lands in time for the battle of Jena, where they face Napoleon's corps, a ferocious French dragon, and the disgruntled Lung. Novik's magical eighteenth century, peopled with sympathetic characters, induces avid reading. Long may she write! Frieda Murray
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.
''Novik won me over with her first novel. the combination of history, sympathetic characters, and an engaging style makes this series great, intelligent fun.'The Times `Plenty of intrigue, swordplay, exotic locations, plausible invention. In short a treat.'The Telegraph `These are beautifully written novels, not only fresh, original and fast-paced, but full of wonderful characters with real heart.'Peter Jackson `Novik has stirred the passions with a genre-busting historical fantasy of the first order.'Sunday Sport 'In the best tradition of fantasy, historical fiction and nautical novels.'GuardianSee all Product Description
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Continued as well is a deepening of relationship between the main protagonists which highlights the biases and prejudices of one of them, which absent this foundation some of the future conflicts would not be as believable and illustrative of the dilemmas portrayed.
Novik demonstrates again why she is so effective in this genre. In a completely fictional fantasy setting, Novik draws the reader in to begin to see the themes and issues that were part of the actual human experience of that day and age. Never mind that the human experience is personified in a dragon!
This is yet another highly entertaining and readable offering that will not disappoint.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Of course the journey overland is hard, and involves a meeting with a large group of feral dragons-who turn out to be not so feral after all. While they tell Temeraire a soap opera story about dragons he continues on his quest to get better treatment, including city residences and pay, for the British dragons. Laurence is worried about such thoughts, because he knows that nothing like that will ever come to pass and he doesn't want Temeraire to desert for China and a better life.
Once in the Ottoman Empire there are problems, and the shadow of the mad and evil white Celestial dragon hangs over Laurence's head as she follows them west. Soon problems from Napoleon and the eggs overthrow any of Laurence's concerns about Temeraire, and everyone's lives are thrown into peril.
Temeraire really gets a personality in this book, and even Laurence's worrying and duty bound personality begins to improve. The feral dragons are a riot, and the action in this book is breathtaking. This one actually had me up all night reading, and it won't disappoint anyone who even sort of liked "His Majesty's Dragon" or "Throne of Jade". This book ranks an easy four stars, and the letter at the end of it, from an unknown person talking of the dragons as stupid beasts casts a great shadow of drama for future books, as does the prequel for the next.
Do not miss any of it. You will see how expertly the dragons are used in battle. How Lien, the outcast albino dragon, who lost her captain, the perfidious prince Yongxing (read THRONE OF JADE), defected to the side of the French, in order to effect a most ingenious revenge on Temeraire and Laurence.
Most noteworthy is the development of the dragon psyche. We are introduced to the feral dragons of the Turkish mountains . . dragons in their natural state who have never known the harness but consequently aren't that well-fed either. (Comic relief after a particularly intense journey through the desert). And Temeraire beg us to consider the emancipation of all dragons though his fascinating discussions with Laurence concerning the issues of choice and freedom. THere's also the dragon eggs themselves-- whose value-- figures a greal deal in all the books. How do the dragons feel about separation from their eggs?
5 Stars! (Some heartbreak in the fate of some members of Temeraire's crew.) I do so hate these moments when I have to whip out a hanky for characters in a Fantasy! But I guess that tells you how well-written this book truly is!
I look forward to more, Ms. Novik! Consider me a life-long fan!
This book was however severely wanting in any kind of satisfactory ending. Maybe it is because I rarely read fantasy, and tend to stay away from "endless" epic adventure stories...but I would have imagined that three books would have contained enough pages to have fully told a complete story. With this book's ending, I really get the feeling that I am being strung along. I know this is probably wise marketing, and that some fantasy readers love a series that promises never to end. I however, and I am sure some others of you out there, want an engaging tale told over one, or at most a few, books.
As it is Novik seems to have taken at most two books worth of material, stretched it out to three, and STILL not managed to tie anything of consequence up in the process.
So, while the book was still on the whole enjoyable, this is a warning to others like me who were hoping for a nice trilogy and not a never-ending story.
While this theme is the most intriguing, and gives the whole series a political and social edge that serves at least allegorically to encourage thinking about the kinds of oppressions with which our own history has been replete, it still continues to stretch credibility the extent to which the abilities and intelligence of dragons are, it seems, only just becoming known. The parallel with slavery, that is alluded to here, and the delusions about slaves that for so long justified the practice in the minds of their oppressors makes some sense of the way dragons are treated here -- and if you combine that with the idea that in their affections dragons are something like dogs, who become attached to the first person they imprint upon, and therefore less likely to revolt than they might otherwise, it can be further explained, but the dragons are not stupid and it is really difficult to credit that human beings would not know more about such powerful beings.
Still, there is inevitably some need to suspend disbelief in a story about dragons, and Novik treads a fine line between immersing us in a fantasy realm and developing parallels with our own history. It remains much more fun to read than most science fiction/fantasy I have seen in some time, and it is a bit silly to complain that there is more to come.
This novel is fairly intersting and creative, and the new dragon friends absolutely delightful. My problem with this novel is that it doesn't deliver what was promised, doesn't really seem to go anywhere, and relies too heavy on the "stupid boss" theme. The reader is left at the end with another (untrue) promise that the next book will delve into T--'s attempts to reform Brittish law concerning dragons (it doesn't, either). The overall feel of the novel is "the continuing adventures of L-- and T-- as they meander through life", and it feels somewhat like an awkward middle child, mainly consisting of backdrop for future plot lines. The novel has all of the usual sequel problems -- the unique premises being conveyed in the first two novels, the third novel was left in a weaker position. Readers who prefer books with multiple sequels may disagree on this issue and should probably add one star to my rating.
"Black Powder War" is an entertaining read and pleasant escape, though perhaps not worth keeping on your shelf after. It will appeal to readers who enjoyed The Hero Strikes Back or Forged Without Fire: A Champion for Catlover or perhaps The Hawk Eternal (A Novel of the Hawk Queen).