This is a great kind of escapist fantasy, combining high-seas adventure, first contact, and of course, dragons. I’d read the first two books in this series and enjoyed them, so picked up the third for a sure-fire diversion. It certainly delivered.
Do I think it could be better? Yes, I think there were some things that would improve it. For example, the story took a long time to get going. There’s a scene in the beginning that references occurrences in the previous book, which didn’t seem to further this one. There’s a lot of meandering daily life aboard the ship where Jacob’s character is developed, but Jacob is only a child, and the focus on him didn’t serve to make him more interesting to me.
I would say that the story didn’t really pick up until about 2/3rds of the way through, after they’re grounded and have to stay on an island to make repairs. The mystery of the Draconeans and whether or not they bred dragons, and the mystery of the Keongan culture fascinated me. I also enjoyed the politics.
One thing I particularly like is the way Brennan introduces cultures that are obviously based on Earth cultures yet also not them. That way you can have an almost-Greek captain and an almost-Persian archaeologist in an almost-Mayan almost-Mexico, while dealing with almost-Chinese traders and bureaucrats.
So, basically, it’s a book that coasts on the strength of its first two in the series. Lady Trent is as redoubtable as ever, with a delectably unique voice. The other characters don’t have nearly as much depth, but that flaw doesn’t bring the book down too much. For me, Lady Trent and the dragons made up for it.