This is a pretty good sequel to His Majesty’s Dragon, the start of this excellent series for anyone who adores dragons and/or alternate history set in the Napoleonic wars. At the end of the first book, politics require that Laurence and Temeraire make the long journey around the Cape of Good Hope and across the Indian Ocean to the far-off land of China, which at that point the British desperately wanted to get into to support their tea, silk, and porcelain appetites back home.
One of the things I liked about this book, and naval books of this era in general, is how much of the ship life is devoted to maintaining cordial relations among the men. In the first novel, much is made of how Laurence hash a Naval man’s stiff and stuffy politeness, but in this book the author hints at how necessary that is. When a group of rough and ready men need to work in perfect harmony and live very close with people they dislike, distrust, and/or despise, order and social structure needs to be rock-solid.
The other part of this novel deals with life once they arrive in China, specifically how different the dragon’s relationship with humans is in China as opposed to within England. Of course there were no real dragons in China in the mid 19th century or any time, but under Novik’s pen, you might believe that there were. There’s politics and difficult personalities and deception and mistrust and noble deeds and a fairly satisfactory ending with enough tension that I wondered if Temeraire would choose to stay in China even though I know perfectly well that there are many more books in this series so that wouldn’t happen.
One of the things I didn’t like about this book were the transitions. At several points I was reading about how they were on a ship, for example, and in the next, they were landing after having flown over a city, and I just missed some of the details of how the arrangements were chosen. And another time it described how Laurence flew by dangling from Temeraire’s jewelry, which didn’t seem right or possible at all, so I was confused by that and it wasn’t explained. I guess it was done to tighten it up, but there were three or four scenes where the transition was so abrupt that I went back to see if I’d skipped over something, only to find that no, it was just an abrupt transition.
But still, that’s a minor quibble. It’s a fun series and I like the characters and I wouldn’t mind reading more of them.