Author: Naomi Novik
Length: 365 pages
Notes: 3rd book in series (preceded by His Majesty's Dragon and Throne of Jade)
William Laurence, former British Navy captain, became the captain of the dragon Temeraire a few books back. His crew, Temeraire and he are in China when the message, carried by messengers overland, arrives: they are to travel to Istanbul and retrieve the three dragon eggs the Aerial Corps has purchased.
Like always, this is a novel packed with adventure. I mean, this is historical AU: this is the Napoleonic Wars, with dragons. Reorganize the battle tactics for a minute. Novik, I believe, is a history scholar, and it's fascinating to see how Napoleon might have organized aerial combat. (This book is during the beginning part of the wars, when Napoleon is winning.)
From China Temeraire has acquired ideas about what it is to be a person. In England, people flee from the mere sight of dragons, who (though some are as articulate and intelligent as humans) are seen as bloodthirsty beasts, tolerated only because of the wars. This attitude is prevalent throughout Parliament, as well, and the career of an aviator is even worse than that of a Navy or army career. This is, after all, Regency England. In China, though, the streets are broadened enough that dragons can walk around like normal citizens, receive wages and buy products, and some write poetry and in short enjoy far more freedom than their British and French (really, most of Europe) counterparts. The struggle between Laurence and the wishes of the command are frustratingly realistic.
As far as writing goes, I liked it very much. There are some sentences that make you catch your breath and just marvel at what it would be like. And as for the characters, they are well fleshed out: they are people you might know, with all their strengths and flaws.
I first read this book when I had no knowledge of the time period, and let me tell you, it's much more enjoyable when you actually know what's going on. Reading the first two books first is highly recommended (and the first book is one of my favorites). 10/10