The Black Powder War by Naomi Novik

Naomi Novik has a tremendous thing with the world that she has created. She did not just plop dragons down in the middle of the Napoleonic Wars and go from there. She actually extrapolated what the societies and tactics of war would be like if dragons were part of the air force of each nation throughout history.

The culture and society are superbly imagined and the different races of dragons that live in different parts of the world are brilliantly handled so that the world seems to be so real that sometimes you begin to wonder why the English and French don’t use dragons any more.

Captain Laurence and Temeraire head overland from China to pick up some dragon eggs from the Turkish king on their way home to England and get caught up in political intrigue, betrayal and the middle of Napoleon’s march across Belgium.

Somehow all this excitement comes across as feeling rather droll. Miss Novik is great at writing in the language of the period. Her characters sound like stuffy Englishmen or Belgian princes. She writes the dragons superbly. She writes action scenes almost like describing the rolling of dice on a tabletop. War becomes a series of steps to be plodded through, battles are merely numbers of losses and lists of blows given and taken.

In the previous two books that were about learning to ride a dragon and then sailing to China this kind of action was kept to a minimum, and to good effect. In this third book too much action makes the book flat and almost a chore to read.

I’m pretty tenacious so I will probably read the next one but no guarantees after that.


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