Fantasy Review: ‘Black Powder War’ by Naomi Novik

Welcome back and let’s get a recap of the game so far.  In the all black we have Temeraire and let me tell you this dragon is awesome.  Two languages right out of the shell, a roar that destroys anything it’s path, and a captain that will do anything for him.

Facing the mighty Temeraire and his British crew are the French, led by their captain Napoleon.  The Frogs have picked up a great free agent signing, strategy master Lien, the only other Celestial active in the Europeon war.  With a chip on her shoulder against Temeraire, things could get interesting.  After all, the French have a ground game that can’t be stopped, adding an aerial assault could be the end.

AND THERE THEY GO!  The British make a mad rush for some extra points, driving quickly into the land of the Turks to get their hands on eggs of a different sort; fire breathers could add some real diversity to the squad.  But watch out!  Unaware of the Lien signing they are beat to the goal and a heavy defense is set up.  Stalling tactics are worked on both sides and the shot clock is running down, this baby is going to hatch.  Is a daring escape on the way?  Will the British aquire new eggs and get them safely back home?  Or will Lien’s aerial genius combine with Napoleon into on unstoppable power?  Anything can happen in this game of dragons.

Ok enough of that, after three books of this series I didn’t want to do a typically book summery, but damn I should have picked one sport and stuck with it.  What was that, football mixed with basketball? 

Let’s go over the highlights.

I really liked the action, it picked up quite a bit from the last outing.  In Throne of Jade the action was good when it came around, but was an overall slow book.  Compare that to Black Powder War, with a desperate flight instead of a slow boat to China (literally).  There were aerial battles, ground battles victories for both sides, an actually sense of danger.  This is what I am looking for in this series.

Some real intelligence was shown here as well.  Temeraire was a bit of a dreamer last time, head in the clouds.  This time Laurence and his dragon really put their head together and have starting working on some realistic solutions.  I was a bit off put last time by real issues being brought up but given only courtesy glances, this time the issue of dragon equality was given some more depth.

It was enjoyable to see a new dragon that was so heavily influenced by Temeraire, and I am guessing young fire breather could prove to be a nice companion for Laurence and crew.  I really enjoyed the time spent against Napoleon’s land armies, especially when it was apparent that they were often over their head.  There was true tension in this book; if not for Temeraire’s safety at least for the armies he worked with.

My only complaints were the same as I had with the first book, so I won’t repeat them.  Needless to say, this was a quick return to form for the series, and I enjoyed it as much or more than the first book.  It is hard to say much more, because by now the formula has been established.  This was another entertaining and intelligent outing, if not as deep as the book tried to be at certain times.   The action was still superb, the politics simple but realistic, and Temeraire and Laurence’s relationship holds the rest of the book together just fine.

4 stars.  

PS: If you actually took the time to read that intro, I am truly sorry.

Books in the Series
His Majesty’s Dragon
Throne of Jade
Black Powder War

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