Black Powder War (Temeraire #3) by Naomi Novik
On the heels of a harrowing diplomatic mission to Peking, Captain Will Laurence and his dragon Temeraire would like nothing better than to get back to England. But alas, it will not be quick or easy.
Their new assignment takes them on a difficult journey by land from China to Istanbul to retrieve three valuable dragon eggs and bring them home. As they travel via the Old Silk Road they will need a guide. This comes in the form of a new character named Tharkay, a toughened Nepalese/Englishman whose loyalty and motives are somewhat questionable. En route, they have a run-in with bandits and meet some feral dragons that live in the mountains away from humankind. Once in Istanbul, they are not received kindly and find some resistance to their retrieval of the dragon eggs. I found this part of the book to be way too predictable and was happy when they made it out of Istanbul. As they travel from Istanbul to Prussia a delightful and frightful new terror is born in the form of the feisty baby dragon, Iskierka who is going to be a right handful. Oh yes, she will also need her own handler! Once in Prussia, Laurence, Temeraire and company wind up as unwilling participants in Napoleon’s Siege of Danzig. Adding to all of this danger, it is revealed that Napoleon has a new officer in the form of a dragon who bears a very strong grudge towards Temeraire.
The focus of the series remains on the strong bond between Will and Temeraire and their adventures during the Napoleonic Wars. We are also offered up a couple of side plates on slavery and dragon rights. The former being a very real and upcoming cause of the time period and the latter being a great fictional one to introduce. Tharkay and Iskierka and the feral dragons are interesting new additions and I feel like there is much to be explored here in future books. I look forward to seeing more of that character development. I still think that the premise of the series is great and there are definitely some parts that tickle me. I would recommend these for young adults because Novik continues to weave cultural differences, geography and history into her story in an interesting way. She also does a good job outlining battle tactics from the unusual viewpoint of an aerial dragon force. She covered quite a bit of ground in this book, picking up the pace after Throne of Jade.