Review: Black Powder War by Naomi Novik

Black Powder War by Naomi Novik

Title: Black Powder War (Temeraire 3)
Author: Naomi Novik
Genre: Alternative History, Fantasy, War Novel
Publisher: Harper Voyager (6th August 2007)

Before Captain William Laurence can prepare his crew for the slow voyage home from China, new orders arrive for him and his dragon, Temeraire. They must fly home immediately, stopping only in Istanbul to collect three priceless dragon eggs, purchased from the Ottoman Empire.

But the cross-continental journey is fraught with danger; not only will they have to survive the perilous terrain but Lein, consumed by vengeance, has absconded from China. Holding Temeraire responsible for the death of her princely companion, her only desire is to destroy everything and everyone he loves.

Rating: **** (4 stars)

BLACK POWDER WAR is the third book in the magical Temeraire series by Naomi Novik. The book continues the story of the dragon Temeraire and his companion Captain Will Laurence of the Royal Aerial Corps. This book takes place not long after the events of the second book in the series. When we last left Temeraire and Laurence they were in China, this book sees them prepare to return home only to be commanded to collect three dragons eggs, purchased by the British from the Ottoman Empire, from Istanbul; a dangerous journey across the continents, a dangerous journey even without Europe on the brink of war.

I have really enjoyed Naomi Novik’s fantastical alternate history, following the adventures of Temeraire and Laurence: BLACK POWDER WAR is a good solid read, and a sound addition to the series. Although the story is a little slow in places, I really enjoy what Novik does with this book. The story feels like it is on the edge of war, and although neither Temeraire nor Laurence are involved in the politics of war you can definitely feel the tension of it in the narrative. In BLACK POWDER WAR Novik builds on her work in the previous two books, and allows us more of a glimpse of the world of Temeraire, which I really, really, enjoyed.

BLACK POWDER WAR is a complex book; there is a lot going on in this book, not just in terms of the coming war building in the background, but also in terms of what you learn about dragons in this book. Novik really brings to the fore the contrast between how the Chinese, and the people of Europe view and treat their dragons. These ideas are touched upon in THRONE OF JADE (review), but Temeraire’s desire to change things for his fellow dragons is an interesting thread in this book.

Speaking of threads, the plot is pretty much what I expected from the blurb of this book. Although there were definitely a few plot twists that I did not see coming. Events really come to a head in BLACK POWDER WAR, and more than ever I think that this is a lot of potential for where Novik could go with future books in the Temeraire series. There is just so much scope about what could happen, that I’m really excited to find out where Novik takes the story. That being said, I have some mixed feelings about how this particular book ends. On the one hand, I think it works well. I think Novik ends the story at a fitting point. On the other, it bugs me a little bit that it’s an open ending. Don’t get me wrong, I think BLACK POWDER WAR feels like a complete story but the particular point where the narrative ends just bugs me a little bit.

The dynamic between Temeraire and Laurence is exactly what I expected – what I wanted – from previous books in this series. Although there is a lot going on in this book, and a lot of new places to see, what I really loved was seeing the love between Laurence and Temeraire. The book has some really intriguing secondary characters, in the form of both new faces and the return of some old. If you have enjoyed the series so far, then I think you will like this book too.

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