This is book two of Naomi Novik’s “Temeraire” series, and a return to the Napoleonic Wars and the Dragon Corps. This novel deals less with the military aspects of the world, and more with the diplomatic fallout of the first book.
China had intended the egg as a personal gift for Napoleon, and had extracted certain promises from him as to how the dragon would be treated and used. The British capture of Temeraire’s egg, his partnering with a common soldier, and his subsequent enrollment in the military are all highly offensive to the Chinese. The British government doesn’t want to irritate China – it has been trying, with only very limited success, to establish trade and diplomatic relations – so they’re perfectly willing to return Temeraire in exchange for trade concessions.
The thing is, Temeraire likes Captain Laurence. He enjoys fighting. He doesn’t want to go, and he finds it offensive that anyone would even think of trying to take the Captain away from him. Eventually, Laurence is able to work out a compromise: He and Temeraire will accompany a diplomatic mission to China so that they can show him what life is like for dragons there.
And that’s just the first chapter.
Just as an aside, it’s interesting to see how the dragon / human attachment is developing. In the beginning, Captain Laurence assumes it’s sort of animalistic, like a duckling impressing on the first thing it sees out of the shell. Over time, it is revealed to be an extension of the dragon’s greedy nature – the same thing which causes them to covet treasure and makes them angry when someone steals from them is extended to people. Laurence is his captain, the riflemen who ride in harnesses on his back and the crew on the ground are his crew. I’m looking forward to seeing how the author deals with the whole issue of ‘ownership’ of people and dragons through the rest of the series.
Pages: 432 in paperback
Total page count: 2595