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Naomi Novik – Black Powder War

June 23, 2009

75. Black Powder War by Naomi Novik (2006)
Temeraire, Book 3

Read my review of:
– Book 1, His Majesty’s Dragon
– Book 2, Throne of Jade

Length: 366 pages

Genre: Fantasy; Historical Fiction

Started: 15 June 2009
Finished: 19 June 2009, on my porch swing by the light of the christmas lights.

Where did it come from? BookMooch
Why do I have it? Enjoyed the first book in the series enough to acquire all of the sequels – or at least all of the sequels that are out in paperback.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 01 December 2008
Verdict? Keeper.

Even in a book
about war… fewer battles
and more dragons, please!

Summary: Laurence and his dragon Temeraire are still in China following the adventures of Throne of Jade when they receive an urgent message from the British Admirality: There are three dragon eggs that have been purchased from the Turkish Empire, and Laurence and his crew must retrieve them and bring them back to England. After an accident in port means they must make the journey to Istanbul over land, they must face the dangers of travel through the harsh deserts, only to meet with treachery at the Turkish court – because the Chinese dragon Lien has flown ahead of them. Lien blames Temeraire for her own master’s death, and will do whatever it takes to bring him low… even allying herself with the French forces.

Review: A truth about myself that I learned long ago: I do not particularly enjoy reading about battles. Even if they’re well-written, I just have a hard time visualizing large-scale battles, troop movements, maneuvers, etc., and so I typically just wind up skimming. This comes as somewhat of a hinderance, as epic fantasy and historical fiction (two of my favorite genres), both tend to feature big battles. And, as the Temeraire books are a hybrid of the two, it was really only a matter of time before we actually got to the battle parts of the Napoleonic war.

The first half, or even two thirds, of the book, is quite good – adventures in the desert, treachery, exotic locations, feral dragons, Temeraire being as charming as usual – all the good stuff. It’s a little episodic and hence somewhat disjointed, but it moves along at a good clip and kept me interested. Unfortunately, the last part of the book is a lot more typical war stuff – troops moving here and there, supply issues, scouting and skirmishing and the dreaded big battles… and I’m sorry to say, I did find myself skimming. Totally a matter of personal preference, though; folks who enjoy battle scenes more than I do will probably find the land war an exciting addition. As for me, though, while it was still a fun read, I didn’t like it quite as much as the previous two. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: I still think the series as a whole is good for fantasy or historical fiction fans who are looking to branch out. While this volume hasn’t been my favorite, I’m still looking forward to the rest of the series.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Links: Naomi Novik’s website, Naomi Novik’s LibraryThing profile

Other Reviews: Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog, Dear Author, Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, Book Nut, ReadingAdventures, Jenny’s Books
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: Even looking into the gardens at night, Laurence could not imagine himself home; too many bright lanterns looking out from the trees, red and gold under the upturned roof-corners; the sound of laughter behind him like a foreign country.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 118: ““The harem quarters are to the south, beyond those high walls, and the women are not permitted outside; I assure you, Captain, we would not be seeing nearly so much of her, were she an odalisque.”” – a female slave or concubine in a harem, esp. in that of the sultan of Turkey.
  • p. 160: ““Sir, I beg you not repine on it.”” – to be fretfully discontented; fret; complain.
  • p. 161: ““I am sorry,” he added, seeing Laurence’s grim look, “but so it is said in the streets and the coffeehouses; and by the ulema and the vezirs also, I imagine.”” – the doctors of Muslim religion and law.
  • p. 171: ““By Maden’s account the gold needed some hundred chests; and there have been no reports from the caravanserai or the dockyards, of any movement near so large: I spent the morning yesterday in making inquiries.”” – an inn, usually with a large courtyard, for the overnight accommodation of caravans.
  • p. 233: ““If they chose to sit in their cantonments and wait for us, all the better.”” – a camp, usually of large size, where men are trained for military service.
  • p. 257: “And their talons were not empty: they carried, laboring, also whole caissons of ammunition, enormous sacks of food, and, shockingly, nets full of live animals: these, being deposited into the pens and cut free, went wandering about in aimless daze, knocking into the walls and falling over, as visibly drugged as the pigs Temeraire had carried over the mountains, not so very long ago.” – an ammunition chest.
  • p. 282: “Laurence could not follow the conversation, mostly in German, but that they were brangling was noisily clear.” – to dispute in a noisy or angry manner; squabble.
5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 23, 2009 11:32 am

    I have the exact same thing! Can’t stand battle scenes! I am sad that these books have so many battle scenes. My attention wanders…

  2. June 24, 2009 9:00 pm

    Jenny – I’m okay when they’re little fight scenes – like little skirmishes – but the huge battles just don’t do much for me on paper.

  3. June 24, 2009 10:36 pm

    I don’t like battle scenes in books OR movies – my husband thinks it almost sacrilegious that I don’t enjoy Braveheart, but seriously, how many ways can we watch people get killed?

  4. June 26, 2009 10:49 am

    Elizabeth – I’m not crazy about battle scenes in movies, but I much prefer them to battle scenes in books, just because it’s easier for me to get a) a sense of the pattern of things on the big scale, and b) a sense of what it was like in the actual fighting. For some reason, neither of those things come across to me very well when I read.

  5. June 26, 2009 9:54 pm

    I thought this one was the low point in the series. The rest are better. I particularly like the one set in China and the one set in Africa.

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