WarningMight contain spoilers.

Riley apparently dies, Granby loses his arm, the Allegiance sinks, and yet… this, the first book I hadn’t previously read, is my favourite so far. I fervently hope Riley isn’t really dead. That would be all too sad, considering it comes after yet another episode of an aviator making a faux pas and Riley stiffening, leading to tension between the crew and the aviators. (Naomi Novik certainly loves her set phrases and adjectives.[1]) I wish Granby hadn’t lost his arm, either—it seems unfair.

The South American adventures are engrossing and enjoyable. They allow everyone to spend time together without the threat of imminent death, for once. Iskierka’s bout with the South American dragon introduces the concept of combat between dragons without killing being the objective. It’s thrilling, gripping, and exciting, right down to Iskierka cleverly boiling the other dragon’s poison. Well done to her, incidentally, for finally persuading Temeraire to mate with her! Good job Granby, too, for finally putting his foot down and making her acknowledge that he’s in charge.

I enjoyed the discomfiture of all the Englishmen (and the assorted peoples of other nations) at the South American dragons’ repeated attempts to convince them to join their ayllus. Hammond and Churki make an especially endearing pair.

Kefentse appears to have mellowed since Empiry of Ivory, to have apologized handsomely to Temeraire for abducting Laurence. I’m happy to see there’s more to Lethabo (once Mrs. Erasmus) than her abrupt transformation there. The tacit competition between Ferris and Forthing is a waste of time. I wonder where Mrs. Pemberton’s story is headed—there are hints of an important role for her. The slaveowners are appropriately reprehensible and deserving of death. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of queer people (or is it specifically gay men and women?) being referred to as inverts before. Granby possibly marrying the Incan ruler is an unexpected and amusing development uptil that point. Anhuarque’s ultimate choice to marry Bonaparte and attack her guests is very sudden and unexplained.

I’m glad Kulingile kills the men who try to hide Demane from him. The two of them go well together.

Laurence’s background and upbringing are eminently clear by this point; nevertheless, his moralizing is tedious and repetitive (notwithstanding the excellent setdown he gives Demane). He may still feel the shame and humiliation of having been branded a traitor, and I assume his Navy habits will stay with him forever, but he and Temeraire are visibly straying further and further from the path of loyal soldiers of the crown, and even he appears to have stopped questioning it.

Laurence has seen the British treat dragons as particularly difficult weapons, the Chinese treat dragons as their equals, the Tswana see them as their revered elders, Australians treat dragons as labourers in the community (perhaps not so different from the Chinese way), and now the South Americans treat dragons as leaders. The series seems to be dragging him around the world to demonstrate the different ways in which humans can co-habit with dragons. The next book being called Blood of Tyrants, I have to wonder whether we’ll see Napoleon defeated by a combined Chinese-English-Tswana force so the last one (League of Dragons) can focus on dragons fighting for their rightful place in society.

Gong Su finally shows his true colours! That was a surprise indeed. Now it makes more sense that he’s been their saviour time and again.

  1. And I mine.

Next in series: (#8 in Thoughts & Spoilers: Books: Temeraire (2006))