Black Powder War by Naomi Novik


Published by Del Rey
May 2006
ISBN 0-345-48130-5
398 Pages
Author Web site:


Naomi Novik’s third Temeraire novel follows directly from the events of Throne of Jade, as Laurence and Temeraire make their leave from China in the hopes of returning to England.  Unfortunately, their plans are thrown to the wayside as they are ordered to travel to Turkey, in order to secure the eggs of three Turkish fire-breathing dragons.  These dragons are of the utmost importance to the British, as they have no firebreathers in their Corps, while their enemies do.


Along the way, they come across some feral dragons as they traverse the landscape.  I thought this was a nice way for Novik to further showcase the breadth of dragon life in her imagined world.  Their way of life and attitudes contrasted with Temeraire’s in a very stark fashion, and proved further thought for Temeraire to examine his own young life in relation to both the feral dragons and Chinese Dragons.


In His Majesty’s Dragon Laurence was forced into the Aerial Corps, in Throne of Jade Laurence was made to travel to China against his will. Here in Black Powder War, Laurence is again is thrust into an unfamiliar and uncomfortable position as Laurence was in position as a negotiator between the British and the Turkish officials. 


After two books, Temeraire has grown and is a much more inquisitive character, and hopes to bring some of the Chinese’s sensibilities about dragons back to England. This plotline began as an undercurrent in the previous installment and is an even stronger element of the story in Black Powder War.  Novik intertwines the elements of the previous book very well with the new struggles faced by Laurence and Temeraire.


One problem I had; however, was Temeraire’s incessant questions to Laurence.  While I understand the curiosity of youth and Temeraire’s hopes of bettering life for him and his kind, the questions did become a bit of a drag on the plot. I suppose one could consider this as Temeraire as finding himself, growing through the ever-frustrating, and often trying teen years. Perhaps Novik’s intention here was to begin building something a rift between Laurence and his “dear” dragon, but it did more to grate on the nerves of this reader.


While Novik adequately continues the adventures of Temeraire, readers may be better served to read the installments with some time between books.  Three books into this continually evolving series, it is clear Novik is having a lot of fun, and this might be her greatest strength.  The fun comes through on the page and makes for an entertaining story.  Through the three books, she does maintain a strong voice with both Temeraire and Laurence and sustains a solid narrative, while adding new flavors with each book. As it is, Novik is building an interesting alternate-world that are entertaining reads, with these books.  While this does bring the trilogy to a close, Novik has planted enough seeds to germinate in future books.


© 2006 Rob H. Bedford


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