Black Powder War - Naomi Novik

Black Powder War  - Naomi Novik

Black Powder War, the third in Novik's Temeraire series, sees Laurence, Temeraire et al get caught up in the Napoleonic Wars on the Continent as they fly an urgent mission from China to collect some eggs from the Government of Turkey. (Confused yet?)


Perhaps it's because I read Throne of Jade only last week, but I didn't enjoy Black Powder War anywhere near as much as I liked the first two. Though Novik's voice still feels authentically nineteenth-century, the intricate web of relationships, with the careful political manoeuvring that web entailed, is missing here; instead of, you know, talking it all out, the general approach seems to be GO KILL STUFF.


I mean, there were battle scenes in the first two books, but although they were never my favourite thing, they were at least fairly rare and leavened by all the politicking, and Temeraire being adorable. Here the second half of the book is pretty much literally one long campaign, full of discussions of tactics and battle formations and cities that I have no idea how they relate to each other spatially. A map would have been really helpful, but no.


There are still things to recommend the book to fans: the feral dragons are kind of awesome, as is the discussion of whether dragons can coexist with humankind, there's a cute baby dragon at one point, and a heart-stirring reenaction of Dunkirk, but with dragons. And it all feels authentically Napoleonic. It's just a lot less subtle than its predecessors, which is a real pity because that's where Novik shines.