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Black Powder War: Temeraire, Book Three review

Bernard Cornwell vs Anne McCaffrey: Round three…

Author: Naomi Novik

Publisher: HarperCollins Voyager

352 pages • £14.99

ISBN: 0-00-721915-6

Rating:

What if Germany had won World
War II? What if Rome never fell? The
subgenre of alternate history is
crammed with bizarre “what if”
questions, but author Naomi Novik still
hits on a unique one, asking: “What if
both sides in the Napoleonic Wars had
dragons?” Blending mythic action and
gentlemanly derring-do, Novik’s
Temeraire series has reached its third
volume, and picks up soon after the
climax of Throne of Jade.

Our heroes, ex-naval captain-turnedaviator,
Will Laurence and his dragon
companion Temeraire, are heading
home when they’re handed a mission.
Three dragon eggs vital to England’s
success in the war must be collected
from Istanbul, meaning a risky voyage
across the desert, and peril on arrival in
the heartland of the Ottoman Empire.
Matters aren’t helped by the interfering
of white dragon Lien, and soon the pair
are trapped in the middle of the war
between the Prussians and the French…

Novik has done her homework,
bringing locations like Istanbul to
teeming life, and adding evocative
moments to her prose. Few of the cast
are seriously fleshed out, but the plot
moves quickly, so it’s rarely a problem.

Fans of previous instalments will find
plenty to enjoy, yet despite the
presence of giant fire-breathing
intelligent reptiles, Novik’s saga lacks
strangeness and pulp energy. It’s a
traditional historical epic that happens
to feature dragons and, while the bigscale
action will appeal outside the
genre, dedicated fantasy readers may
begin to wish Novik would embrace the
call of the weird, and maybe throw her
alternate history in less predictable
directions.

Saxon Bullock

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