The sixth book in the Temeraire series.
Publication year: 2010
Page count: 355
Publisher: Del Ray
After the events in the previous book, Victory of Eagles, Laurence and Temeraire were sent to Australia. Because of Temeraire, Laurence is treated differently than the other prisoners but almost all of the aviators and the officers resent him, except of Iskierka’s captain Granby, the young boys from Africa, and Laurence’s unofficial ensign Emily Roland.
After a long sea voyage, Temeraire, Iskierka, and the three eggs sent with them have arrived to Sydeny which turns out to be not only a small and shabby town but also under a mutiny. The prisoners have overthrown the current governor and are running the town themselves. The previous governor begs the newcomers to interfere and put him back in charge. However, both Grandy and Laurence refuse without direct orders, and so does the ship’s captain Riley. So, instead the newcomers have to deal with the rebel leaders and the haphazard order of Sydney.
Laurence and Temeraire are both frustrated since they have nothing to do and they hear that the war is escalating. The colony is also hard pressed to feed the huge dragons who have to settle for stringy kangaroos. When one of the rebel leaders suggest that the dragons and their captains might fly on an expedition into the unexplored (by British, at any case) interior of the continent to search for a better land to grow cattle, the dragons and the captains are eager to go. However, that proves to be more dangerous than they expected and not just because of the climate.
Before the expedition leaves, one of the three dragon eggs hatches. Even though the three eggs are thought to be of relatively little value, the Admirals sent some officers whom they thought would make good captains for the hatchlings. One of the officers was Rankin, from the first book, who was a dismal captain to the poor small Levitas. Temeraire objects to him strongly, especially after he learn that Rankin was going to force the hatchling to “choose” him. However, the hatchling chooses Rankin because he’s an earl’s son and rich. The new hatchling calls himself Caesar and complains quite a lot.
Temeraire carries the other two eggs with him during the expedition but the larger one is stolen despite his efforts. Quickly, the journey changes into a rescue operation.
Because the book is set in Australia, most of the familiar Corps characters don’t appear; we just hear from them through letters. Iskierka, Grandy, Tharkey, and the ensigns are the exception. In fact, the young ensigns are the focal point of a couple of sub plots, which I quite enjoyed. Rankin is a disagreeable character which brings needed conflict. He considers only Granby to be something of his social equal and calls Laurence Mr. Laurence quite pointedly. I didn’t know who to fell sorry for: the self-important Rankin or his greedy and selfish dragon.
Most of the book is devoted to exploring Australia and then to the rescue effort, so there aren’t big battles except at the end. I didn’t mind since I tend to like exploration more, anyway. There were a few things that I thought a bit too convenient, but not enough to really grumble about.
The aviators sometimes cross dragon breeds in order to get a better battle dragons, and I’ve wondered if the crossbreeds are always successful and if they aren’t what’s going to happen to them. The answer seems to be pretty bleak but I guess not really unexpected because the dragons aren’t considered really sentient or at least not human. (And my mind still boggles about the idea that a creature which can not only discuss matters intelligently but also read and write, not to be sentient.)
Laurence, and to some extent Temeraire, are again presented with moral dilemmas: first with the situation with the colony and later with having made friends among people who might become the enemy. Considering, who appallingly Laurence has been treated by Whitehall, I couldn’t blame them if they decided to show Whitehall the finger and settle in China.
This was again pretty different book from the previous ones but I liked it for the change of pace and I’m really curious to see what will come next. However, it ends is such a way that it’s possible to stop reading the series here. There was a mention is acknowledgments that there will be three more books.