The third book in the Temeraire –series continues the adventures of Captain William Laurence of His Majesty’s Aerial Corps and Temeraire, his dragon.

The book starts soon after the previous one ends so here there be spoilers for the previous books.

Temeraire and Laurence are still in China and homesick. Alas, their ship Allegiance is badly burned and it looks like they are stuck in China for three more months. However, when Laurence receives an urgent mission to Istanbul from the Aerial corps, he has no choice but to try to go overland. He tries his best to map a course and even hires a guide Tharkey to help their journey.

The journey is hard. Even though Temeraire can at first fly the men for quite a long way but the dragon needs also quite a lot of water and meat every day which means that the crossing of the deserts become difficult. They also encounter a group of wild dragons much to Temeraire’s delight and are attacked by bandits. When they reach Istanbul matters become muddier to Laurence’s surprise. He had been sent to recover three dragon eggs which England has supposedly bought from the Ottoman Empire. However, the only Ottoman minister who deigns to welcome the English crew, claims that the English have not paid for them. Laurence don’t know what to believe.

This book again broadens our view of the world. In addition to the China and the Ottoman Empire we also see the Russians and the Prussians, and the way they treat their respective dragons. While the latter two nations seem to treat their dragons much the same way as the English, in the Ottoman Empire some dragons are Muslims. Alas, we are often given just a glimpse to this fascinating culture.

His time in China has inspired Temeraire to have plans to raise the status of dragons in England. He wants to be able to own things legally and to be paid for the work he does. He even suggests to Laurence that dragons should have a voice in the government. While Laurence agrees with Temeraire, he strongly suspects that that’s not going to happen. Most English don’t want to view dragons as more than animals and would not want to be governed by them. His suspicions haunt him and he almost feels like he’s lying to Temeraire. He also suspects that Temeraire would have been better off if he had stayed in China. I’m curious to see what Temeraire will do when he realized that his dreams cannot be come true.

The wild dragons are on the surface mostly a comic relief. However, they are a mirror to Temeraire and the whole episode is reminiscent of how older books treated non-white people. In essence, Temeraire is the “tamed” non-white person who is a slave or a servant to his masters. Yet, he sees his place as better than the wild ones who are to him uneducated and uncivilized. Also, the episode challenges the humans’ knowledge of wild dragons who are thought to really be animals. Tharkey is another non-white person. He’s father is an Englishman but her mother is a native woman and so, he’s a loner accepted by no one. He also doesn’t want acceptance but instead expects rejection no matter what he does. I rather liked him.

The structure of this book is closer to the first in the series unlike the second one. The plot is mostly a journey with a lot of battles and some mysteries as well. There are a lot of characters which we meet in different locations and yet they tend to be more than just faces in the crowd.