The fifth book in the Temeraire-series. It starts again straight from the events at the end of the previous book

At the end of the Empire of Ivory, Temeraire and Laurence became traitors to England. Now, they are paying for it; Temeraire has been confined to the breeding grounds in Wales and is bored while Laurence is a prisoner aboard the warship Goliath.

There’s little to do in the breeding grounds but to sleep, eat, and mate, but Temeraire has decided to be at his best behavior so that the government won’t execute Laurence. None of the other dragons are interested in discussions and it’s very hard to get any news. The only thing the other dragons seem to be interested in, is taking over the nicest caves. But then Temeraire hears that Goliath has been sunk and Laurence with it. The Celestial decides to take matters into his own hands. Clearly, the humans aren’t doing a good job at fighting the French, so Temeraire encourages the other dragons to leave the breeding grounds and fight all by themselves.

As a member of the Aerial Corps, Laurence has met scorn before. But even then he was a member of a tightly knit soldier unit. As a traitor, Laurence is completely on his own. People he doesn’t know, and even some who he does know, insult him and treat him badly. For his part, Laurence feels that he deserves everything and doesn’t even try to defend himself. He knows that he’s only alive because the Admiralty has still some use for Temeraire and even so he could be executed at any moment.

However, soon the Admirals need Laurence as a dragon captain again because the French are moving in force. However, his sentence isn’t forgotten, just delayed.

There’s an interesting mix of old and new characters in the book. Most of the new characters are dragons. We finally meet a dragon who isn’t too keen on fighting and in fact finds it not quite rational. Once again, I also quite enjoyed Iskierka; the rash fire breathing dragon who just wants to fight and win more prizes for herself and her captain. She brings conflict where ever she goes.

Temeraire makes some headway in his quest for more rights to dragons. Many, especially the Admirals, consider it blackmail, though, so it remains to be seen if the rights will stay after war.

This book is rather grimmer than the previous ones. The French invade England and there’s a lot of fighting, some of it rather nasty. Laurence does his duty grimly and without his previous enjoyment. This makes also Temeraire unhappy and the dragon wonders if he has done something wrong. Yet, Novik’s writing style doesn’t change and there are even some comedic moments, such as Temeraire meeting a “dragon scholar” who insists that dragons are no more intelligent than dogs.

I also enjoyed the brief discussion where it was revealed that the treasonous act at the end of the previous book could have been done quietly and without any treason at all. But Laurence is such a noble man that he couldn’t have agreed to sneak around.

Again, there’s a twist at the end which changes the duo’s life and I’m very curious to see what happens next.

Definitely a good continuation to the series.