This was definitely a slower burn of a book than the first but still a very enjoyable read. It starts and ends with a bang but then is basically a travelogue as Lawrence and Temeraire are forced to journey to China by the British government to placate the Chinese due to the revelations at the end of the first book.
There is some tension as they are unsure if any of the Chinese are on their side or are actively against them, and this becomes more pronounced when they finally arrive. There are some great battle scenes again, particularly a kind of defensive encounter near the end that is really well written, but other than that most of the drama is of the milder sort.
What this book is really about is the relationship between Lawrence and Temeraire and how it is evolving. It gets really good once in China when Temeraire sees how dragons are treated there compared to England/Europe where they are seen as beasts, intelligent beasts, but beasts nevertheless.
It is a good area to explore, to see how ‘our’ world would cope with another species that is as intelligent as our own. In China they are seen as equals if not superiors, and both species have learned to co-exist with each other, dragons can be almost autonomous. I’ve never really seen this explored before in a real world fantasy setting and it is very interesting. The typical bond between a person and a dragon is here of course, fairly standard, but these dragon’s have a mind of their own and question the status quo of what they see, particularly in this rigid Elizabethan society. I really hope this is explored further in the later volumes.
4 stars out of 5