The second installment of the Temeraire series takes place sometime after the events of His Majesty’s Dragon and brings a beautiful story with plenty of intrigues. While the dragon was thought to be an imperial for most of the book, it was his use of the Divine Wind that helped educate Laurance that Temeraire is not an imperial but rather a celestial. The greatest of all the Chinese dragons, and so right from the beginning we are treated to a Chinese delegation led by the emperor’s brother, Prince Yongxing, who is seeking the immediate return of Lung Tien Xiang, Temeraire, but neither Laurence or Temeraire are willing to part.
To keep the Chinese from severing ties, the British are eager to try and force the dragon’s departure. Which does not go over well and an eventual compromise is reached, since the two will not be parted. It is decided that Temeraire would return to China with Laurence and his crew. The compromise does manage to give Laurence the opportunity to try and convince the Chinese to let Temeraire stay with Laurence.
When they eventually set sail the journey begins far from smoothly they are attacked by the French, during the fight Temeraire suffers an injury that keeps him flightless for some time. In addition to the battle, there is an absolutely terrible dinner that the diplomat assigned to this delegation forced upon the British captain. But after these things troublesome matters Laurence does try to offer an olive branch to the Chinese, and he seems to win some of them over. It doesn’t help Laurence’s mode that the Chinese, specifically the prince are insinuating themselves into Temeraire teasing him with the culture he could expect to embrace if he were to choose to live in China.
Due to a lack of provisions, a result of Temeraire’s inability to hunt for at sea, they are all forced to swing by a coastal town that practices slavery. As soon as the dragon sees the practice, he is immediately unnerved by what is happening to the slaves, something that would be forever more present in the dragon’s mind. It makes its first appearance when they need to secure Temeraire to the deck of the dragon transport. He is immediately put off from the idea of being chained, but he eventually sees the need and allows himself to be secured to the deck by the chains. During all of the trials that Temeraire goes through, there are several attempts by the prince to try and separate the dragon and his captain, but Laurence rebuffs each effort.
By the end of the journey to China, Laurence had made some headway with some of the Chinese delegations except of course for Prince Yongxing. And now Laurence must attempt to work against the Chinese culture that treats dragons much more like citizens something he had never before had thought was possible. And of course the troubles that had happened during their journey to China were not isolated to the journey, Temeraire’s crew is in danger in their gilded cage.
The journey towards the climax is well written and paced wonderfully. The conclusion is as surprising as it is satisfactory. just as it was in His Majesty’s Dragon, Naomi Novik did an excellent job bringing an ancient culture to our attention. This installment of Temeraire’s journey is a fantastic followup to the first.