Black Powder War begins with Temeraire and his crew having successfully finished therir delegation in China are greeted with new orders. Orders that must have assumed they would be successful in their struggle. Because these orders, delivered by a man with well known questionable character, dictated that they leave china and rush to Istanbul to retrieve three dragon eggs inclding one of their firebreathers. Laurence must decide if they should wait for the dragon transport to be made ready or if they should strike out overland. And while the officers and crew of temeraire underrstnad and know the urgency to save time the naval officers do not understand why they would risk their lives not to mention Temeraire’s life whom they have only just managed to secure for the british empire.
But in the end Laurence bows to the urgency of the need at hand and they rush to recover the eggs. As their journey unfolds they run into feral dragons, who seem to have their own language, avalanches and fighting the terror of the deserts including thirst and sandstorms. Laurence is forced to dig deeper into his understanding of honor and how a gentle man is supposed to behave and is tested as events unfold in Instanbul. We get a fantastic overviewof his internal struggle as he makes his choice regarding the eggs, when it becomes obvious that the sultan is ready to renig on the arrangement with Brittan. Of course this is most likely due to the pressence of the only other Celestial who treds upon the world outside of China, Lien the alino dragon and companion of the former Prince Yongxing.
Decision made Laurence and his crew manage to retrive the renigged eggs, even though temeraire is having issues with the fact that brittan bought the eggs. Though in their flight one of the crew and one of the eggs are lost in a fall from temeraire to the ground. Eventhough everyone was distraught by the needless death they flee to the nearest borders and they do manage to escape into austria and are given a night of safty by an austrian solder who is quite bitter that his country has bent its knee to Napoleon.
They quickly continue their flight into home, only to end up in a prushian camp and are forced to stay because of an agreement with brittan for twenty dragons, who have never shown up to honor the agreement. Now this is a point of contention with Laurence for the rest of the novel, he knows that the corp would only have withheld the promised support only if they had no other choice, but he is never quite able to figure out the reason. But he eventually agrees to stay and while he tries to incorporate his crew into the Prushian arial corp, temeraire is busy trying to preach his newfound knowledge of the rights that dragons possess in china with those in the prsian corp. The only issue is that none of these dragons want to have those rights, all they want to do is what they have always done. Laurence has an overdue conversation with temeraire about the fact that eqality for dragons will take time, more importantly it will have to wait till the war with france is over.
With that revelation we are shown just how naive the dragon truely is. Yes he is exceptionally intelligent especially considering that he is still less than five years old, something that is truely forgotten about most of the time. However with this hope and desire it is painfully obvious just how childlike temeraire is. And that innocence is absolutely compelling coming from a creature who could level an attacking army with his roar. Unfortuantely the brief hope that they could beat Napoleon and end the war soon gives way when the french emporor wins battle after battle thanks to his using his new arieal commander Lien. Eventually Temmeraire is forced to flee and while they are on the run the fire breather hatches and Granby becomes her captain but she proves to be more of a hinderence than a help always trying to start a fight even with temeraire.
the whole lot are lucky enough to land in a prusian keep while the french were busy checking on other things. As time went on Laurence knows they must risk everything and flee the keep in an attempt to reach the british boats when they finally see dragons coming who immeadiately engage with the french dragons guarding the keep. From this point the novel quickly wraps up in a wonderful way, a pragmatic series of events but still a satisfying conclusion that fits with the recklessness of the rest of the novel.