Despite Laurence’s heroic actions in Victory of Eagles, he is still a convicted traitor to the British crown; however, his sentence has been commuted from death to transportation and hard labor. Therefore, he and Temeraire must voyage to New South Wales and assist the British government in building up the fledgling colony. They bring with them three dragon eggs in the hopes of eventually fortifying the colony, which has no dragons of its own. When Laurence and Temeraire arrive, though, they immediately find themselves in the middle of a political struggle between Captain Bligh, the British-appointed governor of the colony, and a group of rebels who have carved out their own life on the Australian island. Then Laurence and Temeraire are sent into the unmapped interior of the island, where disaster after disaster befalls them.
Although I’m always happy to read about Laurence and Temeraire’s adventures, I have to say I was disappointed in this book, especially since it followed the excellent Victory of Eagles. Once again most of the book is spent in describing the characters’ travels through the Australian landscape. While the descriptions are well done and vivid – Novik certainly did her research – I don’t think they added much to the story or the character development. A more active storyline does emerge in the last few chapters of the book, but overall I don’t think this novel did very much to propel the series forward. I did enjoy certain developments among the secondary characters, though, including Demane and the ever-enigmatic Tharkay. I’m curious to continue with Crucible of Gold, although I’m a bit apprehensive that it will be yet another travelogue, as apparently Laurence and Temeraire are off to South America next. Oh well – hopefully I’ll enjoy the ride either way!