Black Powder War
The third volume of the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik, released in the United States by Del Rey (a division of RandomHouse) on May 30, 2006. It was published in Great Britain by Voyager on January 2, 2007.
As Temeraire and his crew prepare to return to Britain, Laurence receives a message from Admiral Lenton instructing him to travel to Istanbul to retrieve three dragon eggs that have been purchased by the British Aerial Corps. As a fire breaks out on board the Allegiance before they can set sail, it is instead decided to travel on foot. Because the proposed route is a largely unknown one, Tharkay, the man who delivered the message, is recruited to guide them on their way.
Their journey takes them past various Chinese cities and several small towns on the Silk Road, as well as through the Gobi Desert, which results in rationing of the food and water. Twice is their party attacked; the first time by bandits, and a second time by feral dragons in a mountain range in Turkestan, who they seek shelter with following an avalanche. When confronted, the feral dragons and their leader, Arkady, apologise for their theft, and, prompted by Temeraire’s talk of Istanbul, announce their intention to join their party so that they may meet the Sultan.
Finally reaching Istanbul, Arkady and the other ferals, hungry from their journey, raid the Turkish hunting grounds. When the Turkish dragons retaliate, they flee, leaving Temeraire and his crew to take the blame. Hasan Mustafa Pasha, a vezir to the Sultan, arrives and frees them from any fear of punishment, but informs them that they cannot give them the promised eggs because the payment for them has not arrived.
Temeraire and his crew are housed in the fourth courtyard of Topkapi Palace, while they await a meeting with the Sultan. Temeraire briefly causes a ruckus amongst the Turkish guards by telling their dragons of conditions in China, and Laurence is forced to admit to him that it is unlikely that conditions will improve immediately for dragons, and that he will most likely need to wait until the end of the war against France.
Tharkay, who has been absent several times during their journey; something that Laurence finds mistrusting, returns from a trip into Istanbul with proof that the Sultan has received payment for the eggs, but is refusing to admit it. Laurence accompanies him through Istanbul, and the two barely escape being caught by guards set to stop them from leaving the grounds; at one point being chased into the Basilica Cistern. The next day, their meeting with the Sultan reveals the reason for the treachery; Lung Tien Lien, seeking revenge on Temeraire for the death of Prince Yongxing, has sworn a vendetta against him and Britain, and has convinced the Sultan to keep the eggs. Lung Tien Lien then briefly meets with Temeraire, and tells him that she intends to go to France and aid Napoleon Bonaparte in the conquest of Britain and more, until Temeraire has no friends or home left in the world.
With no other way to claim the eggs, and now knowing the Sultan to be secretly antagonistic to Britain, Laurence plans a secret assault to capture the promised eggs, and flee across the border. The initial part of the plan is successful, and the eggs are captured, but the alarm is raised during their escape, and in their hurry to flee, one of Temeraire’s crew, clutching one of the eggs, plummets to his death off Temeraire’s back.
They are forced to continue onwards to Austria, where they successfully evade the Turkish dragons and seek respite at an Austrian military camp. The next day, they continue on to Saxony, where they find the Prussian army preparing for battle with the French army. Laurence is informed by the colonel that they have been expecting reinforcements from the Aerial Corps, but they have inexplicably not arrived. Laurence offers his and Temeraire’s temporary service as partial compensation, and Tharkay leaves to return to his own travels.
The Prussian forces are confident that they will succeed in the upcoming battle, but they are overly dependent on outdated battle strategies coined by Frederick the Great, and are quick to dismiss the danger of Lung Tien Lien, who has been sighted aiding Napoleon Bonaparte. The French and Prussian forces meet at the Saale River, with the Prussians being forced to retreat to Jena.
Laurence and several Prussian officers scout out the surrounding area, and witness a conversation between Lung Tien Lien and Napoleon Bonaparte, as well as the unique sight of the Armée de l’Air carrying the French army to Jena; a reworking of a Chinese method of transport, courtesy of Lung Tien Lien’s influence. A second battle is fought at Jena, with the French emerging victorious. The Prussian army retreats, and Temeraire and his crew flee to Apolda, where they are recruited in aiding the Prussian Royal Family flee the rapidly approaching French forces. The last hope of a Prussian victory is lost when it is learnt that the Russian forces, set to join the battle against Napoleon Bonaparte, have been defeated at Warsaw.
Laurence plans to flee Prussia and return to Britain, but as they make camp for the night in Polish countryside, one of the dragon eggs hatches. The young dragon, who receives the name Iskierka, is made companion to John Granby, Laurence’s first lieutenant. However, a French patrol spots them, forcing them to again flee; now to the city of Danzig, which soon becomes the site of another battle.
Reinforcements unexpectedly arrive in the form of Tharkay and the feral dragons, who have agreed to join the British cause provided they are to receive a cow each day for their services. However, this will not be enough to stop the French forces, and a retreat is planned; Temeraire and the ferals carrying the surviving Prussian forces with them to safety. Although a brief battle ensues with the French dragons, ultimately Temeraire and the ferals manage to escape, and they continue onwards to England.
For more detail, see Characters introduced in Black Powder War.
A letter from Reverend Daniel Salcombe is included, detailing his opinion that the claim that dragons are sentient is nothing more than lies, aviators wishing to better conditions for their dragons from such a claim.
- When still in draft form, the original title of Black Powder War was "Something New and Strange". The plot also differed, bearing more similarities to the finished version of Empire of Ivory. Instead of travelling overland through Turkestan and Prussia, Laurence and Temeraire head for Great Britain on the HMS Allegiance, but are attacked by French warships in the Indian Ocean and are shipwrecked at an uncharted region of Africa. The colonies in Africa have been plagued by raids from inland, and Temeraire and Laurence discover the source of this; a great dragon city in the heart of the jungle. After this and more, they make for Cape Town, and meet up with Lily's Formation, who are leading an attack on the French warships.
- The dragon depicted on the cover of both versions of Black Powder War is that of a full-grown Kazilik, quite possibly Iskierka.
Deviations From History
Aside from the obvious additions of dragons, the events in Temeraire follow the history of our own world quite closely. However, several differences do occur throughout the series. In "Black Powder War", the following differences occur:
- The Siege of Danzig takes place in early November 1806, instead of mid-March 1807, presumably a result of Lung Tien Lien aiding Napoleon with various Chinese draconic military tactics and allowing the French to begin the siege earlier than Kalkreuth estimated by using the divine wind on the frozen Winter ground.
- General Kalkreuth and a group of Prussian soldiers flee Danzig to England via dragonback, instead of remaining and ultimately being defeated.
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