The Temeraire Reread

The Temeraire Reread: Black Powder War

Hello, everyone! Welcome back to the Temeraire Reread, in which I recap and review Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, one novel a week, leading up to the release of the final volume, League of Dragons, on June 14th. We continue this week with the third novel, Black Powder War, in which we return to Europe—and the Napoleonic Wars—via Istanbul. You can catch up on past posts at the reread index, or check out Tor.com’s other posts about Naomi Novik’s works through her tag.

Reminder: these posts may contain spoilers through all currently-published novels, but will contain no spoilers for the forthcoming League of Dragons (I’ve now read it, but I’m pretending I haven’t). If you have read League, absolutely no spoilers! But there’s no need to warn for spoilers about the published books, so spoil—and comment!—away.

 

PROLOGUE AND PART I (Chapters 1-5)

Prologue

Laurence happens to see Prince Yongxing buried quietly at night in an unmarked grave, with only Lien and De Guignes, the French ambassador, as mourners.

Chapter 1

The Allegiance is becalmed in Macao when a fire in the galley severely damages it, requiring months of repair. The aviators are found by Tharkay, a widely-traveled man whose father was a British gentleman and whose mother was “Thibetan or Nepalese, or something like”; he carries an order from Admiral Lenton directing them to proceed to Istanbul and pick up three dragon eggs that the Corps has purchased from Selim III, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.

Though they are puzzled why they are being sent to get the eggs, they realize time is of the essence, and eventually resolve to go overland with Tharkay as a guide, despite multiple people questioning his trustworthiness.

Chapter 2

They speed their way north, picking up the (dying) Silk Road at Xian, spending the night at what are likely the Maijishan Grottoes, and generally “cover[ing] better than a thousand miles in two weeks of traveling.” At the Jiayu Gate (Jiayuguan), their two hired Chinese cooks fling pebbles at the fortress’s wall; the one thrown by Gong Su rolls away, which he interprets to mean that he will never come back to China, and so he asks to stay. Laurence convinces him to come along, and promises Temeraire that they may return after the war.

Chapter 3

They buy camels at Dunhuang, to carry Temeraire’s water and serve as his food supply, and move in convoy along the south edge of the Taklamakan Desert. The other Chinese cook, Jing Chao, goes missing one day, and no trace of him can be found.

A sandstorm forces them to shelter for two days, during which time Laurence hears Tharkay’s cynical views about politics: he advises Temeraire that the quest for dragon rights may be “slow going,” because “men with powers and privileges rarely like to share them.” The storm destroys half of their remaining camels and the water they carried. Tharkay says they can still reach the next river; Laurence is reluctant to trust him, though “indeed he hardly knew what he feared,” but he eventually decides to not waste time turning back.

A few days later, they hear horses, discover that Tharkay is not there, and see horsemen spot them and then ride away. They follow and come upon Tharkay at an oasis, who says he scouted ahead; Laurence is at a loss to interpret his behavior. The horsemen leave but return in the night to try and steal the camels. The aviators fight them off—with Tharkay’s help—though one is killed.

They arrive at the market city of Yutien (now Hotan), after which oases are closer together. Laurence demands that Tharkay promise not to leave again without permission. Tharkay offers instead that they should part ways, and Laurence is forced to refuse, knowing they cannot spare the time to find another guide.

Chapter 4

High in the Pamir Mountains, a pack of feral dragons attempts to take their pigs. Temeraire warns them off with a “small growling roar,” which causes an avalanche. One aviator and the eagle flown by Tharkay are killed; one of the ferals suffers a broken wing.

The ferals take them, not entirely willingly, to their cave, which is warmed by a hot spring. Temeraire, who has been learning the dragon language Durzagh from Tharkay, learns that Lien previously crossed the pass with De Guignes, the French ambassador.

Chapter 5

The aviators depart as soon as possible, and “the youngest and most adventurous” of the ferals come with them.

When they finally arrive in Istanbul, everyone is tired and hungry, and the ferals dive on a herd of cattle being guarded by Turkish dragons. In the ensuing standoff, a Turkish captain tells Laurence that the British ambassador Arbuthnot was recently killed in a hunting accident. The ferals take advantage of everyone else’s distraction to grab the dead cows and flee.

The furious Turkish captain brings Hasan Mustafa Pasha (“the last a title rather than surname, Laurence vaguely recalled, and a senior rank among the vezirs”), who warmly greets Laurence and offers him hospitality, but tell him, “You must know we cannot give you the eggs.”

Commentary

This is not one of my favorite books in the series, I admit. Partly this is because the land campaign in Part III just refuses to stay in my head, but it also feels like a much more transitional and things-stuck-together book than it may actually be. After all, there is a clear goal from Chapter 1: get the eggs and bring them back to England. Everything else follows from that, and the three parts of the novel—overland travel, intrigues in Istanbul, grinding military campaigns in Central Europe—probably aren’t any more disparate than the parts of the last book. Yet I still have that instinctive reaction, fairly or not.

I do, however, love Tharkay a whole lot, and I’m very glad he’s here. Laurence has had a bunch of prejudices regarding women dislodged by his service as an aviator, but he hasn’t really had to confront how the British treat individual non-white people among them, as opposed entire powerful countries. Much of Laurence’s distrust clearly arises from his discomfort with Tharkay’s position outside the social roles he’s used to, as shown by this quote from Chapter 1:

It was difficult to know how to address him: neither a superior servant, nor a gentleman, nor a native, all his refinements of speech curiously placed against the scruff and tumble of his clothing and his disreputable surroundings; though perhaps he could have gotten no better accommodations, curious as his appearance was, and with the hostile eagle as his companion. He made no concessions, either, to his odd, in-between station; a certain degree of presumption almost in his manner, less formal than Laurence would himself have used to so new an acquaintance, almost in active defiance against being held at a servant’s distance.

Of course, Tharkay unquestionably courts that distrust, too, which we’ll get to in the next part.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about the journey itself. I think, from the lack of a mention, that the the Jiayu Gate isn’t connected to a Great Wall in the novel’s history, presumably because dragons. And I have no idea what was going on with the cooks—either the one who disappeared, or Gong Su’s request to turn back, since much later we find out he’s been in Prince Mianning’s service all along. Oh, and some of the dragons at Yutien are practicing Muslims.

Finally, Temeraire recounts a long story told by Arkady, the leader of the ferals; is there any chance it’s a riff on an existing story that I don’t recognize?

“It is very exciting,” Temeraire said, turning to him eagerly, “it is all about a band of dragons, who find a great heap of treasure hidden in a cave, that belonged to an old dragon who died, and they are quarreling over how to divide it, and there are a great many duels between the two strongest dragons, because they are equally strong, and really they want to mate and not fight, but neither of them knows that the other also wants to mate, and so they each think they have to win the treasure, and then they can give it to the other, and then the other one will agree to mate to get the treasure. And one of the other dragons is very small but clever, and he is playing tricks on the others and getting lots of the treasure away for himself bit by bit; and also there is a mated pair who have argued over their own share, because the female was too busy brooding the egg to help him fight the others and get a bigger share, and then he did not want to share equally with her, and then she got angry and took away the egg and hid with it, and now he is sorry but he cannot find her, and there is another male who wants to mate with her, and he has found her and is offering her some of his own share of the treasure—”

And now, on to Istanbul.

 

PART II (Chapters 6-10)

Chapter 6

Mustafa explains that the payment for the dragon eggs “had not yet been delivered when the ambassador had met with his accident,” and casts suspicion on the ambassador’s vanished secretary James Yarmouth. The aviators don’t believe him, but find themselves essentially trapped in the palace quarters they are given.

As they wait, Temeraire makes friends with the fire-breathing Kazilik dragons who are guarding them, and discovers it is their egg the British bought—and it is going to hatch soon. The aviators are thrilled, though the news increases the urgency of obtaining the eggs, since they need to teach the dragon English in the shell. They are also stunned at the reported price of half a million pounds, which Laurence calls enough to “build half-a-dozen first-rates … and a pair of dragon transports besides.” The news poses an unexpected difficulty, however, when Temeraire objects to the idea that the dragon eggs are being sold: “it is no wonder that people treat us as though we are slaves.”

Mustafa eventually comes to visit them, fending Laurence off with an investigatory visit to the ambassador’s residence—fruitless, but it does give their guards a chance to show the aviators the massive fortifications being added to the harbor. Laurence decides to demand an audience with the Sultan directly, thinking that he cannot mean to entirely destroy relations with the British “with Bonaparte nearer his doorstep than ever, since Austerlitz.”

Chapter 7

Laurence discovers, thanks to the visit of a furious dragon captain, that Temeraire has been telling the local dragons “how they ought to be paid, and not need to go to war unless they wish it.” Laurence tells him to stop, because they are at the mercy of their hosts. Temeraire takes this request to its logical conclusion and realizes that Laurence thinks similar talk at home would hurt the war effort. Laurence reluctantly agrees, though he tries to comfort Temeraire with the idea of smaller progress in the meantime.

Two young riflemen, Dunne and Hackley, are caught attempting to enter the seraglio (women’s apartments), for which the penalty is death. Laurence manages to talk Mustafa into sparing their lives and leaving their punishment to him.

Tharkay, who has been missing since the middle of the prior chapter, arrives at this unhappy point with the news that he has found Mr. Maden, who commissioned him to carry Admiral Lenton’s orders to China.

Chapter 8

Laurence and Tharkey sneak out and meet Maden, a Jewish banker whose family came to Istanbul after being expelled from Spain by the Inquisition. Maden had assembled the gold for the payment; he tells them that he delivered the gold to the ambassador’s residence. Laurence asks if Mustafa could have stolen the money, which Maden rejects: “He and his family are in passionate support of the Sultan’s reforms, and the cleansing of the Janissary Corps.” Maden does note, however, that popular opinion since Austerlitz is that Napoleon is undefeatable.

On the way back to the palace, Laurence and Tharkey are seen by guards, and Tharkay bravely and successfully leads them through half-submerged tunnels to escape. Laurence confronts Tharkay about his inconsistent behavior; Tharkay admits that “I would rather provoke a little open suspicion, freely expressed, than meekly endure endless slights and whispers not quite hidden behind my back,” based on past bitter experience. Laurence, moved by the waste of Tharkay’s isolation, promises him full loyalty, which Tharkay accepts and returns.

Sara Maden, Mr. Maden’s daughter, acts as a business agent for one of the women in the harem. She comes to the aviators’ quarters to show them a piece of the missing British gold, which she found in the Sultan’s treasury. (Also, she and Tharkey once had some kind of romantic relationship, but she is now marrying someone else.) Laurence uses this evidence to get an audience with the Sultan—at which they discover Lien.

Chapter 9

The Sultan makes it clear that he will not provide the eggs. Lien visits and tells Temeraire,

“I came,” she said, “to be certain that you understood. You are very young and stupid, and you have been badly educated; I would pity you, if I had any pity left.

“You have overthrown the whole of my life, torn me from family and friends and home; you have ruined all my lord’s hopes for China, and I must live knowing that all for which he fought and labored was for naught. His spirit will live unquiet, and his grave go untended.

“No, I will not kill you, or your captain, who binds you to his country.” She shook out her ruff and leaning forward said softly, “I will see you bereft of all that you have, of home and happiness and beautiful things. I will see your nation cast down and your allies drawn away. I will see you as alone and friendless and wretched as am I; and then you may live as long as you like, in some dark and lonely corner of the earth, and I will call myself content.”

After some effort to dispel the dismay caused by Lien’s words, the aviators plan to steal the eggs and leave that night.

The Kaziliks tell Temeraire that the egg is being kept inside the seraglio, near the baths. Temeraire is disinclined to let any of his crew go—this includes Tharkay, to Tharkay’s surprise—because of the danger, but one of the punished riflemen saw the baths and leads them there. They manage to take the eggs, though Tharkay is wounded; young Digby, a member of Temeraire’s flight crew from the beginning, is killed; and one of the three eggs is smashed.

Chapter 10

They make it to Austria after a “long and desperate flight.” They are given temporary shelter in a fort whose bitter commander gives Laurence the details of Napoleon’s massive victory at Austerlitz (which happened last book) and tells Laurence that the Prussians are going to war against France. They arrive in Dresden to find that the Prussians have been waiting for twenty British dragons for the last two months.

Commentary

In our history, Selim III did join forces with Napoleon shortly after Austerlitz, and also attempted to reform the Janissary Corps; he was deposed for his efforts in 1807, or after this book. I don’t know if the British gold would affect that in this alternate history. If anyone’s knowledgeable about the history of the Ottoman Empire and cares to comment generally on the Istanbul bits, that would be great.

I wish we got to see more of Sara Maden, who is clearly a woman to be reckoned with, and to learn more about her history with Tharkay. I know that these would be entirely different books if they were in Patrick O’Brian-style omniscient (which is also a very technically demanding POV), but there are definitely times when the limited POV frustrates me. It was good to hear Tharkay explain himself, though, and one should not underestimate the fortitude it takes to actively flout near-universal disdain from, as he says, “not only society but all those on whom you might justly have a claim of brotherhood” (his father was a senior British officer). (Also, I admit it, I totally ship him and Laurence. Though more as we go on. (I haven’t forgotten about Jane! I contain multitudes.))

As for setting up the future: we get a few more hints about the dragon plague, between the massive sum paid for the Kazilik egg and the absence of the British dragons to support the Prussians, though I doubt those are enough to put it together before Empire of Ivory—did anyone guess? Lien gets that great speech that I couldn’t help but quote (there was a little more that I left out, but not much). And in the slow-burn question of improving England’s treatment of dragons, Laurence raises the added wrinkle of delaying until the war is over.

Other than that, I don’t have much to say about this section. The Mystery of the Eggs is fairly self-contained, after all—or at least if the Ottoman Empire bits have wider ramifications, they aren’t immediately apparent based on reading a couple books about the Napoleonic Wars and some Internet articles. Let’s move on to the land war in Asia Europe.

 

PART III (Chapters 11-17)

Chapter 11

Prince Hohenlohe tells Laurence he can have a safe-passage through Prussia when the twenty promised British dragons show up. The aviators agree they will fight rather than sit, though it raises the possibility that the Kazilik egg will hatch on the battlefield (and makes them anxious that the Prussians will realize what it is and confiscate it). Tharkay takes his leave from Laurence, as he can be of little use while they are confined in camp.

Temeraire is assigned to sweep with the formation of Eroica, a heavy-weight whose captain is Dyhern. Temeraire is not impressed by the Prussian dragons, whose formations are precise but poorly-designed—and the Prussian dragons (and officers) are not impressed with his ideas about reading, cooked food, or improvements to the formations. However, the Prussians are extremely optimistic about the forthcoming battle, since the French will be badly outnumbered and have supply lines stretched to the limit.

Chapter 12

Word comes that Lien has been made a French officer, which worries only Temeraire and Laurence. At the Battle of Saalfeld, Temeraire’s criticisms of the Prussian formations prove sadly accurate: the Prussian dragons are easily harassed out of place by smaller French dragons, leaving them unable to break up a flanking attempt by French infantry at a critical moment. The Prussians are routed and Prince Louis Ferdinand is killed.

Chapter 13

Temeraire designs easy-to-implement changes to the Prussian formations. Captain Dyhern accepts them with good grace and rallies the dispirited aviators into practicing them.

It is a foggy morning outside of Jena, “early on the thirteenth of October; almost a month now since their arrival in Prussia.” Laurence goes for a look around on higher ground with a young Prussian officer added to his crew, Badenhaur. At the summit, they see Lien flying toward them; they hide and she lands. Her passenger, to their startlement, is Napoleon Bonaparte himself, surveying the trap he is laying for the Prussian forces. Laurence stops Badenhaur from shooting Napoleon from concealment; when Lien and Napoleon leave, they scramble to warn the Prussians. They see French middle-weight dragons carrying infantry Chinese-style, on carrying harnesses, and carrying their own food in their claws, thereby solving their supply problem and vastly increasing the number of available dragons; and they see French heavy-weights bringing artillery to the heights.

Chapter 14

The initial dragon skirmishes allow the Prussians to deploy their regiments. As Temeraire and Laurence go aloft again after a brief rest, they see that

The great contest now was unfolding fully beneath them: like nothing Laurence had ever seen. Across full five miles of villages and fields and woods the battalions were forming, ironwork and steel blazing in the sun amid a sea of color, uniforms of green and red and blue in their thousands, in their tens of thousands, all the massed regiments filing into their battle-lines like a monstrous ballet, to the accompaniment of the shrill animal cries of horses, the jar and clatter of the wheels of the supply-carts, the thundercloud-rumble of the field guns.

By the early afternoon the tide seems to be shifting in the Prussians’ favor, with the King and Queen rallying the troops in person and the Prussians taking back a small village near the center of the battle. But then the French heavy-weights finally engage: they use a single massive formation to scatter the wings of the Prussian formations, exposing the Prussian heavy-weights to swarms of boarding parties carried by French middle-weights. The strategy is hugely successful, with many dragons captured and many crew members killed (Temeraire must catch Granby out of mid-air). Lien then signals all the French dragons to dive at the ground and skim along it, “tearing through the stunned and unprepared ranks of the Prussian infantry.” The infantry breaks, the retreat is called, “and as the French dragons dropped to the earth to rest, their blood-spattered sides heaving, the French cavalry and infantry poured all down off the hill and streamed past them, roaring in human voices, to complete the ruin and defeat.”

Chapter 15

As the army regroups, Prince Hohenlohe and Laurence realize that Temeraire is the only heavy-weight left, “at one stroke thus become critical to their defenses, and impossible to restrain”; but Laurence cannot bring himself to leave the Prussians.

As news of more Prussian defeats come in, Hohenlohe asks Laurence to take the King and Queen to Berlin, where the royal children are, before the French arrive and capture it. There, Laurence learns that the British Navy is in the Baltic.

Laurence refuses to leave the Prussians, though Granby suggests it’s their duty to return home and Laurence himself is unsure of the best course. They continue to head east, under miserable and miserably slow conditions, with good news “the only thing in shorter supply than food.” The King and Queen go ahead to meet with Tsar Alexander, who has pledged to continue the war.

They were three days from Warsaw, on the fourth of November. All through that day’s march they heard the guns to the east, and during the night a red glow of fire shone in the distance. The guns were fainter the next day and silent by the afternoon. The wind had not changed. The army did not break from its mid-day camp; the men scarcely stirred, as if they all collectively held their breath, waiting.

The couriers, sent off that morning, came back hurrying a few hours later, but though the captains went directly to the general’s quarters, before they even came out again the news was somehow already spreading: the French had beaten them to Warsaw. The Russians had been defeated.

Chapter 16

The French army got to Warsaw so quickly by having dragons carry all its supplies; “the Tsar’s armies had been strung out along the road to Warsaw, wholly unsuspecting, and in three days and three battles [Napoleon] had smashed them in their separate parts.” Now the French are pursuing the remnants of the Prussian army, and Laurence, Temeraire, and the crew are heading north for the Baltic, to find the British Navy.

They stop at a ruined castle for a scant meal, and are stumbled upon by a peasant girl. She runs and summons an air patrol—just as the Kazilik egg decides to hatch (in a sign of things to come, Temeraire is unable to convince it to wait). The dragon names herself Iskierka, but accepts Granby as her captain, and must be forcibly restrained from trying to attack the dragons who chase them. They make it to Danzig on the Baltic by the skin of their teeth.

Chapter 17

Unfortunately Danzig is besieged and they cannot escape, even though the British fleet is only five miles distant. Despite the Tsar making peace and negotiating a treaty with Napoleon, General Kalkreuth refuses to surrender, banking on the winter to slow the siege. The offer of a surrender and parole is, however, not extended to Laurence and the rest of the British: Marshal Lefèbvre tells him, “we’ve orders about you in particular.”

Kalkreuth’s optimism about the progress of the siege is thwarted when Lien arrives, uses the divine wind to loosen the packed earth, and directs the French dragons to help dig the trenches. The British are planning a desperate flight out of the city at the new moon, with an attack from the Prussians as distraction, when twenty dragons appear most unexpectedly. It’s the ferals, led by Arkady: Tharkay convinced them to join the British service in return for cows. Though the ferals are not enough to defeat the French, Temeraire realizes they can evacuate the Prussians to the British fleet.

(He is not as pleased with this idea as Laurence expected, because it signals Napoleon’s victory and a long war until he can work for better treatment of dragons. Laurence tells him he has changed his mind, because “Napoleon has made manifest for all the world to see the marked advantages to a modern army of closer cooperation between men and dragons … which makes it not merely our desire but our duty to promote such change in England.”)

Tharkay drugs a cow and leads it to the Fleur-de-Nuit on watch, allowing them to use the cover of night to fly the Prussians out on Chinese-style carrying harnesses. They are getting the last battalions aboard Temeraire when the French dragons attack just before dawn; Iskierka finally gets to breathe fire at an enemy as they escape. Lien pursues them even to within reach of the British cannon, and would have kept going, but one of the French courier dragons flings himself in front of a shot meant for her, bringing her to her senses. Temeraire and the ferals head for Scotland, Laurence longing for home.

Supplementary Material

The book includes “Extracts from a letter published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, April 1806,” in which an clergyman rejects the idea that dragons “possess, in full measure equal to man, the faculty of reason and intellect.”

Commentary

It’s a truism that middle books are hard. As book 3 of 9, this isn’t exactly middle, but so many of the books are not about the Napoleonic Wars proper that it’s kind of in a middle position for that part of the story. And so I can’t criticize this book for being depressing as all hell, because it’s appropriate both structurally and historically. I just don’t enjoy it very much.

Here’s the upshot of adding dragons, particularly Lien, to the War of the Fourth Coalition: the Battle of Jena happens a day early, and the rest is massively sped up: in our history, Russian sues for peace in the summer of 1807, and Danzing is besieged from March through May 1807. This book ends, most likely, in January 1807. [*] I presume this will make chronological room for the invasion of Britain in Victory of Eagles, but we aren’t there yet.

[*] They were outside Warsaw on November 4, and make it to Danzing on a night when “the moon [was] barely short of full,” so late November (I think it was no later than that, because they’ve only been stealing food for the past week). Lien arrives after they’ve been in Danzig for two weeks and spends at least a week overseeing the siege works. They escape at the next new moon, which would be January 9, 1807.

I was pleased to be introduced to Queen Louise, who seems to have been a remarkable figure (and was indeed at Jena). In our history she died in 1810; I couldn’t find any mention of her fate in the series to date, though the next book says that Napoleon took two of her sons to Paris as hostages, which I don’t think is historical and at any rate cannot have helped her spirits.

Speaking of Napoleon, and alternate history: I realize that there’s no rest of the series if, on that hilltop before the Battle of Jena, Laurence and the young Prussian officer shoot Napoleon from their hiding place inside those blackberry bushes. Nevertheless, it’s a very “the past is a foreign country” moment for me, that Laurence would view it as dishonorable to try.

Though there’s a lot of grim in this part, there are bits of humor, too, particularly once Iskierka is hatched. I particularly like their attempt to steal some cows that night:

An hour after sunset they crept up the slope from downwind and made their stealthy attack; or so it might have been, save in a frenzy of excitement Iskierka clawed through the carabiner straps holding her on, and flung herself over the fence and onto the back of one of the sleeping, unsuspecting cows. It bellowed in terror and bolted away with all the rest of the herd, with the dragonet clinging aboard and shooting off flames in every direction but the right one, so the affair took on the character more of a circus than a robbery. The house lit up, and the farmhands dashed out with torches and old muskets, expecting perhaps foxes or wolves; they halted at the fence staring, as well they might; the cow had taken to frantic bucking, but Iskierka had her claws deeply embedded in the roll of fat around its neck, and was squealing half in excitement, half in frustration, ineffectually biting at it with her still-small jaws.

“Only now look what she has done,” Temeraire said self-righteously, and jumped aloft to snatch the dragonet and her cow in one claw, a second cow in the other. “I am sorry we have woken you up, we are taking your cows, but it is not stealing, because we are at war,” he said, hovering, to the white and frozen little group of men now staring up at his vast and terrible form, whose incomprehension came even more from terror than from language.

Oh, Iskierka. Oh, Temeraire.

Some minor notes to round out this post:

  • In Chapter 11, the aviators are speculating why the promised dragons haven’t come to Prussia, and one says, “Oh! Maybe we are taking back the American colonies?” Pretty sure this is the first we’ve heard of the United States.
  • In Chapter 13, Laurence sees that Lien is wearing “one enormous diamond nearly the size of a chicken’s egg.” I wonder if this is the Regent Diamond, which in our history was on Napoleon’s sword?
  • A tiny taste of a tactic that will also be used in Blood of Tyrants, freeing maltreated dragons: in Chapter 16, the French free Polish dragons “from the Prussian breeding-grounds where they had been pent up since the final partition ten years before,” during which time many of their captains died. The Polish dragons “might not answer to discipline well enough to serve in battle, without captain or crew, but they could profitably be set to scouting; and no harm done if they should take it on themselves to attack some hapless group of Prussian stragglers.”

What do you all think: how does it feel to be back in Europe? Does this book work better if you’re already familiar with the land portions of the Napoleonic Wars, or are generally more interested in military campaigns?

Next week, the dragon plague and Africa, in Empire of Ivory. See you then.

Kate Nepveu was born in South Korea and grew up in New England. She now lives in upstate New York where she is practicing law, raising a family, running Con or Bust, and (in theory) writing at Dreamwidth and her booklog.

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