The Temeraire Reread

The Temeraire Reread: Tongues of Serpents

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 14, 2016. We continue this week with the sixth novel, Tongues of Serpents, in which we go to Australia. 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 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.

 

PART I (Chapters 1-6)

Before the first chapter, we have a map, our first of the series. I usually go straight to the first text section when I start an ebook, instead of paging through the table of contents and dedication and so forth, so I’m not sure I noticed this before; possibly it would have been better if I had, because then I’d have been braced to go all the way across Australia.

The map is accompanied by an excerpt from An Inland Journey in Terra Australis in the year 1809, by Sipho Tsuluka Dlamini, dated 1819. He comes to publication very young, then!

Chapter 1

It is eight months after the end of Victory of Eagles, and Laurence, Granby, and Tharkay are in Sydney. They were waiting to meet a contact of Tharkay’s to get information on the colony, but are told all they need to know by a brawl sparked by an officer of the New South Wales Corps who objects to Laurence’s treason.

Temeraire is guarding the eggs from the aviators, so that they cannot tell the dragonets that they have no choice in being harnessed. He is also not impressed with Sydney, particularly since there’s no fighting there—whereas they have news that Napoleon is sacking cities all along Spain’s coast.

Chapter 2

Not only is Sydney small and out of the Napoleonic Wars, but it is the site of political intrigue: Governor Bligh has been deposed by the New South Wales Corps and exiled to Van Diemen’s Land (now known as Tasmania), and the Allegiance found him there when it stopped for water before arriving in Australia. Now Laurence is stuck between Bligh, who would want him to use Temeraire against the Corps, and the Corps, who are mutineers and thus the last people Laurence needs to be associated with. And Riley cannot stay forever: once the Allegiance‘s maintenance is complete and he gets new orders, he will have to discharge Laurence, technically a prisoner, into someone’s custody.

Laurence has already been subjected to repeated harangues from Bligh, and is in no mood to meet John MacArthur, the architect of the rebellion. MacArthur is startled to learn how far the dragons can fly to hunt—and how much they need to eat.

Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Captain Jeremy Rankin, who we last saw in His Majesty’s Dragon when Laurence forced him to say farewell to a dying Levitas. He is to be given one of the dragon eggs.

Chapter 3

Temeraire is extremely anxious about the hatching, as Rankin intends to use old-fashioned methods that give the dragonet little freedom, and the traditions of the Corps will not let anyone else interfere. Worse, Rankin expresses his desire to support Bligh, thinking it will help him retain control over the egg.

Laurence is to the point where he is seriously considering Temeraire’s suggestion of taking the egg and going inland; but the dragonet wants no part of this, and hatches. While he won’t let Rankin restrain him beyond a harness, the dragonet—who names himself Caesar—quite likes the idea of having a rich, noble captain. As Laurence says, the two of them are “admirably suited.”

Chapter 4

Caesar seems to be managing Rankin quite well, at least in terms of getting lots of food out of him; and Granby impresses upon Laurence the need for Rankin and Laurence to be on minimally-civil terms, so that their dislike does not transmit to the dragons. But Laurence and Temeraire remain in a difficult political situation, as Caesar seems entirely willing to help Bligh regain power once he’s grown, if he’ll get land out of it (for cows, of course). Temeraire, who “was beginning to understand strongly the sentiment that beggars could not be choosers,” sends a message to MacArthur.

Tharkay, meanwhile, suggests one way out to Laurence. He is in Australia on the business of the East India Company, and is certain that the Company and the Government would like Laurence to command a privateer with Temeraire. Temeraire is enthusiastic, but Laurence is hesitant.

MacArthur offers Laurence a different way out: take all the dragons on an expedition to find a passage through the Blue Mountains and set up a cattle-drive road, which would allow the aviators to establish a covert and temporarily remove themselves from politics, to everyone’s benefit. Granby is eager to go before Iskierka takes off on her own, and Rankin has no objection now that Caesar has hatched and Bligh is of little use to him.

Tharkay comes with them; Temeraire draws the conclusion that he is looking for smugglers who are bringing goods from China into Sydney. They also take a dozen convicts and the two remaining eggs.

Chapter 5

They attempt to find a pass through the mountains by following a small river. They get lost very frequently, which unsettles everyone; they feel that there is something uncanny about it. Things that don’t help: signs that the area was once populated and is now deserted; one of the convicts getting bitten by a snake or a spider and becoming very ill; and a “strange moaning song” in the distance, accompanied by drums. At the end of the chapter, Tharkay tells Laurence that he found the tracks of the singers and a trail over the ridge to another river, and takes him aside to explain about his mission for the East India Company.

Chapter 6

Temeraire was correct: Tharkay is looking for smugglers, who are somehow getting goods out of China without going through the only officially-open port of Canton. The Company fears that some sympathetic port official is letting French vessels trade, at Lien’s urging, to undercut British trade and thus its ability to fund the war.

They follow the new river out of the mountains to the perfect spot for a dragon covert—it even comes pre-supplied with cows, a sign that others have made the crossing before them. Laurence and Temeraire are delighted at the prospect of useful work and “the hope of building something rather than tearing away, to no purpose.”

Which is why, of course, that night Iskierka wakes them with the news that one of the two remaining dragon eggs has been stolen.

Commentary

As I mentioned in the summary, I’m reasonably sure that I didn’t look at the map before I started reading this book. And possibly my first reaction would have been more favorable if I had, because I was uncertain about two things. First, I wasn’t sure if were we going to stay in Sydney for any length of time, with all the misery that would come with life in a prison colony—I’d read The Nutmeg of Consolation, after all. [*] Second, once we were off traveling, I wasn’t sure if the eeriness in Chapter 5 signaled that the series was going to shift gears and introduce magic outside the dragons’ existence and capabilities. There hadn’t been any before, but that didn’t mean there wouldn’t be, and so I was on edge looking for any signs of that. These two early sources of uncertainty put me off-kilter, and then Rankin, ugh, and then the grinding dreariness of the travel in chapter 5, which is just the start … yeah, this is not my favorite book. (However, I do recognize and appreciate that we skip the sea journey, which was entirely appropriate and welcome.)

[*] MacArthur doesn’t appear in O’Brian’s book, but based on a quick skim to refresh my memory, that book takes a considerably more negative view of him.

Poor Laurence, who regularly wists after someplace quiet and green with livestock, and keeps having it torn out from under him! The end of last book, now here unexpectedly, and then again at the start of the next book … I smell a theme.

In news from in England, Laurence’s mother Lady Allendale held “a nice, sociable little Dinner, with every Cabinet Minister she could contrive to lay hands on,” to celebrate Jane’s becoming a peer (announced “as J. Roland, very discreet”). Jane got along quite well with the Ministers’ wives, unexpectedly: “I found them sensible Creatures all of them, and I think perhaps I have got quite the wrong Notion about them, as a Class; I expect I ought to be cultivating them. I don’t mind Society half so much if I may wear Trousers, and they were very kind, and left me their Cards.” Which is the best of the possible outcomes, and also a testament to Lady Allendale, who is well-experienced at politics via society (as Laurence recalls in the next book, watching the Sapa Inca).

And British dragons continue to make progress in entering the economy, though not without obstacles. Perscitia writes to Temeraire of how the Government tried to get them back into the breeding grounds by not sending them enough food; so they went into business as carters to buy their own, despite the efforts of Government to stop them by sending harnessed dragons. Or, as Laurence sums up Government’s likely view of events, “unharnessed heavy-weights descending as they wished into every great city of Britain, terrifying the populace and wrecking the business of ordinary carters to boot; and bribing their harnessed fellows with the greatest of ease, despite all the certain persuasions and efforts of those dragons’ captains.”

(Hey, mathematically-inclined readers: Perscitia has “worked out a very nice Method by which one can calculate the most efficient Way to go among all of [the towns], taking on some goods and leaving off others; only it grows quite tiresome to calculate if one wishes to go to more than five or six Places.” Am I right that this is the vehicle routing problem, and therefore she is considerably ahead of her time?)

Finally, Laurence and Granby have been on a first-name basis since Throne of Jade; but we’d never heard Tharkay’s first name, Tenzing, before Laurence uses it in conversation in Chapter 2. You’d think twenty dragons would suffice to put you on a first-name basis, but social customs, they were different back then.

 

PART II (Chapters 7-12)

Chapter 7

They suppose the missing egg to have been taken by the smugglers, and search for it for several days. Temeraire is forced to admit to himself that Iskierka’s presence is “valuable,” only “in this one instance where they were of united mind and purpose.” Tharkay finds signs of the egg’s transport, which they follow with difficulty, worrying about their water supply. One of the convicts vanishes and cannot be found, though they fly over the immediate countryside to look. The convicts—and Temeraire—become worried that the missing man is haunting them.

Chapter 8

They continue to search, with only tiny hints to give them reason to believe that they are still on the trail. One morning they come out of the forest to a “terrible and strange” land of red earth and hay-yellow grass, empty of water and visible animals, which the convicts suppose to be the underworld or possibly China. They do, however, find clear signs that the egg was transported by natives.

Iskierka and Granby return to Sydney, because they need to leave Australia on the Allegiance and Riley cannot wait forever for them, and because smugglers would have an end goal, “but the natives might go anywhere at all in their own country, and in circles if they wished.” Granby asks them to build cairns to show where they’ve gone, so that they can catch up if Riley thinks he can spare the time.

The rest go on, and spend the night at a narrow creek. In the early morning, a convict screams and then vanishes, to the bafflement of everyone sleeping near him. As they hastily leave, they find evidence that the smugglers had been there.

Chapter 9

As Caesar puts it in response to this development, “are we looking for smugglers, or natives, or the egg”? Temeraire naturally thinks they are looking for all three, but Rankin (who is unsurprisingly racist) thinks it’s ridiculous, and even Laurence and Tharkay aren’t sure why the natives would agree to smuggle for the French.

An oncoming thunderstorm sets the grass on fire, and Temeraire inhales a great deal of smoke waiting for one of the convicts, who stole a cask of rum and is trying to bring it back onboard. They eventually outfly the storm and land again.

Temeraire is in a great deal of pain from his throat; Laurence manages to convince him to stay and rest, which he does in despair of picking up the trail again. Demane finds local men out hunting and cultivating a fire. (They do not have the egg.)

The aviators go speak to the men with two of the convicts as interpreters. They find that the local men do not speak the same language the convicts know—but are wearing porcelain beads. They manage to establish that the beads came from “Pitjantjatjara” and “Larrakia,” far to the north and west, and that the vanished men were taken by monsters called “bunyips.”

They return to the camp to find that the last egg is hatching.

Chapter 10

That egg had been the “disappointing and extremely stunted little thing which had unaccountably been produced out of a Parnassian and a Chequered Nettle, both heavy-weights” (Chapter 3). The resulting dragonet is painfully skinny, has trouble breathing, and cannot fly. Rankin and the rest of the aviators see it as their duty to kill him, as he is not fit for service and cannot fend for himself. Laurence has nearly talked Temeraire into feeding him regardless, when Demane harnesses him and names him Kulingile (which means “all is well,” and is pronounced “Kulingheelay,” per Chapter 17).

Rankin considers Kulingile Demane’s pet, and not a matter for the Admiralty at all; Emily Roland scolds Demane “dragging it out for the poor thing and everyone.” Dorset thinks that Kulingile’s air-sacs have collapsed and are pressing on his lungs, and that without the air-sacs, he will crush his own organs under his weight. Which continues to increase rapidly, as Kulingile is constantly, genuinely ravenous.

At a water-hole, one of the convicts “stepped across to the other side … and was gone: a red flashing of jaws, talons, tremendous speed—then he was jerked down and away; the bushes rustled over him once and were still.” Temeraire discovers trap-doors of a sort, openings concealed by mats of dirt and branches, but cannot find the bunyip or the convict. They leave hastily.

Chapter 11

They land at another water-hole. The dragons investigate and find no bunyips but tunnels everywhere, giving the area “a strange, nightmarish ant-hill quality.” They fill in the tunnels they’ve found and stay in that area, on Caesar’s suggestion.

Temeraire’s throat is still blistered from the fire, making eating difficult, and his breathing is still affected. They come to a salt lake and find signs that it’s on the smuggler’s trail.

At the next water-hole, the bunyips trap Temeraire in a quicksand pit by diverting water overnight. As the aviators attempt to pull him out with ropes, the bunyips attack and carry away a couple of the men; Roland’s cool head under fire is particularly useful in driving the bunyips away. Just as Temeraire finally emerges from the quicksand, Iskierka and Granby return.

Chapter 12

As they continue on, water-holes dry up everywhere; Caesar is nearly buried in a sink-hole that opens under him; and their soup-pit is drained. They finally give in and start leaving game for the bunyips, which is taken with frightening stealth and speed but seems to stop the attacks.

Tharkay decides that the trail is cold enough that they should simply fly along the direction they were told by the local men in Chapter 9, hoping to find some central location. They come to “enormous and uncanny domes” of red rock “clustering together in the absence of all other company,” camp the night, and the morning see “one last monolith standing at a distance: alone, wholly alone”—with a dragon being loaded with bundles, humans, and the missing dragon egg. Temeraire and Iskierka lunge aloft, but the other dragon has absolutely enormous wings and easily outpaces them. Temeraire tries to use the divine wind, but only aggravates the injuries he received in the fire.

Commentary

I mentioned the travel?

I usually have a lot of trouble keeping these summaries to a moderate length, and am constantly going back and cutting entire incidents out, collapsing two paragraphs into one, and so forth. That has been largely not necessary here. Certainly, there are exciting bits and interesting bits, but the ratio of those to grinding dreariness is … not optimal, for my tastes at least.

Travel. “Pitjantjatjara” and “Larrakia” are both peoples; the Pitjantjatjara are the ones who live around Uluru, the solitary monolith where they see the long-winged dragon. (The monoliths they come to first may be the Kata Tjuta? They are a little west of Uluru and the aviators are coming from the east, but the map shows them coming there at a bit of an angle.) We’ll meet the Larrakia next part. I don’t think we got a name for the people in Chapter 9, but deliberate use of fire to manage the land was definitely a historical practice of Aboriginal people. (It’s hard for me to see how the plot could have been rearranged to get more people and less landscape, and at a certain point I just have to shrug and accept that a book is interested in different things than I’m interested in.)

So bunyips are real! Or, rather, in our world, the name is attached to a creature that, according to traditional Aboriginal beliefs across the continent, lurks in swamps, creeks, and waterholes. I do quite like how creepy these bunyips are—especially once their intelligence is made clear. Put them in the same cateogory as the sea-serpents. (Also I find the word “bunyip” very pleasing.)

Speaking of intelligence becoming clear, though on a totally different scale: in Chapter 8, Laurence remembers the lesson of the Tswana and is not “so easily dismissive” as Rankin of the idea that the local people would be intelligent, sophisticated, and powerful. And he’s right, though in a different direction than the Tswana.

Rankin remains a jerk. Caesar is kind of hilariously awful and wonderful, the way he manages Rankin—in the Epilogue MacArthur outright says that he talks to Caesar first when he wants to get Rankin to do something. But even the two of them occasionally have sensible ideas or contribute a useful point to discussion; I think anyone who’s in the series for more than a chapter or two gets to demonstrate that they’re not permanently, thoroughly, inevitably wrong.

Which brings us to Kulingile’s hatching. The text does successfully convey how, when most of the aviators think Kulingile should be killed, they are not being cruel by their fundamental beliefs. But the text ought to disagree with them on moral grounds, based on the entire series to date, and I’m not sure that comes across clearly enough, as opposed to showing that they’re wrong on the practical level of Kulingile’s survival. Laurence is pretty much the only one who thinks killing Kulingile would be morally wrong, and even he has moments of doubt; this is in marked contrast to the various characters’ reactions to slavery, for instance, or taking the cure to France. But if, as we have established over the series, dragons are morally equivalent to humans—and not their pets—then imagining the same conversations about a human infant should, I trust, make apparent the problems with the aviators’ position. Sadly, the opinions they hold are far from unknown today (content note: child homicide, ableism).

Okay, that was … surprisingly upsetting! Let’s treat each other gently in the comments if we discuss this, everyone, and meanwhile, actually get somewhere in this fictional Australia.

 

PART III (Chapters 13-17)

Chapter 13

They chase the long-winged dragon without success; Granby thinks she hadn’t even seen them, and they speculate where such a feat of breeding might have come from, especially in a dragon-less land.

Temeraire has burst multiple blood vessels in his throat and is forbidden from roaring and, as much as possible, speaking, which he takes about as well as one would expect. Fortunately “there was nothing very much to talk about”; the other dragon seems to have been headed on a straight course for a known bay on the north coast of the continent, so they simply head that way.

Kulingile is now over three months old, and one morning starts floating in his sleep, like a balloon: his air-sacs have finally permanently inflated. (They temporarily did when he was helping pull Temeraire out of the quicksand.) Dorset, their dragon-surgeon, says that his negative weight is a sign that he should be expected to be at least as large as a Regal Copper. This leads to the aviators resenting Demane for having harnessed a heavy-weight, instead of resenting him for having harnessed something useless. One of the aviators tries to replace Demane by feeding Kulingile; Demane confronts him; and when the aviator slaps Demane, Kulingile is stopped from killing him only by Demane’s urging. (Also, Demane has a teenage crush on Roland (he is probably fourteen).)

Somewhere over five hundred miles from the monolith, they finally come out of the desert. Arriving at the ocean at night, they see lights and decide to scout in the morning. When they wake, they find a native man named Galandoo, a Chinese pavilion with a ship outside, and two dragons.

Chapter 14

The outpost is indeed Chinese-built, but the local Larrakia are working in harmony there. One of the dragons is Tharunka, who hatched from the stolen Yellow Reaper egg; she explains that she was taken to be an interpreter among the different tribes in the trading network. She declines to return with them, as she does not like the British officers specifically or the idea of being tied to a particular captain generally.

They also meet Lung Shen Li, the long-winged dragon, who can make it to China in two weeks; she is one of the first of a breed that was originally created by the Ming and is now being recreated after Prince Yonxing’s death in Throne of Jade. The aviators know the British Government will strongly dislike the Chinese decision to reach out for trade, but are unsure what can be done, as they are outside James Cook’s claim. They rest and recuperate and then are invited to a banquet.

The banquet turns out to be a public affair, with the arrival of Macassan praus and American, Dutch, and Portuguese trading vessels. There, the British are caught up to speed on the attacks on Spain, mentioned early in the book: the cities were destroyed by the Tswana, not the French. But when the Tswana moved on to Toulon in France, Napoleon came to some arrangement with the Tswana and sent them to Brazil on transports, where they have burned Rio to the ground.

At the end of the banquet, they finally discover where are the trade goods from China were coming from: underwater, in enormous water-tight chests carried by trained sea-serpents.

Chapter 15

The British dragons watch the trading with a great deal of pleasure and envy. The British humans are distressed at the quantity of goods being exchanged and the certain prospect of more to come, as more sea-serpents are trained to the work, word gets out, and the port develops into a real city—all of which will collectively wreck the British trade out of Canton and potentially give the French a port from which to prey on British shipping. (The smuggled goods into Sydney are indeed “incidental,” as Tharkay suggested in the prior chapter; any Chinese goods that cannot be sold are given to the Larrakia in partial payment for using their country, and the Larrakia then trade the goods on.)

The chapter ends with a British frigate arriving.

Chapter 16

The frigate is the Nereide, accompanied by a sloop, the Otter. Willoughby is in command and has orders to take the port, by destroying it if possible. Laurence attempts to negotiate some agreement between Willoughby and the Chinese chief of the outpost, Jia Zhen, but neither are inclined to move—Willoughby is still furious over the Chinese commandeering of Company ships in Throne, and Jia is secure in the knowledge that the British argument about treaty violations is specious.

Willoughby orders the aviators to stay out of it. Laurence disagrees with the decision, but tells Temeraire that he will not interfere because it is “an open and honest act of warfare” and he has no reason to think Willoughby will refuse to give quarter. Temeraire works out how to create Lien’s massive wave and shows Laurence, but Laurence will have no part of it even as a threat, which distresses Temeraire extremely. But so does a cannon fired into the pavilion; his self-control is being put to the test when Iskierka comes out and dunks him.

In the end, the port is well-able to defend itself: Tharunka flies out a handful of men who dump rotting fish and seaweed over the ships, which sets the many sea-serpents in the bay into a frenzy. Both ships are badly damaged and must be dragged onto reefs by the dragons to save as many sailors as possible.

Though Tharunka and the Larrakia participate in rescue efforts, once the sea-serpents have quieted, they tell the British that it is time for them to go.

Chapter 17

They fly back to Sydney, never seeing any people but aware that they are being watched; the trip takes them “half the autumn” even on dragonback. The large salt lake they found on the way has receded to something undrinkable, and “the disappointment felt something of a parting slap, contemptuous, from the wild back-country: a reminder they were not welcome.”

In Sydney, they find Governor Macquarie, Bligh’s replacement, and a dozen sea-serpents, which are apparently passing Sydney on their way to a new harbor (one of the long-range dragons has been seen nearby as well). Macquarie, Willoughby, and Rankin intend to destroy the sea-serpents; MacArthur and Johnston manage to avoid going back to England for their trials by offering to help.

Iskierka and Granby are finally leaving on the Allegiance (for Brazil, since Portugal is Britain’s ally and calling for help against the Tswana), and Tharkay is off to Istanbul to tell the East India Company what he has learned. Laurence formally declines the suggestion that he and Temeraire take up privateering.

And then there is a rebellion in the town. Rankin intends to take Caesar down to fight, but Laurence sees that the fighting has stopped and tells Temeraire not to let Caesar take the air to be turned against civilians.

Epilogue

MacArthur claims “it is not a real rebellion,” but that Macquarie’s following of orders, made without full understanding of the situation, would prompt “a war we cannot win.” He wants Laurence to take charge of the covert, but Laurence refuses.

Macquarie tells Laurence that if they can catch the Allegiance, they will return to bring Temeraire to serve out Laurence’s sentence in India. Laurence declines not only to be “trundle[d] … over the ocean to a pen in India, only to keep us from MacArthur’s powers of persuasion,” but to take up “honorable” work that might lead to a pardon.

They would not be asked to defend England, or liberty, or anything worthy of service: only to assist at one spiteful destruction or another. He found in himself only a great longing for something cleaner. “No,” he said finally. “I am sick of the quarrels of nations and of kings, and I would not give ha’pence for any empire other than our valley, if that can content your ambition.”

“Oh! It can, very well,” Temeraire said, brightening. “Will we go there tomorrow, then? I have been thinking, Laurence, we might have a pavilion up before the winter.”

Commentary

The Acknowledgments section of this book thanks Novik’s “longtime beta readers Georgina Paterson and Vanessa Len, who … helped me work out the plot for the last three forthcoming books of the Temeraire series over lunch in Sydney.” So, for people who read Acknowledgments, it’s clear that this is not the last book, and yet quite a few people seemed to have stopped reading here. I’d love to hear why; if it had been me, it would be that there was an end in sight, so I might as well leave Laurence happy until I knew if the series stuck the landing.

The character development for Laurence and Temeraire over this book is pretty low-key, mostly confirming the sets of mind that they’ve come to over the last couple of books. We’re introduced to a couple of new supporting characters I should probably mention. First, there’s the “competent clod” Lieutenant Forthing, who Temeraire doesn’t like because he’s shabby—which Laurence excuses because he was taken in by the Corps as a foundling who crept into the coverts to sleep next to dragons—and because he said that Laurence was going to be put to hard labour—which Laurence doesn’t know about. Second, there’s O’Dea, a convicted Irishman with “a gift for inconvenient poetry,” who predicts a lot of doom and gloom but is at least literate and will end up on Temeraire’s ground-crew. (I find him kind of boring?)

I did appreciate the existence of the trading port, how competently and collaboratively it was run, and that it didn’t need Laurence and Temeraire at all: some people might understandably find that last part a little dramatically unsatisfying, but its ability to defend itself follows so naturally from its reason for existence that it doesn’t bother me in the least.

The different characters at the trading port also give us a few tidbits about the United States. At the banquet, we meet “a Mr. Jacob Chukwah, of New York,” whose brother is an aviator “on the run from New York to the Ojibwe,” carrying trade goods, and who tells the guests that “the Iroquois hatched thirty-two [dragons] in New York alone this last year.” We also hear that “there is no shortage of slaves” in the United States; as mentioned in the discussion of Empire of Ivory, while the number of people shipped from Africa to the United States was far smaller than to Brazil or the Caribbean, the total U.S. slave population was still relatively significant because of positive population growth. Unfortunately I don’t feel up to extrapolating U.S. history based on the existence of the Tswana Kingdom, on the one hand, and increased commercial power of American Indian nations and ease of transporting goods, on the other.

Finally for now, a note on timing: this book probably ends somewhere in early-mid 1809 (the big battle in Victory was March 1808, this book opens eight months later, they travel more than three months on their outward journey, and then return at least halfway through autumn, Southern-hemisphere style).

Next week, off to Brazil, in possibly the most O’Brian-esque of the books to date. 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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