OK, so I have this thing about hardcover books; I tend not to buy them if they're part of a series that, prior to this book, has been coming out in paperback. I just don't like the way it looks on my shelves. This in turn is a problem for me, because then I have to wait for the book to come out in paperback before I can buy it. Thank God for public libraries, or I'd still be waiting to read A Victory of Eagles, by Naomi Novik.
Starting out just after the previous book, we find Temeraire stuck in the breeding grounds in Scotland, while Laurence is held, waiting his execution, in the brig. Both are miserable because of their situation and the separation they're going through. Temeraire at least has the other dragons in the breeding grounds to talk to--some of whom he finds quite intelligent and interested in the same sort of things that he is--while Laurence is despised by everyone for his "treason." Napoleon's breeching of England's shores--destroying a good chunk of England's Navy--changes that, as the men in charge realize that they need a dragon with Temeraire's skills right now and that Laurence is the only man who can captain him.
What they hadn't planned on though was Temeraire deciding he'd had enough of the whole waiting around thing; he convinces the other dragons in the breeding ground to fly out with him, and naming himself Commodore Temeraire, goes off to fight the French Army. (It doesn't hurt that the dragons are tired of the French stealing their cows, either.) It's only by a timely rescue that Laurence and Temeraire are able to find each other; Temeraire believing that Laurence is dead, while Laurence has been unable to find the band of dragons.
It's not a bad story; most of the usual characters are included, although there wasn't enough of Lily, Maximus, or Emily Roland for me. The bond between the three dragons is one of my favorite parts of this series and while it was there in this book, I was expecting more. (If you don't remember from the first book, the three dragons become quite good friends and make a pact that they will come whenever needed to protect the others' captains. Maximus does bring it up, "whispering" to Laurence that they haven't forgotten their pact, much to the dismay of Maximus's crew.) There also wasn't a whole lot with Emily in the book; I really enjoy reading about her, since it's through her that we see how the Corps, as a whole, works. All of the other captains have grown up in the system, Laurence and Temeraire are both stumbling their way through it, but Emily is currently in the system.
There's plenty of action and brilliant fights, although Laurence's ongoing depression--through most of the book--really started to wear on me. I understand why he feels the way he does, but he cuts everyone off, including Temeraire, and goes on to make horrible decisions. There was also way to much of Iskierka; she's so annoying to me and I really want someone to just smash her. She even manages to get herself kidnapped and then tries to play it off.
Out of the five books in this series, I have to say that this one and the previous one were my least favorite. I have high hopes for the sixth book--our duo will be off, pretty much on their own--and hopefully that'll bring some of the spark back for me.
This pretty much ends the Olympic Reading Challenge for me--unless B&N has Hunter's Prayer--and I'm mostly satisfied with it. Four books isn't so bad.