Dear Ms. Novik,
Brava again for creating this imaginative world and for giving us the relationship of Laurence and Temeraire. I’m glad to see that their bond only strengthens during this book. We also get to see Temeraire growing up more and maturing into an even more thoughtful dragon. When they see slave traders off the coast of Africa, it is he who applies that situation to his own and that of the other dragons in service to England. And once he sees how dragons are treated in China, Laurence begins to have his doubts as to the outcome of their relationship. As Temeraire learns to read and write, how could he ever be satisfied to return to the life he knew in England? Plus he gets a girlfriend!
Once again, you give us believable opposition forces instead of creating some cardboard chewing villain for the sake of having one. Laurence, Temeraire and the aviator crew are ranged not only against the Chinese but there is also tension between the Navy and the Flying Corps. Your world building continues and adds a new form of creature to the dragons you’ve already created. Though the lesson that creature is supposed to teach might be shown a little heavy handedly. And even though we are entering a world filled with dragons, you keep to the known conventions of the time and thoroughly ground the story and characters.
I actually found this book to be just as good as the first. There is enough action, intrigue and political machinations to keep the plot moving and of course the strong relationship between man and dragon. My two niggles would be why Laurence and his crew would have any doubts about who was behind the attempts on his life. It seemed pretty obvious to me. And if Celestials are so rare, even in China, how would the breed be known in the West? A-
Edited to add: And thanks for the delightful short story at your website.