Black Powder War is the third book in the Temeraire series. I enjoyed this one at about the same level as the previous two books. I was particularly happy when the story didn’t quite go in the direction I had expected it to based on the end of the last book, as described in more detail in the below spoiler.
I had expected them to go straight back home and to see Temeraire start arguing for dragons to have more rights and freedoms, which I wasn’t sure would be that entertaining of a story to me. I expect that’s still coming, but I wasn’t disappointed that it didn’t come in this book. I might also have let out a small groan when the book began and I realized they were still in China, because I’d been expecting the journey home to take place “off page” and I thought, “Oh no, we’re going to have to do another trip by sea.” It was entertaining enough the first time because interesting things kept happening, but I didn’t particularly want to do it again. I was therefore very happy with the unexpected happenings at the beginning of the book that led to them taking a different route with many detours.
I continue to enjoy the characters, and there were a couple new characters in this book that I enjoyed and hope to see again. I have a comment about them in spoiler tags below which really isn’t a spoiler in itself, but I mention their names since my comment is about their names. That, combined with my earlier sentence, makes it obvious they’re still alive at the end of the book. With so many people I know reading this series, I want to be extra cautious.
I really enjoyed Tharkay, and Arkady too, but I had a terrible time keeping their names straight. The characters themselves were memorable and distinctive; it was just their names I had trouble with. Since one was a human and the other a dragon, it was impossible to be confused for long, but it did make for the occasional hilarious misinterpretation when a character seemed to do something totally bizarre and I realized I was picturing the wrong character.
I did enjoy this quite a bit and I still look forward to continuing the series. There were a couple of times, maybe, when things started to feel a little sluggish, but it never lasted long before something happened to catch my interest again. I also thought the ending was more satisfying than in the previous book. I could find a thing or two to nit-pick about, but it felt like it flowed more naturally out of the events of the story and it was also entertaining.
(Since late last year, I’ve been including this section in my reading journal thread on LibraryThing at the bottom of each new review I post. Usually it isn’t this long; often it’s just a sentence stating which book I plan to read next. I originally started including it on LT because people following my reading journal won’t see a notification about the next book I add to my shelf, unlike here on BL and on Goodreads, and that’s something I personally enjoy seeing from people I follow. I’ve found that this section often generates some discussion on LT, which is impossible here on BL since you can’t comment on people’s shelving updates. Also, sometimes I have more to say like I do today, but I feel funny about putting up a separate post for something that will be of little interest to most people so I just leave it off altogether when I post here. For those reasons, I’ve decided to start including this section here on BL too.)
Zodiac by Neal Stephenson. I’ve heard a lot about this author, and I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews about his various books, but this will be my first time reading anything by him. I’ve been trying to get around to him for quite a while.
I've been planning for a while to read this book now, after the third Temeraire book, and I have another standalone planned for after the sixth book also, to break things up a bit. I started to waver on this plan when I realized this book would probably fall during my upcoming business trip. Temeraire might be a safer bet for keeping me entertained during the flights, since I already know I enjoy it. I decided to stick with my original plan, mostly because my flight schedule this week is ridiculous. If my book happens to put me to sleep, when I don’t normally sleep well on planes to begin with, that will only be to my advantage because I’ll need the sleep.
Speaking of travel, I’ll likely be reading more slowly and posting less over the next month or two. I have the trip this coming week, then I’m up for the on-call rotation the week after. It falls on quarter end which is always a little chaotic, so I’ll likely be working a lot during the evenings also. Then I’ll be traveling a minimum of two weeks in July to support a project. I expect I’ll still be around reading what other people are posting, and posting the occasional review myself, but I’ll probably be even quieter than usual -- and probably even less coherent because I’m going to be tired. :)