Crucible of Gold

Del Rey: Ballantine. Mar. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780345522863. $25. FANTASY
Loyal fans of Novik's sprawling Napoleonic alternate history epic (Her Majesty's Dragon; Throne of Jade) featuring the dragon Temeraire and his rider Captain Will Laurence will be relieved to see signs that the story is drawing toward its conclusion. Laurence's rank in the air corps is restored in a bid to lure him out of retirement to negotiate with the Tswana, who have allied with the French to get their enslaved brethren back. The Inca become involved, and then things really get complicated. Temeraire's dragon companions from Her Majesty's Dragon return, and their final surprise destination indicates that still more old companions will be drawn into the eventual resolution.
VERDICT This solid installment will not disappoint existing fans and fantasy readers who enjoy Patrick O'Brian's Age of Sail novels, but it will baffle new readers unfamiliar with the series's story line.
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