Naomi Novik, 2006
Premise: Sequel to His Majesty's Dragon and Throne of Jade. Laurence and Temeraire are finishing their business in China and preparing for the long journey home, when new orders change their plans. They have to take their crew and hurry to Istanbul to take possession of three new dragon eggs, paid for in a treaty with Britain. In order to get there they'll have to face deserts and many more inhospitable miles. Even if they succeed in their mission, though, they'll have to get the eggs home, but meanwhile Napoleon is moving on Prussia, and soon all mainland Europe may fall...
There is plenty of action interspersed, and we meet quite a few new dragons and ways people deal with them.
Black Powder War is roughly split into three sections: getting to Istanbul, dealing with Istanbul, getting across Europe. Somehow the rising action of the growing war manages to permeate the first two thirds, though, giving an overall arc to the book.
The plot follows strongly from Throne of Jade, although there's enough gentle reminders for people like me who read the last book a year ago to keep everything clear. Touches of humor lighten the mood here and there quite nicely.
The minor characters all remain mostly minor, but that doesn't bother me at all; the main focus is always right where it should be, on Temeraire and Laurence, their relationship and their struggles.
4 Stars – A Very Good Book