Short thoughts: loved it. Best in the series for awhile, possibly since Black Powder War. If you gave up on the series after Empire of Ivory or later, this might be a good time to come back. It hits a good balance of adventure, action, diplomacy, and character arcs, and the plot moves along at a good clip. Things happen in this book; I feel the larger story moving forward at a better pace than it has in awhile. Not that I haven't enjoyed all the books, and I'm looking forward to sitting down and reading them as a whole when the series is finished, but Crucible of Gold is a high point so far.
So my dream of Laurence and Temeraire, Pirate Kings of the High Seas, didn't come true, but I suppose that was a vain hope; Temeraire might take to piracy, but it would be completely out of character for Laurence. Given that, reinstating them to the Corps is the next best thing, and I hope that their penchant for creative solutions doesn't get them kicked out again. I loved the development of the Inca and their partnerships between humans and dragons, the ways it is both similar to and different from the Chinese and Tsuban societies. I can only imagine that the English captains will get more and more uncomfortable with the way their dragons are treated in comparison.
The loss of the Allegiance was a blow, and I can't quite believe that Tom Riley won't be turning up every book or two from here on out. For awhile there I seriously thought that Granby (poor Granby) was going to end up as Emperor of the Inca, but I'm glad that the story found a way out of that which didn't end up completely screwing England over, yet again. Not that the Inca allying with Napoleon doesn't screw England over, but the Tsuban/Portuguese "alliance" (though we'll see how long that lasts), and hopefully their resulting aid to the English, is the first hopeful sign we've had for the possibility of victory over Napoleon in awhile, and then the ending brings us even more possibilities.
Oh, that ending. This is my one complaint about the book: the ending's sudden change of tone, and its highly unsatisfying cliffhanger. We've had cliffhangers in many of the other books, of course, but something about this one left me in a much more "wait, what?" state than in past volumes. I also have my suspicions that the next book will be much more about finding a way back to China than what actually happens there, which could mean the larger plots getting dragged back to a stand-still. There's no chance of me giving up on the story, though -- I'm far too in love with both Laurence and Temeraire (and Granby, and Iskierka, and Emily, and Tharkay and Jane, both of whom I sorely missed) to ever pass up learning what will happen to them and their world.
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