With the Chinese threat neatly dissolved, Temeraire is free to return to Britain and continue to help his friends defend their country. But before they board the ship, Laurence - now a member of the Chinese Imperial family by adoption - recieves orders from the British Air Corps that he and Temeraire are not to sail with the British forces. Instead they must take the shorter route to rendevous by the English Channel, and stopping in Istanbul to collect three dragon eggs which the government have purchased at great expense from the Turkish.
But the overland flight is fraught with danger. They will have to scale mountains and cross deserts, evade Napoleon's aggressive infantry and hide from unpredictable feral dragons. And even before they leave, they discover that Lien has left China before them, intent upon revenge. She wants to destroy Temeraire by stripping him of all that he holds dear, and being a celestial dragon, she has the power and intelligence to carry out her terrible threat.