Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Throne Of Jade - Naomi Novik

Throne Of Jade
Naomi Novik
Ballantine Books
Copyright: 2006

From the back of the book:

When Britain intercepted a French ship and its precious cargo - an unhatched Dragon's Eg - Capt. Will Laurence of HMS Reliant unexpectedly became master and commander of the noble dragon Temeraire. As new recruits in Britain's Aerial Corps, man and drgon soon proved their mettle in daring combat against Bonaparte's invading forces.

Now China has discovered that its rare gift, intended for Napoleon, has fallen into British hands - and an angry Chinese delegation vows to reclaim the remarkable beast. But Laurence refuses to cooperate. Facing the gallows for his defiance, Laurence has no choice but to accompany Temeraire back to the Far East - a long voyage fraught with peril, intrigue, and the untold terrors of the deep. Yet once the pair reaches the court of the Chinese emperor, even more shocking discoveries and darker dangers await.

As with the last book in the series, His Majesty's Dragon, I found that I couldn't put this book down. I started it in the evening, and had the book half finished before bed, finishing the book yesterday afternoon.

Temeraire and the Chinese dragons in this book remind me of the two dragons in Mercedes Lackey's book One Good Knight from the Five Hundred Kingdoms series. Temeraire has, through the course of the book, learned to read and write, although in Chinese. However, I expect he's also either learned, or is going to learn, to do the same in English.

Will Laurence's attitudes certainly have changed throughout the previous book, too. Clearly it's not just duty that holds him to Temeraire by now, but also affection. Still, his honor and attention to duty continues to get him into situations, just as it did in the first book. He wouldn't be as interesting a character without it though.

The differences in attitudes towards dragons in the British and other western countries and in China is one of the main focuses of the book, and it clearly sets up one of the threads of the plot for the books that come after. It should be interesting to see how Temeraire reacts on his return to Britain (not a spoiler, I should hope, given that there are three more books already out after this one), having been exposed to the differences.

Throne of Jade isn't strictly an adventure/war story the way His Majesty's Dragon is, there is also somewhat of a mystery going on, which adds to the tension, and the complexity of the plot. Not to mention the politics and maneuverings of the various characters. Capt. Laurence's attitudes to politicians seem to be well justified given some of the other characters in Throne of Jade.

As with the previous book, at the end of this one, there is an excerpt from Edward Howe's (the expert whom Will Laurence has consulted a couple of times concerning Temeraire) works on dragons, this time focusing on the abilities of the Eastern dragons. These extracts add to the story without slowing it down I find, and being tucked away at the end, it means that anyone disagreeing can easily skip over them without missing much.

I should have noted this in the review for His Majesty's Dragon, but so far anyway, the series is equally friendly to older readers of the young adult section as it is to adult readers. It's books like this that make me consider the fantasy section of the bookstore a good stepping stone from the Teen section.

Anyway, I'm now half-way through Black Powder War and enjoying it nearly as much.

So far, the books in the series are:
His Majesty's Dragon
Throne Of Jade
Black Powder War
Empire Of Ivory
Victory Of Eagles

Other reviews of this book:
Mikko Reads: Naomi Novik: Throne Of Jade
No Middle Name: Throne Of Jade
Strategist's Personal Library: Throne Of Jade by Naomi Novik
Medieval Bookworm: Throne of Jade

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