Monday, March 05, 2007

Novik, Naomi. Thone of jade. New York: Del Rey, 2006. 432pp.

This is the second in Naomi Novik's Temeraire series of novels, the first being His majesty's dragon. The series is an alternate history fantasy set during the Napoleonic wars, the different being that the various warring factions have dragons that they use more or less like flying warships, complete with rigging, crews and naval jargon and naval tactics.

The first got terrific reviews and was one of the serious buzz books in 2006 and I'll admit to being fairly positive myself. Throne of jade was a different story altogether. It got altogether mixed reviews most saying it was pretty boring compared to the first. I'm more or less in agreement with those sentiments though perhaps not as strongly as many.

The basic plot is that the Chinese government was the dragon, Temeraire, back from th e British, who captured him as an egg from a French ship.The Brits, and in particular his British captain, Will Laurence, disagree and want to keep him. A complication is that the government would seem willing to give the dragon up to secure the Chinese cooperation against the French. So, Laurence, Temeraire, a Chinese delegation and some British government officials set off on a boat for China to see what deal can be struck. Around page 100. And arrive around page 300. Two hundred pages on a boat. This is what everyone complains about with the novel, that those 200 pages are filled with, well, filler. And they are. The voyage should have been compressed into 50-75 pages and the wheeling and dealing in China made the true focus of the novel. I agree. The last 100 or so pages were great, very tense, very exciting, full of intrigue and drama. Everything the voyage was not.

So, not a great book, but not so bad either. There were a few good battles and crises on the slow boat to China to keep me somewhat interested but I do definitely hopw that the third book is much more focused and keeps it's eye on the dragon.

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