Book Reviews 2006 (37)

My thirty seventh book of the year is the second book in the Dragon Temeraire series by Naomi Novik, Throne of Jade.


Throne of Jade (Temeraire, Book 2)
After the spectacular Napoleonic Wars with Dragons debut His Majesty’s Dragon, I looked forward eagerly to this second novel set in her well described world.
I was a trifle disappointed.
The novel follows the results of the Chinese demands of the return of Temeraire, who had been originally intended, as it turns out, for Napoleon himself. We learned at the end of the first novel that Temeraire is actually one of the rarest breeds of dragon, a Celestial, and meant to be companion to Emperors and their children. The Chinese find the often rough Laurence a completely unsuitable companion, and demand Temeraire’s return to China.
An attack by the French and intransigence finally sends Laurence on the trip as well, to plead the case that he and his bonded celestial dragon should not be seperated. The trip to China is somewhat padded, one of the main flaws in the book. Another flaw comes at the end, when the denouement feels a lot more perfunctory and brief.
I suppose writers write what they can write and want to write, but the novel did feel like a novella padded out to full length as a result of these choices, which reduces my enthusiasm for the book overall to a degree. This might be better characterized as going from a spectacular to a very good rating from the first to the second novel.
Still, we get to see how dragons live and work in a completely different society, and get to see the danger posed by a wild sea dragon. In Novik’s world, the seas are a far more dangerous place than in our world, with such rare but dangerous beasts in it.
I still look forward to the third novel, and I secretly wish that Steve Jackson Games might contact Novik about the possibility of doing GURPS: Temeraire. Even in their excellent and comprehensive GURPS Dragons, they don’t have Novik’s innovations in Draconology. Novik’s ideas are fresh, uncliched, and are conducive to the playground of the imagination and mind.
And, like most series, I wouldn’t recommend this book to those who have not yet read the first novel.

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