It is 1805 and the Napoleonic Wars are raging. Trafalgar has been fought and won, but Austerlitz is soon to come. Fleets and armies, and overhead flights of dragons claw, spit and hurl fire in defence of their nations. Novik has created a real twist by combining fantasy with alternate history.
Throne of Jade continues the story of Captain Laurence and his dragon Temeraire, as they travel to China to face the threat of being separated. It is Novik's credit that she faces the situation she created in the first book head on, rather than waving it off between books. Temeraire is a chinese dragon, captured in the egg from the French, who obtained it in mysterious circumstances, and now the Chinese are demanding it back. Novik clearly knows her history, telling us that the danger to trade from the Far East means this has to be taken seriously, and soon Laurence and Temeraire are being shipped off to China to an uncertain fate.
Comparisions with Patrick O'Brien's style of plotting start to become irresistable, as the long voyage is used to bring out characters and the machinations of the Chinese. However, Novik lacks the skill to skip the travelogue where necessary, so the middle third of the book drags a little, livened up by a combat that seems a little contrived.
Once in China, we see Temeraire at his best, as a real rounded character pondering the place of dragons in a human world, but maintaining a real and believable relationship with his human pilot, Laurence. There have been many attempts in fantasy to portray relationships between man and monster, and Novik makes one of the best.
The Chinese section of the book produces the climax of the plot, and the plotting that is revealed to have been going on. The villain and his motivation is a little too easy to spot in the end, and combined with the flabby midsection of the book drags it down from five-star status, but is still well worth reading.