on 15 October 2010
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.
At the climax of her debut novel, Naomi Novik revealed that the dragon Temeraire was the rarest kind in the world -- a Chinese Celestial.
But the discovery of the dragon's true nature comes with some pretty nasty problems attached, as William Laurence discovers in "Throne of Jade." While this book -- which is about 75% travel-by-sea -- could have been a boring slog of traveling details, Novik instead infuses it with political and cultural clashes, a creepy conspiracy on Chinese shores, and a haughty prince determined to separate Temeraire from his rider.
With the discovery of Temeraire's breed, the haughty Prince Yongxing demands that Temeraire be returned to the Imperial family -- and the bowing-scraping-groveling diplomats are inclined to obey him. But Temeraire and Laurence are having none of that. And when they can't tempt away Temeraire, both dragon and rider are sent to China on a very large boat, along with the prince and his entourage, in hopes that they can sort out the mess.
Unfortunately it's not a boring trip for Laurence, who has to dodge assassinations, storms, and the prince's ongoing quest to lure away Temeraire away from his rider. And China turns out to be no less dangerous as Laurence learns the reason that Temeraire's egg was sent to Napoleon, and the malevolent prince's true plans -- to get power for himself, using Temeraire as a pawn.
Jewel-encrusted dragons wander through gardens, streets and palaces, Englishmen wander into the ornate lands of the East, and a silent political struggle rages with Temeraire in the center. Having explored a dragon-augmented England in her debut, Naomi Novik refocuses her attention on China in "Throne of Jade." Consider Laurence a stranger in a strange land.
Most of the story is spent on a boat, which admittedly sounds boring. But Novik's intricate writing and plot twists keeps things interesting, along with her nimble sense of humour (such as Temeraire asking where human babies come from). Lots of culture clashes between the Chinese entourage and English crew, and Laurence's constant tug-of-war with Yongxing over the naive Temeraire.
And her formal style really blossoms when they get to China, lovingly describing everything from beautiful gardens to the ghostly albino Celestial. After the slow-building journey, the plot really blossoms when the ship gets to China. The conspiracies and secrets are finally figured out, and the string of assassinations and plots climaxes with a disastrous attempt at a coup.
Laurence spends this book haunted by the possibility of being separated from Temeraire, and especially worrying about Yongxing seducing him into a culture that literally worships the Celestials. Temeraire also continues to grow, learning voraciously (and developing a taste for Chinese food) while remaining steadfastly loyal to his beloved Laurence.
And there's colourful string of supporting characters: the sneering prince and his kindly brother, the toadying diplomats, and even the Celestial relatives of Temeraire's. One of them turns out to be quite a surprise.
"Throne of Jade" is an excellent follow-up to Novik's brilliant tale of draconic warfare, and a journey across Asia is no less interesting.
on 12 April 2016
2nd in the series, and not as good as the first in my opinion. I know this author has written a series currently stretching to ten books I believe. The truth is the idea was pretty much shot after book One. Here in book two, the dragon has become deeply philosophical and a metaphor for the situation of slavery which existed at the time of the Napoleonic wars due to exploitation of plundered resources by the developed nationals all over the globe.
Again, just a personal opinion, but I read fantasy to escape my trying life, the Fantasy compartment of which is there for escapism from such debate as Naomi Novak seems determined to weave into the threads of these novels. I have to say I have read beyond this book in the series and these conjectures are not limited to this volume alone. While the author is determined to develop a social conscience in retrospect for her reader, Captain Lawrence, our hero, strangely becomes inactive and given the weapon he controls in the form of his magnificent dragon, allows himself to be controlled both geographically and physically by a most unlikely and I found annoying plot line, which having read on seems to be solely a mechanism to allow the Dragon to develop in a way that allows the author to discuss with herself between the two main characters her own social and political conundrums.
on 16 April 2013
Never before have I encountered a marvelous fantasy tale that blends together both exquisite historical details with an exciting pirate `feel', akin to Pirates of the Caribbean versus Bernard Cornwell. Naomi Novik writes like Robin Hobb or Stephen King; with such extensive knowledge of her creation and spectacular world-building. Assured and accomplished this impressive novel is highly believable, compelling and a thoroughly engaging read that takes your breath away - literally! This is also the kind of story which similarly to "The chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis", it appeals to all ages from the younger reader to the adult reader.
`Temeraire: Throne of Jade" is an exceptional debut novel, full of inspired creativity and fresh ideas within a popular and highly competitive genre. From the lush cover of this beautiful book, with the map, to the thrilling fast-paced action and intense drama this is something truly special and noteworthy. I have been on many great quests that span from the vastness of Middle-Earth to the brilliance of the Northern Lights, and yet never have I encountered so much danger and remarkable happenings as when I plunged into this book. History takes flight in this deliciously addictive story, which skillfully layers the history of the Napoleonic war with breathtaking imagination.
The battle for Europe rages upon land and sea...and in the skies. Squadrons of aviators rain fiery death upon their enemies, but the destruction is not caused by gunpowder alone - it comes from the very guts of the beasts they are flying Dragons. Temeraire is a Chinese Celestial Dragon, the most highly-prized of all the draconic breeds; famed for their intelligence, agility and most of all for the Divine Wind - their terrible roar capable of shattering the heavy timbers of war ships and devastating vast swathes of infantry.
Appealing to readers who enjoy historical novels and are interested in Napoleon, this singular novel is quite distinctive and truly wonderful. Reminiscent of Chris Evans `Iron Elves' trilogy, I just loved how the author brought together fighting military with a fire-breathing twist that was so unexpected and astonishingly original.
The continuation of the fabulous Temeraire series which was one that I cited at the beginning of the year as a dark horse to watch. The characters continue to grow, the double teaming of man and dragon against the world is something that I really haven't got tired of and as such the tensions and strains is something that continues to keep the reader enthralled.
The novel as the previous instalment was extrememly well written, and the novel approach that has been taken is sure to spawn many counterfeit replicas that will poorly imitate the writing style, in fact the popularity of such a novel will more than likely lead to a AAA mickey take from rival publishers Gollancz.
For many people the thing that has to be said is that you can pick up this tale without having read the previous instalment, however the reader that does that is selling the series short even though as a one off its still unique and entertaining. If your looking for an entertaining child friendly stocking filler this Christmas then this is ideal, after all it's a long wait for the next harry potter and the two Temeraires will mean so much, especially with the third part out in January.
In the second of the Temeraire series, Novik widens the scenario from the first book. The Chinese want Temeraire back and eventually, if reluctantly, agree that Laurence can accompany him to China. En route, there are assassination attempts on board the transport ship, and storms to contend with - both physical and emotional.
I love Temeraire and really like what Novik does in this book. Admittedly, we miss the other dragons and their captains, but to compensate there are interesting developments in the relationship between Temeraire and Laurence when they arrive in China.
If you're looking for something action-packed and fast-paced then this may disappoint. Much of the interest comes from the interaction of the characters, not least the political machinations and the confrontation between English and Chinese.
Temeraire's education into what it means to be a dragon in China is done very well, and his maturation leads to some nice interplay with Laurence.
So this is a slower book, in lots of ways, than the first but I still found it completely engrossing.
Throne of Jade, the second installment of the adventures of Celestial Dragon Temeraire and his British 'Captain'; Laurence, is a satisfying continuation to the story introduced in Naomi Novik's debut 'Temeraire'.
Picking up a few months after the conclusion of the previous novel, Throne of Jade finds Laurence and Temeraire threatened with being separated when a delegation from China, from where Temeraire's egg orginally came, arriving in Britain demanding the now fully grown dragon's return. With political, trade & diplomatic considerations taking precedence, Laurence and Temeraire are despatched by the British Government to China in an effort to appease the Chinese and prevent France from securing an alliance with that great country. Bound by duty and honour Laurence and Temeraire have no choice but to go, even though doing so might result in their being separated permanently.
What follows is a very different book to the first Temeraire novel. With the first two thirds of the book being set at sea aboard the Dragon Transport that Laurence and his steed are obliged to take to China (a sort of Napoleonic era aircraft carrier that is yet another imaginative invention on the part of the author), much of the story is given over to further developing both Temeraire as a character and his relationship with Laurence. This is well handled by Novik, and she adds added depth by the introduction of Chinese characters whose attitude to Temeraire and Dragons as a species is very different to that of Europeans and give new perspective that was missing in the first book. By the time the story reaches China in the final third of the book readers have a far better understanding of Dragons place in this alternative reality (which is once again very well conceived) and Temeraire has become a far more rounded and complex character in his own right. Novik also succeeds in avoiding the obvious trap of making Dragons too mythical a species by giving them very natural characteristics and falibilities. The concept that they can catch colds is particularly clever since it shows them to be as vulnerable and mortal as any other real creature.
Despite events being confined to ship for much of the book's length Novik doesn't forget to include requisite amount of exciting action. With political intrigue and conspiracy abounding, and the Napoleonic wars continuing there are plenty of opportunuties for both seaborne and airborne action during the voyage. An episode involving an attack by a giant sea serpant (yet another imaginative addition that fits perfectly into the novel's world) is particularly well handled.
The improves further when events reach China. As with the first Temeraire novel, Novik has obviously given careful thought to how Dragons would fit into Chinese society and her concept of a country where they and humans live and interact on an equal footing is wonderfully realised. Again, despite the fantastic nature of the concept, the China we are introduced to through the eyes of Laurence has an entirely natural air to it and it is never difficult for the reader to suspend your disbelief. Its also fascinating and make a great juxtaposition to the alternative Europe introduced in the previous book.
Despite all the myriad of details however, the plot is not forgotten, and the intrigues that were hinted at during the long sea voyage come to the fore as Tremeraire and Laurence find themselves at the centre of internal Chinese imperial politics. Once again Novik inserts some blistering action set-pieces whilst avoiding too many 'oriental' cliches such as fantastical kung-fu fighting that can often afflict books with a similar setting. She also successfully brings together the various plot strands that have been running through the book until events come to a final, satisfying conclusion.
So are there any faults to found in Throne of Jade? Well, yes, but they're more niggles and flaws than anything more serious. Whilst transporting events from 18th Century England to China gives a fresh perspective to events, it is a little disappointing that many of the supporting characters from the first book, both human and Draconian, are left behind and cannot be developed further. There is also a repeat of some of the pacing issues that afflicted the first book, with the final resolution to the story occurring so quickly that whilst not feeling rushed per se it doesn't necessarily have the impact that it could have.
Overall however, Throne of Jade continues the promise of Temeraire. If Black Powder Wars, the next novel in the series, and any subsequent episodes, are as good as this book and its predecessor the adventures of Temeraire and Laurence and the world they inhabited are destined to become classic creations. Hugely recommended.
on 27 September 2011
After reading reviews that this, the second book in the Temeraire series, isn't as good as the first, drags too much due to the long voyage to China, and doesn't allow the characters to evolve, I was a little wary - many sequels after all do not live up to the first one's success. However, after reading it, I wondered why these things had been said. True, it may not be quite as good as the first book, but I found the storyline and the characters very entertaining, and of course the settings and historical aspects just as good as in the first book, which is to say, fantastic. Naomi Novak weaves fantasy and history with apparent and seamless ease, and I am certainly looking forward to the next book, after thoroughly enjoying this one.
on 19 October 2013
I read the first book of Naomi Novik's dragon series as I was given a copy of it. It took me ages to actually start reading though as it just sounded an odd premise behind it. Once I started reading it though I couldn't stop! The book was brilliant and I just loved the central characters.
I would highly recommend starting to read this series. I have read some reviews that towards the end of the series the books aren't as good. I would still recommend starting the series though as each book is a good enough story in its own right.
on 7 September 2014
Love love love love love. Well written, real edge-of-the-seat stuff with the period detail and manner of speech absolutely spot on. A pleasure to read in every sense. The dragons fit in as totally logical, the Napoleonic era is as real as it gets. This series should be made into a film.
I've bought the entire series, read them one after the other, and am now chafing for the next one.