Most helpful positive review
Crushed in Australia: conveyed too well?!
on 26 February 2013
Talk about mixed reviews! I came to Book 6 floating on a glow of contentment from the first five - which I devoured in the course of a weekend (and not much sleep!) Only in retrospect and nudged by the negative reviews does it occur to me that Book 6 is slightly off the pace. Could be Naomi, could be me...
For those of you dropping in at random, 'Tongues of Serpents' is Naomi Novik's sixth in her series about the intelligent dragon Temeraire, in an alternative world history where the British Navy defends against Napoleon's invasion with the help of a draconic Aerial Corps. It's a crazy idea - but it's worked superbly for five books. Ms Novik adroitly captures 18thC manners, speech and military environments. It might not be real history but it 'feels' right; and if you like Hornblower stories or some of the grand old Hollywood naval epics then this series is likely to appeal.
Other reviewers mark Book 6 down as 'boring'. My response is that we're seeing poor demoted Laurence (oh how deliciously serious! oh how swashbuckling!) and his magnificent dragon companion Temeraire at a very low ebb. Having your career and all hope crushed is NOT exciting. It's dreary and draining. No doubt the mismanaged convict colony was an appalling place to fetch up. Instead of naval and military efficiency, instead of devoted and honourable colleagues, Laurence and Temeraire are surrounded by crass, venal stupidity and brutishness. Horrible contrasts, compounded by screaming unfairness. With their lives in tatters, L and T battle to remain true to themselves. Tough on readers, perhaps. Is Ms Novik guilty of conveying her lead characters' downturn of fortune too well?!
Having glimpsed the Australian outback decades ago, I enjoyed the travelling sections with their atmosphere of heavy heat and lurking menace. I'd heard of bunyips but had no idea how they operate - great stuff! Temeraire's moment of danger was vivid to me (if not to others reviewing here); a powerful dragon mired in swamp is full of irony and epic heroism.
I do question the dragon's anatomical structure as suggested in the new hatched, disabled dragon. Dragon characters remain strong and very enjoyable. And suddenly we have trained sea serpents!
I like the linking to Laurence's previous adventures in imperial China: showing us a new aspect to those encounters, showing us the strain on Laurence and Temeraire's bond, showing us how both are thinking more and more independently.
Yes, I agree it's a bit of a stepping stone book. So? We're on a long journey with these two fine heroes. Keep up!
...Now where the blue blazes is Book 7 for Kindle?!!