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3.5 out of 5 stars
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3.5 out of 5 stars
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Given the fact that after reading Victory of Eagles I felt that the series appeared to be losing a little steam, I was curious to see if this sixth installment in the Temeraire series would be a return to form. The books are becoming formulaic and episodic in style and tone, and I for one was hoping for a throwback to the first four volumes.

And though my expectations were not that high based on its predecessor, it saddens me to report that Tongues of Serpents was a lackluster effort leaving a lot to be desired. After revitalizing the genre with such originality, Naomi Novik's latest work does very little to further the plot of the main story arc.

Here's the blurb:

A dazzling blend of military history, high-flying fantasy, and edge-of-your-seat adventure, Naomi Novik's Temeraire novels, set in an alternate Napoleonic era in which intelligent dragons have been harnessed as weapons of war, are more than just perennial bestsellers--they are a worldwide phenomenon. Now, in Tongues of Serpents, Naomi Novik is back, along with the dragon Temeraire and his rider and friend, Capt. Will Laurence.

Convicted of treason despite their heroic defense against Napoleon's invasion of England, Temeraire and Laurence--stripped of rank and standing--have been transported to the prison colony at New South Wales in distant Australia, where, it is hoped, they cannot further corrupt the British Aerial Corps with their dangerous notions of liberty for dragons. Temeraire and Laurence carry with them three dragon eggs intended to help establish a covert in the colony and destined to be handed over to such second-rate, undesirable officers as have been willing to accept so remote an assignment--including one former acquaintance, Captain Rankin, whose cruelty once cost a dragon its life.

Nor is this the greatest difficulty that confronts the exiled dragon and rider: Instead of leaving behind all the political entanglements and corruptions of the war, Laurence and Temeraire have instead sailed into a hornet's nest of fresh complications. For the colony at New South Wales has been thrown into turmoil after the overthrow of the military governor, one William Bligh--better known as Captain Bligh, late of HMS Bounty. Bligh wastes no time in attempting to enlist Temeraire and Laurence to restore him to office, while the upstart masters of the colony are equally determined that the new arrivals should not upset a balance of power precariously tipped in their favor.

Eager to escape this political quagmire, Laurence and Temeraire take on a mission to find a way through the forbidding Blue Mountains and into the interior of Australia. But when one of the dragon eggs is stolen from Temeraire, the surveying expedition becomes a desperate race to recover it in time--a race that leads to a shocking discovery and a dangerous new obstacle in the global war between Britain and Napoleon.

The principal problem with Tongues of Serpents is that there was evidently not enough material to fill an entire novel. And though the book weighs in at a scrawny 288 pages, nearly a third of it is just filler material that adds nothing to the story. I feel that both Victory of Eagles and Tongues of Serpent could have been combined into a single work. As seperate entities, they are by far the least impressive books in the series, though the former has a lot more to offer.

With an unmistable historian's eye for details, Novik's depiction of Australia made for an evocative narrative. Unfortunately, the better part of the novel is an uninspired travelogue chronicling Laurence and Temeraire's journey across the country. In the past, I've always loved the author's depiction of the various locales the characters visited. Yet discoveries and revelations kept the plot moving, enticing you to keep on reading and find out what happens next. Paper-thin plotlines preclude the same sort of satisfying reading experience with Tongues of Serpents. Sure, a number of secrets are revealed, but somehow it all feels like some kind of interlude, with the story to be continued in forthcoming books.

I don't know if it's because the short story "Seven Years from Home" in the Warriors anthology showed us Naomi Novik's grittier side, but this time around I couldn't really get into the heretofore engaging relationship between Temeraire and Laurence. The cuteness even became annoying at times. The only truly interesting character was Tharkay.

I've heard that the next volume will be the first installment of a three-book cycle that should bring the series to a close. Let's hope that it's the case, for the proliferation of sequels whose pertinence seems questionable is something I can't abide. There are more than enough existing storylines to build on to bring back what made the Temeraire books so fun and entertaining. Quite a lot seems to be occurring "off stage" in this book, so let's hope that future Temeraire novels will recapture that little something that made us fall in love with the series in the first place.

Should you buy it in hardcover? To be honest, what little you get out of Tongues of Serpents just isn't worth []$ in hardcover. I would suggest to wait for the paperback edition. . .

Considering the quality of its predecessors, Tongues of Serpents fails miserably to live up to expectations. All in all, a disappointment. This coming from a reader who's been a fan of the series from the very start. . .
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After some pretty negative reviews, I put off reading the 6th novel in Naomi Novik's 'Temeraire' series, despite having enjoyed the previous five to varying degrees. However, with the publication of the 7th volume, Crucible of Gold (Temeraire (Unnumbered Hardcover)), which was greeted by some far more positive notices, I felt it was time to catch up. Besides, I thought inwardly before purchasing it, surely Tongues of Serpents can't be as bad as some of the reviews make out.

And it isn't as bad as the worst reviews claim, but nor is it more than just 'Okay'. As many of the other reviews state, Tongues of Serpents suffers from being, frankly, a rather dull book. A slow start segues into a lengthy middle-section that is, as another reviewer points out, one long interminable journey punctuated by dragons arguing with one another. When that journey finally ends it does so with an anti-climactic discovery, a brief burst of action and then the book sort of drifts to an end. At no point did anything on the page generate a real sense of excitement.

At times it almost seemed as if Naomi Novik's skills as a writer had deserted her. It might have been my imagination, but the both the descriptive prose and the dialogue in Tongues of Serpents felt leaden and at times almost garbled. Some of the sentence structures in the book's opening passages were quite frankly baffling and on several occasions I found myself rereading paragraphs to try and make sense of what was being said.

Equally her talents at crafting a compelling narrative also seemed to have gone missing. Not only was the story dull and unengaging; when she did try to liven things up her efforts fell flat. At one point, for example, Temeraire and his companions find themselves threatened by an unseen enemy that is by turns stealthy and deadly. This should have generated as palpable sense of danger and fear, as individuals first go missing inexplicably and then the danger is revealed, but the way the author handles it there is little or no tension generated. Even a passage when Temeraire himself trapped and in direct danger never really takes off.

Other reviewers have put forward various theories as to why the series has suffered such a dip in form with Tongues of Serpents. Personally I think that Naomi Novik, having placed Temeraire and Laurence in Australia, found herself in a narrative cul de sac and didn't really know what to do once she was in there. The result is this hugely underwhelming book.

All I can hope is that, with the precis of the plot of Crucible of Gold suggesting that it will see Temeraire and Laurence leave Oz and rejoin the war effort, the next book provides more action and with it sees the series get back on track after this major hiccup.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 12 June 2011
Yawn: Tongues of Serpents Delivery (Temeraire)

I have been looking forward to this book for some time now, I remember the speed with which I read the first few books, and how captivated I was by the characters and the period, the slightly archaic vocabulary at times distracting but at others engaging. But over it all following the growth and maturity of Temeraire and Laurence.
But this book which could have promised so much with exploration of new lands, which could have hidden so much....well it almost ended up on the unfinished pile, it was very much like a middle series episode in a miniseries, it left me wondering if Naomi knocked it out to keep the fans tagging along while she works on the film rights etc with Peter Jackson?
I have to say I'm utterly underwhelmed by this book and something serious will have to be going on in the next book to make me spend cash on it.
I'm very disappointed, so much promise, seems to have been killed by author apathy.
(Parm)
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on 4 February 2011
Oh my God, what the hell happened? The series has been pretty good so far, and I've enjoyed every single book for its mix of adventure, humour and pathos--but this? What on earth?

Firstly, it just STARTS. Any poor soul who picked up the book without having read any of the previous books would have no clue at all what was going on who anyone was and what the universe was all about. I don't expect a rehash of everything at the beginning of each book, but perhaps a preface would be good?

Also - the version I had had no map--I understand there was a map in some edition.

But the main complaint is that it's BORING. So so boring! There's this endless flight over Australia which is repetitive in the extreme and other than looking for 1. a way through the blue mountains and 2. smugglers and then 3. a stolen egg there's nothing actually going on except flying.

Oh of course other than the dragons bitching. This could be called "Bitching Dragons" because that's about all the conversation there is. When Iskierka was first introduced this was amusing--Temeraire's horror at her appalling behaviour--but now we have a miserable lazy Caesar and a odd runt who is nearly put down from birth.

All the things I liked about the previous books--Roland, the female crew member, the interraction between Laurence and Temeraire, Temeraire's growing republicanism (we can see, can't we that the only place they are going to end up in is America, can't we?) - all this and more was entirely dumped for a long boring road trip. You could precis this book as BITCH BITCH TRAVEL EAT EAT DRINK BITCH TRAVEL BITCH BITCH TRAVEL TRAVEL TRAVEL.

The entire "plot" such as it is, could have been encompassed in a couple of chapter in a new book. Really not recommended.
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on 20 January 2012
This is the sixth book in Naomi Noviks 'Temeraire' series of alternative history.

The Napoleonic war still rages and Temeraire and Laurence have been exiled or 'transported' to the prison colony in New South Wales. Their insistence on passing the cure for the dragonic plague to the enemy has disastrously ended their careers.

This book is a nice read , but the plot is non existent. Its mostly a tour of the Australian outback with a conclusion thats finally something worthy of a next book. The entirety of this book is spent waiting for something interesting to happen. there are various red herrings , such as the possibility of laurence and Temeraire becoming privateers , but this fails to materialise and the book concludes leaving the reader somewhat bemused. As plot devices go - the introduction of new plot threads at the end of this book - could have been revealed in the first chapters via an urgent summons and we could have skipped this books content entirely in favor of the next.

Yes the prose is fine, and we all want to know what Temeraire and Lawrence are up to - but not 300 pages of miserable and pointless introduction to the cast of the next few books. I actually think that this book can be skipped entirely unless you just want a comfortable and easy read. If you just want to judge the book on the prose its a 3 star book, but as part of an ongoing series I find it very difficult to justify its cover price given its lack of content.
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on 29 August 2014
Oh yes - read this in almost one sitting (had to go to sleep when it hit 3am). I so totally love this series, and I can't recommend it highly enough. Perfect for fantasy fans, anyone who loves dragons, anyone who loves historical thrillers - this doesn't fit in any particular genre, but crosses all of them. And very well written, too!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 12 February 2012
I've loved this series: utterly adored Temeraire from his hatching, and been enthralled by the adventures of him and Laurence in an alternative Napoleonic Europe. But this book seems to have stalled from the start and never really succeeds in getting going.

Exiled to Australia on a prison ship, our heroes meet Captain Bligh, get marginally involved in Australian colonial politics, and venture into the outback with three dragon eggs in tow... er, and that's it, really.

There are a couple of new dragon characters introduced, dastardly Rankin reappears, but much of the recent plot developments seem to have been forgotten. Even Temeraire struggles to come to life, here. Maybe the series has reached its natural end? Maybe Novik can return to her earlier brilliance in the new book (Crucible of Gold)?

If you're following the series it's difficult to just skip this one, but fingers crossed it's just a blip.
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on 27 May 2016
On paper this book ticks all the boxes for one that I should like: Alternate history, historical setting and dragons.

Unfortunately the reality for me fell well short fo what I felt could be acheived. This is the first book by Novik I have read and perhaps starting at number 6 means I am missing something, but this just failed to gel.

The concept of the dragons being a reality and influencing history was one that was easy to grasp but so very little was done with it. The dragons themselves are quite dull - far from the spectacular beast of legend they have little interesting to do and virtually no personality. There is also not a great deal of plot strung out very thinly involving a chase across Australia, but it takes so long to get going and the chase is repettitive and didn't capture my imagination.

There are some sparks of good ideas here - the smuggling, the political issues in Sydney (caused by the governer - a certain Captain Bligh) - but they end up undeveloped and drowned by the plodding narrative which doesn't seem to want to examine anything that doesn't involve the dragons.

Nevertheless I've given this 3 stars because the central idea may have promise in other books of the series, just not this one. Sorry Naomi.
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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?!!
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on 20 August 2010
In a word, disappointing. The only interest I really found in it, compared with the previous books in the series, was the strong hint that the next one will be set in the Americas. There was more emphasis on a rather tedious plot line this time, and very little attention paid to character. Not a book for re-reading.
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