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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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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 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 22 August 2017
What the novel lacks in character development the setting more than makes up for. Novik is as adept at bringing the Australian countryside alive as Arthur Upfield did in the The Sands of Windee. Laurence continues to be a bit of a stick, but very much a man of his time. Temeraire provides a more modern, though materialistic, counterbalance. Nicely written.
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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 30 July 2013
I first heard of Temeraire when I got it for free after pre-ordering another book (Inheritance by Christopher Paolini, I think). I really enjoyed reading about the adventures of Temeraire and his captain Will Laurence, formerly of the Navy. Laurence is a stickler for the rules and has certain opinions of duty which make him seem stiff, yet I really like his character. The first book of the series was so good, I just had to read the rest.
It was with some trepidation, however, that I came to read Tongues of Serpents. I read the reviews and steeled myself to expect a poorly written piece of long waffle. I wanted to read it anyway before I moved onto book 7 (crucible of gold) of the series (which has disappeared as a Kindle e-book. Hmmm...)
Despite all of the bad reviews, I quite enjoyed reading this book. Yes, some of the descriptions were too long and my copy did not include a map which may have aided my understanding. Plus, the part in Sydney didn't really flow. It might have been better to combine this with another book to reduce the length which was a bit too long. But, there were some good plotlines: the treatment of the dragon who could not fly for one. I also liked reading about Temeraire getting stuck in quicksand even though other reviewers criticised this part.
So all in all, this book is not the best of the series (personally my favourite is the first) but it worth reading to follow the adventures of Laurence, Temeraire et al. Perhaps because this book is so far removed from the Napoleonic Wars is the reason why it is the worst to date of the Temeraire series. So Ms Novik, why don't you go back to the tried, tested and successful formula of having them fight Napoleon?
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on 4 December 2016
This is one of the weaker books in the series. The characters spend much of the book on a long and wearying journey. Sadly the reader gets much the same experience. It's not enough to put me off the others, but I hope for more eventful follow ups.
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on 13 November 2017
Bored to tears, endlessly scrolling through pages for something to happen or at least interesting dialogue. Very disappointing. Extensive exposition on the monotony if the Australian landscape does not make for engaging reading. Try her Uprooted, vastly better.
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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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on 3 November 2014
I love this series, and it has never disappointed throughout. The characters are beautifully conveyed of both species, the action is fast-paced, the historical character is retained properly throughout, and both the wins and the setbacks are believable. The best character is of course Temeraire, but his rider is very good. For those of you who have not come across this series before, READ IT.
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