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Naomi Novik – Throne of Jade

June 4, 2009

66. Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik (2006)
Temeraire, Book 2

Read my review of:
– Book 1, His Majesty’s Dragon

Length: 400 pages

Genre: Fantasy; Historical Fiction

Started: 27 May 2009
Finished: 31 May 2009

Where did it come from? Amazon, as a Christmas-present-to-self two years ago.
Why do I have it? Because the first one in the series charmed my socks off.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 30 December 2007.
Verdict? Keeper.

Why doesn’t more of
our history have dragons?
Someone get on that!

Summary: When the British seized Temeraire’s egg from a French frigate, they had no way of knowing that he was a Chinese Celestial – an exceptionally rare breed of dragon that are normally only treated as companions for members of the Emperor’s family – intended as a gift to Napoleon. The Chinese embassy is outraged that one of their royal dragons is being treated like a common soldier in the British aviator corps, and they demand his immediate return to China… with or without Laurence. Rather than make enemies of the powerful nation, the British Admiralty agrees, and Temeraire and Laurence unwillingly board a transport bound for China. Neither of them wants to be parted from the other, but the Chinese embassy is none too keen on the idea of keeping Laurence around, or on letting Temeraire out of their control. Together, they must find a way to stay together without sabotaging British foreign relations… but first they must survive the perils of the long sea voyage.

Review: While His Majesty’s Dragon charmed the socks off of me, this one actually made me think. Still charming, but also thought-provoking… sometimes uncomfortably so, in fact. In His Majesty’s Dragon, Novik’s introducing us not only to her characters, but also to her world, and so we take on faith that things are the way she says they are, and if none of the characters give a second thought to the way dragons are treated, and the relationship between dragons and humans, then why should we? In Throne of Jade, however, Temeraire’s growing up, and has reached the dragon equivalent of teenagerhood – particularly the part where he starts questioning the status quo. The reader gets the chance to grow with him, and as we get to see the Chinese system of dragon-human interactions, we also start to question what we’d been taught in the first book was normal and right. I actually got uncomfortable when I stopped to look at my assumptions from the first book – Why did I ever think this or that was okay? What does that say about me? – and that’s a neat trick for an author to pull off. Full round of applause for Novik for that one.

The rest of the book is good as well – Novik manages to capture the style and the tone of period literature while somehow keeping it captivating and easy to read. I feel like there was more high-seas adventure – Battles with the French! Intrigue and spying! Treachery and plots! Sea serpents and fierce storms! – than in the previous book, which is never a bad thing (plus boys on boats = always good), although it did come at the cost of some of the interpersonal (inter-dragonal?) interaction that so charmed me the first time around. Still, this book went in some interesting new directions without sacrificing the key elements that make the series great, and I’m excited to see what happens in the next book. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Historical fiction and fantasy lovers alike should all be reading this series. This one isn’t *quite* as strong as its predecessor, but it’s still an absorbing, entertaining, and increasingly thought-provoking read.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Links: Naomi Novik’s website, Naomi Novik’s profile on LibraryThing

Other Reviews: Medieval Bookworm, Dear Author (1), Dear Author (2), Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog, Jenny’s Books, Fiddle-de-dee’s Not English, Reading Adventures, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: The day was unseasonably warm for November, but in some misguided deference to the Chinese embassy, the fire in the Admiralty boardroom had been heaped excessively high, and Laurence was standing directly before it.

Vocab: (see the whole list)

  • p. 54: “Keynes was literally shaking his fist in Barham’s face; an alarming prospect, thanks to the wickedly hooked ten-inch tenaculum clenched in his fingers, and the moral force of his argument was very great: Barham stepped back, involuntarily.” – a small sharp-pointed hook set in a handle, used for seizing and picking up parts in operations and dissections.
    .
  • p. 79: “He jumped down to the forecastle and gave the word; in a moment the men at the great quadruple-heigh capstans were straining, their grunting and bellowing carrying up from the lower decks as the cable came dragging over the iron catheads: the Allegiance‘s smallest kedge anchor as large as the best bower of another ship, its flukes spread wider than the height of a man.” – to warp or pull (a ship) along by hauling on the cable of an anchor carried out from the ship and dropped.
    .
  • p. 231: “He managed to get a hand on the breedhing of the carronade as he fell; he had only a confused impression of another shadow moving above him, and Leddowes, terrified and staring, was scrambling back away with both hands raised.” – A kind of short cannon, formerly in use, designed to throw a large projectile with small velocity, used for the purpose of breaking or smashing in, rather than piercing, the object aimed at, as the side of a ship. It has no trunnions, but is supported on its carriage by a bolt passing through a loop on its under side.
    .
  • p. 247: “Laurence was on the verge of ordering him to take the risk regardless: the men were hacking frantically, but the tough hide was resisting them, and in any moment the Allegiance might be broken beyond repair: if her futtocks cracked, or worse the keel bent, they might never be able to bring her into port again.” – any of a number of timbers forming the lower, more curved portion of the frame in a wooden hull.
    .
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7 Comments leave one →
  1. June 4, 2009 7:06 am

    You’re absolutely right about how we made assumptions in the first book about the way dragons were treated and this one showed us that maybe we were wrong. It’s distinctly uncomfortable, I remember that happening.

    I’ve read everything in this series so far and I’m really looking forward to more!

  2. June 4, 2009 8:22 am

    Keep reading this series. The next one is a bit episodic, but the one after that is my favorite, set in Africa.

  3. June 4, 2009 2:53 pm

    Meghan – Good, I’m glad that wasn’t just me squirming. I don’t know that I’ve ever encountered that phenomenon in another book – at least not about fictional issues of dragon welfare.

    Jeanne – I’ve got the nest two books in my Big Box o’ Summer Reading, so I’ll be getting to them soon!

  4. June 4, 2009 8:44 pm

    I never did review this book. I read it a couple years ago and then stalled in the series! I really must do better in reading it! Chances are I will have to reread first, though.

  5. June 5, 2009 10:10 am

    Man, I need to reread this one. I’ve been meaning to get to it ever since I reread HIS MAJESTY’S DRAGON months and months ago, but somehow I keep putting it off. I remember how wonderful it was the first time, coming up against all these new ideas about dragons. My cousin got married the day I read it, and I snuck off to the hall bathroom so I could steal a little reading time in between courses. :)

  6. June 5, 2009 11:08 pm

    I really enjoyed Throne of Jade, but like you, it made me ask myself some uncomfortable questions that I really wasn’t expecting. I love Novik’s work so much. Temeraire is such an amazing, intricate character.

  7. June 8, 2009 10:50 am

    Kailana – You’re not the only one who has gotten stuck in this series, despite really enjoying it. I wonder why that is?

    Memory – Oh, that’s a great story! I only finally got a purse big enough to smuggle books into formal events. :)

    Ruth – It’s true! Watching him grow up is so fascinating.

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