Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Lisa's Take - Temeraire Book 2: Throne of Jade (Naomi Novik)

Let's see... I finished His Majesty's Dragon Saturday morning, then that evening went out and bought the next 3 books. I would have finished Throne of Jade at lunch Tuesday, but I had to cut my lunch time in half, which meant I had 30 niggling pages hanging on that had to be pushed until dinner time. Still, I finished the book in under three days - I trust you take that as an adequate indicator of how drawn into the world I am.

I will refrain from re-gushing over the same details of the world and the book as I did in my review of book 1; if you haven't read that review yet, I suggest you start there, and then try this one on for size. Throne of Jade does something fairly brilliant in the realm of fantasy, and instead of doing the same thing in the same setting over again, it takes a quite new tack. When it comes to light that Temeraire is a rare Chinese celestial dragon, China is displeased and demands he be brought before the emperror. So, instead of rehashing the same ideas as the first book, we get a whole new setting and quite a number of new, interesting topics and developments. There's a lot more political intrigue this time around and fewer of the heart-in-throat aerial battles. Regardless, the book stays true to the underlying themes from the first book.

That said, this time around I'm ready to knit pick a bit. Two thirds of this book was occupied in telling about the 8-month boat trip from England to China. There was a lot of plot happening, and a number of pertinent points were brought up... but it started to drag after a while. It could be argued that this was the author's intention, which is to say that she really wanted to impress the doldrums of the journey, but especially in this case that seems a thin excuse. I would much rather she'd kept it a bit shorter and then devoted more of the book to the happenings in China. The latter part of the action seemed a bit squished in and hurried, as though she were rushing to fit everything in before she hit her word-count limit.

Near the end of the book I also found a couple of moments where it seems like characters acted... well, out of character. Especially Temeraire's behavior made me do a couple of double takes, as though Novik didn't do a good enough job justifying what caused his reactions. Sure, he's supposed to be a finicky belligerent teenager (in essence) during this book, but that doesn't mean he should be jarringly unpredictable.

Aaaand, that's all I've got. I had to work pretty hard just to come up with those two critiques, truth be told. I suspect if I hadn't been reading with a critical eye, or if I hadn't read it directly back-to-back with the previous book, I would have had nothing to complain about at all. Once again I give this book and it's predecessor a resounding thumbs up - absolutely a must read for newly released fantasy. I suspect I'll have a review of book three finished within a week, at the rate I've been going.

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