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Throne of Jade, by Naomi Novik Book Review | SFReader.com
Throne of Jade, by Naomi Novik Genre: Fantasy Publisher: Del Rey Published: 2006 Review Posted: 11/12/2007 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 7 out of 10
Throne of Jade, by Naomi Novik
Book Review by Howard von Darkmoor
Have you read this book?
Throne of Jade, the second of the Temeraire books, is an interesting and enjoyable read. Just not as much of either as book one. What has remained just as strong, however, is Novik's talent for using simple sentences in extremely apropos moments to make poignant statements. This trait and her skill at writing from within the minds of both Laurence and Temeraire make these tales pleasurable entertainment.
This book does begin with an occasional leap in facts, as if we the readers know what Novik the author knew when she knew it as she wrote it. Basically these are omissions of information that, while potentially minor and somewhat subtlety slipped in, only suddenly are realized. A 'Wait, what? Did I know that?' sensation that becomes mildly irritating the more it repeats itself. There is also the literal absence of pertinent information at times, such as the missing transitory paragraph/line/scene that should have existed between a perfectly fine day and a suddenly thunder-storming downpour of a day. Thus, the little things become larger the more they are noticed.
That being said, I cannot exclaim enough over Temeraire the character. Despite/because of being a dragon, who can know? Temeraire is an extraordinary character that Novik so explicitly shares with us it is as if we interact directly with the dragon himself - speak with him, observe him, fly with him, touch him, understand him - on a first-person daily basis. I often feel as if I know Temeraire, as if I could turn from my book to find him about the place, just out of sight, moving about the garden or some such. It's rather amazing, if you think clearly about it for a moment: I'm telling you that Novik so vividly describes and lives this fictional character she's created that I can see myself interacting with him as if he were really there - and he's a dragon. Not even human.
This novel keeps Laurence and Temeraire smack in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars, yet sends them along their merry way to China - land of Temeraire's birth. Superlative naval adventure yet again surfaces throughout the book, but the real treat is partaking in Temeraire's discovery of and interaction with the Chinese ethnicities and proclivities. Temeraire's mind is so childlike and innocent in some moments, so savage and regal in others. This childlike innocence combined with his fierce demeanor often leads to quite humorous observations of either his own or Laurence's.
Subterfuge, blackmail, jealousy, slavery; threats implied and real; warfare open, hidden, and disguised; cultural differences, clashes or opportunities to learn - these are the things this tale is made of. Who to believe, whose ulterior motives to bare, whose designs to trust? These are the questions of this book, and yet one other arises: Where exactly does a Chinese dragon given to the French but raised by the British belong? And who gets to determine the answer?
While not as smoothly rendered a book as its predecessor, by both author and by editors, I do encourage you to read Temeraire's tale and learn firsthand the intricacies of a dragon's mind. I did find the resolution to the story's dilemma, while satisfactory, a bit of a mild end to a thoroughly enjoyable journey, both physically and culturally. The ending scenes do leave a somewhat sour taste for me personally, though, as they give the impression of setting up book three as a tale of class struggle by identifying Temeraire and company as malcontents trying to right a deplorable wrong - which is still only a cultural wrong, not a sadistic one worthy of novelization in my opinion. I must admit to being somewhat lacking in desire to pursue book three if such is the case. Yet interacting once again with Laurence and Temeraire is all the draw I require.
Simply put, this is a good little novel minus the spectacular hook of book one: a 6-out-of-10.
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