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Book Review – Throne of Jade

throneofjadeThrone of Jade is the second book of Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series.  It continues the adventures of Captain Will Laurence and his dragon Temeraire during the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century.

Starting off quickly, this book begins with a big problem, one that must be solved by the end of the story.  Much of it is a big journey, both a journey halfway around the world and a journey of personal discovery.

Basically, Captain Laurence has a problem.  China wants Temeraire back, and England is willing to send him back in exchange for preventing China from choosing sides in the war in favour of the French.  Of course, Laurence vehemently protests and wants to keep Temeraire.  The Chinese agree to allow Laurence accompany Temeraire to China on a long journey.  Along the way, they encounter several problems which they must overcome, and once they reach China, they have to figure out how to convince the Chinese to allow Temeraire to return to England.

Joining Laurence for the journey is Lieutenant Granby, his very loyal second in command.  Young Emily Roland comes along and provides some youthfulness to the crew.  Temeraire’s doctor, Dr. Keynes also comes along, and he’s quite the character.  He doesn’t take crap from anyone.  They, along with the rest of the crew, travel to China on the Allegiance, which is captained by Captain Riley, Laurence’s old subordinate.  Now at an equal rank as Laurence, we get to see that although they were good shipmates before, there is a cause for some tension between them.  The government ministry deputized Arthur Hammond to be their representative on the trip.  He tended to aggravate Laurence a lot, and did provide for some good tension.  The Chinese delegation consisted of the very serious and frequently irritatingly antagonistic Prince Yongxing, the quiet but very interesting Sun Kai, and the jovial Liu Bao.  Sun Kai proved to be quite mysterious, but very engaging.  There were also many other characters, but these were the ones who shined.

The story itself was one of obstacle after obstacle.  They had to overcome all of these, and there was rarely a moment when they could relax.  The voyage to China took up most of the novel, and I wondered if it was going to be slow and tedious, but it wasn’t.  It was broken up into several difficult ordeals with uncertain outcomes.  People were killed, including some who appeared to be regular characters in the book.  The time in China wasn’t very easy, either.  It continued just the same with plenty of action and big problems.  The ending was a bit of a twist that I didn’t expect, though.  That was refreshing.

The setting was mainly on the Allegiance.  It also spent some time in England at the beginning, a little in South Africa, and plenty of time in China.  I especially enjoyed the descriptions of the streets of Peking.  Novik does well with evoking a good image in my mind.

What continued in this volume was the very polite language used by the characters, though some stronger wording was used here.  There was even a swear!  Novik’s writing style seems to be very polite.  The narrative was much like the dialogue, and it made me wonder if she was thinking about the dialogue so much that the narrative followed the same style of language.  It sometimes made the tense parts of the book feel less dire and more uplifting.  I’m not sure if this was intentional or not, but it seemed to make it a lighter book to read.  That is until the latter half.  It seemed to get darker towards the end.

Overall, I enjoyed this more than the first book.  For historic fiction fans and fans of dragons, this is a must.  I give it 4 out of 5 stars.