September 24, 2008

Book Thoughts: Throne of Jade (Temeraire, Book 2)

Title: Throne of Jade
Author: Naomi Novik
Genre: Fantasy, Alternate History
Publisher: Del Rey (April 25, 2006)
Quick-Hit Thought: Good read for those interested, but slow pacing in the middle.

The phrase, “it’s all about the journey” perfectly describes Throne of Jade, book 2 in the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik. The book chronicles the journey to the far off lands of China by the dragon Tremeraire, his crew, and his Captain; Will Laurence. Once again, Novik does a wonderful job of weaving dragons into a period of history best known for ships, soldiers, and war. As in the first book, the strength of Throne of Jade lies in the detail of dragon interactions within society and the military, boosted by the fact that this book partly takes place in a very different Chinese society.

Unfortunately, getting to the immense and interesting nation of China takes some time and by the end of the book China feels wholly unexplored. While I do appreciate a more detailed account of the journey to China, via a sea-faring dragon carrier, I can’t help but admit I was longing for Novik’s “and a few weeks later” approach of the first book. There are definite flat spots in both action and pacing, with a tacked-on-feeling action sequence at the beginning of the book.

Fortunately, the plot is solid and ties together in the end. This makes up for the boring reading in the middle. It took me a while to get through that middle, but I feel rewarded for sticking it out. Throne of Jade introduces a wonderful new enemy into the mix outside of Britain’s current nemesis of Napolean and France.

The next book in the series, Black Powder War, picks up shortly after where Throne of Jade leaves off and I am ready to see it through to conclusion. If there is any sign of a good book, it is in the Throne of Jade’s ability to intrigue me enough to pick up and read the next in the series, just as book 1 brought me to Throne of Jade.