Author Web site: http://www.temeraire.org
After the many brutal skirmishes Laurence and Temeraire experienced in His Majestyís Dragon/Temeraire, they are unable to relax as the trials placed upon them have only begun. Having learned the nature of Temeraireís unique abilities and physical appearance as a Chinese Celestial, Laurence is soon encouraged by an envoy of the Chinese Emperor to part ways with Temeraire. The Chinese are a shade removed from appalled when they learn the rare and honored Celestial has been employed as an instrument of war. to return to China. Of course, both Laurence and Temeraire object to the parting, and soon the two are aboard a sea vessel heading for China, where the Chinese hope they will at last part ways.
As is the case with Throne of Jade and His Majestyís Dragon/Temeraire, it is difficult not to compare a debut novel with its follow-up. The first novel dealt primarily with Laurence and Temeraire becoming companions and conflict, primarily on an external level. Here, in Throne of Jade, with Laurence and Temeraire fully settled into their relationship, Novik tests those bonds throughout novel and presents more of an internalized conflict between British and Chinese sensibilities and ideologies. While Laurence is a relatively mature man, Temeraire is still fairly young, and not as wise to the wide world. Very often, the keen interest Temeraire displays for his Chinese heritage, and the subsequent relation the Chinese have with Dragons tests Laurence belief and faith in their relationship. While there didnít seem to be quite as many "My Dears" between Dragon and rider, their bonds of companionship were no less strong.
Though the heart of the story is Laurence and Temeraire, Novik amply rounds out the cast and plot with well-drawn characters. The leader of the Chinese envoy, the Emperorís brother Prince Yongxing, and the British diplomat, Hammond, are adequate foils to Laurence. At each turn, Laurenceís frustration with his situation and those he is forced to deal with was handled very well; Novik injected a great deal of emotion and empathy into the story. I was also pleased at a few unexpected wends in the story. What makes these plot points so enjoyable is the surprise at which they were presented and how this surprise contrasted with the logic provided upon reflection.
Another point for Novik is how she further fleshes out the world first revealed in His Majestyís Dragon/Temeraire, she isnít done bending the world and history we know just yet. As the Allegiance carries Temeraire, Laurence, and crew around Africa, Asia, and eventually to China, Novik slips in further details of her world. At times one might think the story was indeed set in our world, until she notes the wild dragons that roam in Africa. This provides both context for Temeraireís story as it unfolds, while also providing gems to mine further should Novik decide to explore other dragon tales in this world.
Throne of Jade is a worthy successor to a fine and entertaining debut novel. Novik is telling some a very enjoyable story in these two books, and with Black Powder War, the third Temeraire novel already on the shelves, readers are in for a satisfying fantastical treat.
© 2006 Rob H. Bedford