This just in: Naomi Novik is good!
Like most people who've read Temeraire/His Majesty's Dragon, I was enchanted by Novik's debut. Still, since this trilogy is unlike anything else in the current market, I wasn't entirely certain the author could return with something as enjoyable. After all, writing the sequel to a wonderful book is a writer's most difficult challenge. Yet Naomi Novik passed this test with flying colors!
In my humble opinion, Throne of Jade is even better than its predecessor. Indeed, it shows more depth and makes for another pleasant read.
Novik's writing skills have improved. Not that I found them lacking in the first volume, but the prose is impeccable in this sequel. Her narrative flows particularly well, making Throne of Jade yet another page-turning reading experience.
The novel begins some time following the ending of Temeraire/His Majesty's Dragon. England is proud of its hard-earned victory against Napoléon's bold scheme. But a Chinese embassy has traveled to London to demand the return of Temeraire. According to the envoys, the Celestial breed is too exalted to be utilized to wage war and to have a vulgar soldier as companion.
The characterizations are again interesting, with both Laurence and Temeraire understandably stealing the show. But the author shows great skills in her rendering of the uneasy rapport between the Westerners and the Chinese envoys. As Laurence and his crew are forced to embark on a long journey to China, we have the opportunity to learn a lot more about that disparate group of protagonists.
More so than in volume 1, Naomi Novik displays a great eye for details, which adds another dimension to the story. The imagery of it all is remarkably arresting.
The author successfully captured China's "flavour." I was impressed at how easily and almost seamlessly Novik was able to incorporate her dragons to the different environments. Once more, she demonstrates her mastery of the Napoleonic era. Moreover, she is obviously conversant with Imperial China's history and culture as well. All of which brings this tale to a level that few alternate history books can match.
Throne of Jade is one terrific novel! Naomi Novik is rapidly leaving her mark in the fantasy circles, and this sequel allows her to prove to everyone that she appears to be here to stay.
I'm really looking forward to reading the last volume, Black Powder War. So far, the Temeraire trilogy has been a fast-moving and incredibly fun series. Let's hope that Novik caps it all off with an exclamation point!
If you wish to treat yourself to something special, look no further. This is the perfect novel if you are looking for a change from all those dark and brooding fantasy epics.
The final verdict: 8,5/10
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