Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book explores the consequences of the first book’s revelation: Temeriaire is not just a Chinese dragon that was meant to be a gift to the French, he is a Celestial – the breed of the imperial family. Thus, after a bit of British bureaucratic struggle, Laurence and Temeraire are off to China. The plotting of this book is relatively slow outside of the four battle scenes. This is not a negative – I think Ms. Novik uses it to properly convey to a modern audience just how long a boat trip from England to China would take.
Additionally, this story really allows for some character growth for both Laurence and Temeraire. This happens mostly for Laurence on the trip as he struggles with whether he’ll be separated from Temeraire. For the dragon, this happens upon arrival in China and learning how dragons are treated there.
Also, if the previous book was a war book, this is more of a palace intrigue/intelligence (as in embassies/spies) novel.
This book takes place in a certain part of history that I’m relatively ignorant of. In the schools I attended from kindergarten to high school, by the time we got to the 1800s we didn’t give a darn about Europe. It was all American History (Civil War and Reconstruction) until World War 1 where eventually (and at this point I don’t remember if it was AP History or books I later read) we learned about the Peace of Westphalia and how it set the stage for WWI by limiting German growth plus all the interlocking peace treaties. I do know that slave trading was abolished in the British Empire before it was in America. I also have some slight knowledge of The Opium Wars and how the European powers exerted control over China who, like Japan, had isolated itself so much, it didn’t realize it had slipped from being ahead of the European powers (as it was in the middle ages) to behind. This book mentions some opium war type things as a throwaway line, but a central conflict of this book involves England bending over backwards to China. So I wonder if this takes place before Europe made a vassal state out of China or if things are different in this timeline because of dragons? There’s mention of Aztecs, which leads me to believe that perhaps things went differently for Spain due to North American dragons.
Anyway, if you enjoyed the world of His Majesty’s Dragon and don’t mind a story where the journey is literally the point (as well as a switch from war-focused to intel-focused), it’s an easy recommendation to check out this book.
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