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Friday, August 6, 2010

"Tongues of Serpents: A Novel of Temeraire" by Naomi Novik (reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)

Visit official website of Temeraire here
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Introduction: Naomi Novik is the author of the Tereraire series, which include novels His Majesty's Dragon, Throne of Jade, Black Powder War, Empire of Ivory and Victory of Eagles. Recently her novels were optioned to be made into a film by Peter Jackson, the Academy Award Winning director of Lord of the Rings. Tongues of Serpents is the 6th Tereaire novel.

Overview: Convicted of treason despite their heroic defense against Napoleon’s invasion of England, Temeraire and Laurence—stripped of rank and standing—have been transported to the prison colony at New South Wales in distant Australia, where, it is hoped, they cannot further corrupt the British Aerial Corps with their dangerous notions of liberty for dragons. Temeraire and Laurence carry with them three dragon eggs intended to help establish a covert in the colony and destined to be handed over to such second-rate, undesirable officers as have been willing to accept so remote an assignment—including one former acquaintance, Captain Rankin, whose cruelty once cost a dragon its life.

Nor is this the greatest difficulty that confronts the exiled dragon and rider: Instead of leaving behind all the political entanglements and corruptions of the war, Laurence and Temeraire have instead sailed into a hornet’s nest of fresh complications. For the colony at New South Wales has been thrown into turmoil after the overthrow of the military governor, one William Bligh—better known as Captain Bligh, late of HMS Bounty. Bligh wastes no time in attempting to enlist Temeraire and Laurence to restore him to office, while the upstart masters of the colony are equally determined that the new arrivals should not upset a balance of power precariously tipped in their favor.

Eager to escape this political quagmire, Laurence and Temeraire take on a mission to find a way through the forbidding Blue Mountains and into the interior of Australia. But when one of the dragon eggs is stolen from Temeraire, the surveying expedition becomes a desperate race to recover it in time—a race that leads to a shocking discovery and a dangerous new obstacle in the global war between Britain and Napoleon

Format: Tongues of Serpents is the 6th novel in the Temeraire series. The plot is heavily reliant upon the previous novels and while it could be read without having read the other novels it is not recommended and can be a bit confusing. It stands at 274 pages and was published July 13, 2010 by Del Rey.

Analysis: As a fantasy reader who has a slight obsession with dragons it could only be expected that I have tried Naomi Novik's novels involving dragons being used during the Napoleon era. I have only in the past read the first 2 or 3 novels. It wasn't for lack of trying, the other novels didn't fit into my reading schedule. When Tongues of Serpents arrived at my door the call of the dragon was just to strong and I thought I'd fit some time into my schedule to try it out.

Having read His Majesty's Dragon at least 3 years ago it was a bit challenging picking up where I had left off. Tongues of Serpents picks up right where the 5th book left off and there isn't much time spent on who characters are or background history on the characters. This could make it tough for those who need a bit of a refresher. There is no time wasted on filler information.

As with the first novel that I read of Novik's I did have a slight problem getting into her writing style. There were times that some of the descriptions or conversations didn't flow as well as I am used to. However, after a few chapters I became used to it and by the end of the novel I had no problems. It should be noted that I also had this similar problem with the first novel, her writing isn't what I'm used to and it took some time to get into a groove with the reading.

Although this novel is very well written there are elements that only allow Tongues of Serpent to be described as a filler book. It connects events from the 5th book to events that'll occur in the 7th book. There is a lot of time spent on political conversations and traveling in this novel. This is by no means the best novel of the series. While I haven't read all the novels, as a connector novel it just doesn't live up to the wow factor of the first novel. Too much time is spent describing the land and uncharted area and not enough focus on the dragons, political events and other action elements. In fact it's well over 3/4th of the way into the novel before anything happens that wasn't in the book description. This was a bit disappointing as I didn't remember the first two novels being of this fashion.

This novel is either going to be a love it or hate it novel for Temeraire fans. They will enjoy the fact that there are introduction to new dragons and a set up for another novel but overall the wow factor isn't there for this book. It's slow and really not much happens. While this novel renewed my love of dragons and made me inspired to go back and read the other novels I have missed in the series, it won't be my favorite novel. While it wasn't a bad read at all, I can only hope that the next novel produces a more substantial plot element and brings back these novels to what I remember enjoying the first time.


Sarah said...

I recently read (and reviewed on my blog) the first book in this series. I wasn't as thrilled with it as I expected I would be as per the hype out there regarding this series right now. I have had a few people tell me that the series gets better over the next few books and then completely crashes in book 5. I'm not sure if that's accurate or not, but I have no real desire to rush through the series. I'll get to book 6 eventually (especially since I won an autographed copy of it).

Good review!!

Cindy said...


As I said it was some years ago I read the first two. I remember not being able to get into the style of writing right away. I do remember liking it enough to read the second.

So I skipped ahead to this book and it was rather sluggish :(. But every series is going to have a book like that. Here's to the next one!

Anonymous said...

I'd have said book 5 is one of the better ones in the series (maybe even the best).

Book 6 had some nice touches but a lot of it could be condensed down to "they meandered around Australia for a few months" without losing very much.

Cindy said...

Anon: So true... I kept reading and thinking.... this book could literally be a 10 page book with they walked north.... they turned east... they hit a pot hole... someone got sick. :(

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