Saturday, April 23, 2011

Review: Tongue of Serpents by Naomi Novik

After Lien's decimation of the British fleet the government is fearful of Temeraire's divine wind and this coupled with Laurence's status as a traitor sees both shipped off to the colony in Sydney where they will both be out of the way. The duress of the journey is for them to begin a dragon covert in Australia with three dragon eggs. Upon their arrival Laurence discovers that the governor has been been displaced in a military coup and both sides are clamoring for his support. Feeling that their situation can only worsen by helping either side Laurence and the rest of the corps set off on an expedition to find a pass from Sydney through the Blue Mountains. However on the way one of the dragon eggs is stolen, supposedly by smugglers who may or may not be operating in the area, setting up a chase across the continent to retrieve the egg.

Early on in the series I was concerned that each sequel would just end up following the same structure of the first book, as Throne of Jade obviously does. Victory of Eagles impressed me from this perspective as it was decidedly different from the earlier books and while the same can be said for Tongue of Serpents there are other large problems.

Most of book comprises an overextended travelogue across Australia. The dangers the crew faces from the environment and local fauna lacks the tension that the war and other obstacles the previous book contained. Tellingly neither Laurence nor Temeraire really grow as characters either and having parts of the story narrated from Temeraire's perspective no longer has the novelty value to make up for this. There are certainly some interesting developments in the war that are mentioned in passing but these will only be addressed in a future volume. On the positive side many of the elements that Novik has done so well including Temeraire's charm as character and the byplay of the characters remain, as well as the introduction of a couple of promising dragons. So at least fans of the series should be kept interested.

Overall this would have to be considered the weakest volume of the series with not much happening and the tension sorely missing. Many of the elements that interested readers before however remain. Hopefully a return to form will be on the cards. 7/10.

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