Title – Throne of Jade
Series – Temeraire #2
Author – Naomi Novik
Genre – Fantasy
Length – 400 pages
Published – 6 August 2007
My Rating – ★★★★
It has been a while since I wrote about the debut novel of the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik (for the first book click here), so it is time for the sequel. As you might recall I have been reading most of the series in the German translation – done by Marianne Schmidt. I really like the differences in the cover of the English and German version and admittedly fancy the German one much more. Especially, how cover and title stick to the same theme throughout the series. The first book was extremely fascinating, creating a world in which dragons and humans live side by side although not as equals in the British society during the Napoleonian Era.
In the Throne of Jade (or “Drachenprinz”, meaning prince of the dragon or dragon prince), the reader learns more about Temeraire’s origins. A Chinese delegation arrives claiming the right to take Temeraire back to China after the attempt to deliver the Temeraire’s egg to Napoleon in the first book. To avoid conflict with yet another nation (especially one with as large an aerial-force as China) it is decided to send Temeraire and Laurence to China. The long sea voyage takes up a good part of the book, during which the relationship between our two heroes deepens. Upon arrival in China, Novik reveals a whole different world in which dragons are equal to humans – they live, work, eat, love, succeed and fail just as we do. Every dragon is educated and can read and write and Temeraire is immediately fascinated by this world, that addresses most of his criticisms about the English way of treating dragons. Laurence is hard-pressed to convince Temeraire of English superiority and feels himself rather ill-equipped as Temeraire is belonging to the species of Celestial Dragons, which following Chinese tradition are only allowed to be paired with members of the Emperor’s family. A pool of intrigue threatens to engulf Laurence and Temeraire and they struggle for survival in that so distant, foreign and yet captivating world.
I read many reviews complaining about the long time Novik spends on the detailed description of the sea voyage to China. However, I feel it is a crucial point of the whole series, that is without the development of Temeraire’s and Laurance’s relationship it would seem rather unbelievable that their bond would prove strong enough to bear the strain originating from Laurence’s wish to return home to England and Temeraire enjoying the Chinese way of life so much. This cultural clash, that we experience in Throne of Jade is so well-depicted that even though it is interwoven with fantasy, gives a powerful impression on the differences between China and Europe of the time.
I was extremely gripped by Novik’s description of the Chinese world and the way dragons and men live with each other – even to the extent of the imperial family. Personally, I could really relate to Temeraire’s enthrallment by this so superior way of life and his difficulties with accepting the treatment dragons endure in England. This book, although lacking the major battle scenes, is immensely rich in character-depth and -growth, making Throne of Jade a safe bet for everyone who enjoyed Novik’s first novel.
Other books of the series I have reviewed – Temeraire #1