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    Review of THRONE OF JADE by Naomi Novik (see her website)


    Del Rey, April 2006

    Captain Will Laurence and his dragon, Temeraire, are vitally needed in Britain's efforts to defeat Napoleon but the Chinese insist that a Celestial Dragon like Temeraire, cannot be left with a common soldier. Instead, he must return to China with them. Their preference is that Laurence be left behind, but Temeraire's refusal to go without Laurence eventually results in the British government devoting a vitally needed dragon carrier to take Temeraire and his entire crew, along with the Chinese delegation, back to China. Britain can't afford to lose Temeraire, but even more, it can't afford to have the Chinese give their full support, and their centuries of experience breeding and fighting dragons, to the French.

    Danger seems to stalk their journey and Laurence, several times, faces near-death. Eventually, however, they reach China. There, Laurence and Temeraire discover an entirely new way of life for dragons. In China, dragons are treated much like people. They learn to read, have much more choice in the selection of their partners, and are free to walk the streets of the city. In England, in contrast, dragons are confined to a few military bases and are treated as animals rather than as citizens and equals. Temeraire still wishes to return to England, but he now sees himself as someone who will spread the word about how dragons can be treated and change the existing order.

    Eventually, the threats to Laurence become clear--and Temeraire earns himself a mortal enemy. Still, the Chinese rule that a Celestial Dragon like Temeraire cannot be owned by a simple soldier remains. Getting around that rule seems nearly impossible--yet it is vital if they are to return to the battle against Napoleon.

    Author Naomi Novik continues her alternate history series of the Napoleonic Wars with dragons with a side-trip to China. This trip is vital to Temeraire's development as an independent character, allowing Temeraire and Laurence to reset their relationship from that of master and servant to one of more nearly equals. Novik's descriptions of China are fascinating, and the picture of dragons living together peacefully with humans is an intriguing one.

    THRONE OF JADE does suffer from some of the problems of being a middle book. Readers would be well-advised to begin with the first book in this series (see our review of HIS MAJESTY'S DRAGON). But Novik's writing is compelling and there is plenty of action to move the story along.

    Three Stars

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