Friday, December 14, 2007

Throne of Jade: Temeraire Book 2

This week I finished listening to Throne of Jade, the second in Naomi Novik's series about the dragon Temeraire and his companion, Captain Lawrence. A man and his dragon.

I just love these books. I've admitted before to being jealous of Ms. Noviks' rapid success, but that fell away after the first chapters of the first book. The story and characters are simply awesome, fluidly capturing the language and feel of the Napoleonic era, yet deeply exploring the speculative element: dragons as engines of war.

One cool development is that instead of it being just one rider per dragon, the dragons in this series (and there are many different breeds) are gigantic, supporting a whole crew of men from riflemen to bombardiers. Captain Lawrence is the central human character and he manages to combine nobility, human foibles and great courage. THe series has the best elements of the animal companion books (girl and wolf, boy and dog, etc.) with the gravity of the wartime setting.

In addition to the pure adventure, Novik gives us an incredible character in Temeraire, who questions the treatment of dragons and even other people in a way that opens Lawrence's eyes to a larger moral world, without getting preachy. The world is complex, and the choices are not always bright for our heroes. The cast of supporting characters is just as intriguing. There are side characters, like little Emily Roland, that I really care about and hope to see more of.

Seriously, if you love dragons, military fiction, maritime adventure, or just excellent, fast paced fantasy, you should get these books.
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