A lot more emotionally painful than the first book, but in a good way. Combined with a new setting, I am officially 110% in love with this series.
Read my review of the first book, His Majesty’s Dragon, here.
When Britain intercepted a French ship and its precious cargo–an unhatched dragon’s egg–Capt. Will Laurence of HMS Reliant unexpectedly became master and commander of the noble dragon he named Temeraire. As new recruits in Britain’s Aerial Corps, man and dragon soon proved their mettle in daring combat against Bonaparte’s invading forces.
Now China has discovered that its rare gift, intended for Napoleon, has fallen into British hands–and an angry Chinese delegation vows to reclaim the remarkable beast. But Laurence refuses to cooperate. Facing the gallows for his defiance, Laurence has no choice but to accompany Temeraire back to the Far East–a long voyage fraught with peril, intrigue, and the untold terrors of the deep. Yet once the pair reaches the court of the Chinese emperor, even more shocking discoveries and darker dangers await.
While His Majesty’s Dragon made me fall in love with the Temeraire world, Throne of Jade was the book that captured my heart. It was not like I did not have an emotional connection to the first book, but I had a much stronger (and more painful) one with the second.
Throne of Jade revolves around Temeraire and Laurence’s fight to stay together, despite Chinese tradition that says Celestial dragons must belong to emperors. Politics, customs, and the lure of Chinese dragon culture all come between the two of them, creating an undeniably stressful story.
The world-building was incredible. Though two-thirds of the story focus on the journey to China, Naomi Novik still started to introduce the new characters and customs that they would encounter directly once they reached their destination. She brought the new setting to life and created an entirely different dragon culture than the one she had established in Britain.
Despite the complexity of the world Novik built, the specifics were never hard to keep track of. I easily understood the different perspectives of the Chinese envoys, the power struggle in the royal household, and the different aspects of dragon life. This creative but understandable world-building allowed me to enjoy the new setting without losing the train of the original story.
Temeraire experienced significant growth, becoming an even stronger character. The Chinese had a distinctly different view of dragons than the British, and in the new environment, Temeraire started to embrace different parts of his identity. Though it was painful when those changes brought him away from Laurence, I loved watching Temeraire’s development. He truly was a three-dimensional character, more fleshed-out than most of the human characters in the series.
Laurence changed in his own ways, fully embracing his identity as a dragon captain and fiercely fighting to keep Temeraire. I had not expected the argumentative side of Laurence that appeared, but I enjoyed seeing him come out of his uptight shell. Though he took longer to adjust to the Chinese culture, Laurence did allow it to change how he saw his native country.
The side characters remained somewhat one-dimensional, though the characters that were introduced in Throne of Jade had more layers than those that stuck around from the first book. I did not mind the way the characters were portrayed, because it did not hamper the story. Each character added a necessary element without getting in the way.
Throne of Jade was well paced, with action-packed fight scenes balanced against more emotional scenes of character growth. Though the book was not constantly dramatic, the threat to Laurence and Temeraire’s relationship kept me engaged and eager to read on.
Of course, with the Napoleonic Wars still going on, there are lots of intense fight scenes. One part of this book that separated it from the last one was the complexity that was added to Temeraire’s bloodthirsty nature. Yes, he still loves a fight, but he starts to think about the consequences of his actions and the nature of the battles he is fighting.
I would recommend Throne of Jade to anyone who read His Majesty’s Dragon. If the world-building or characters were not complex enough in the previous book, that problem is solved. If you want more fight scenes and dragons (who doesn’t?) they are just as dramatic and nuanced as before. And if you fell in love with the series in book one, book two will not disappoint.