Summary from the book jacket:
Convicted of treason despite their heroic defense against Napoleon’s invasion of England, Temeraire and Laurence—stripped of rank and standing—have been transported to the prison colony at New South Wales in distant Australia, where, it is hoped, they cannot further corrupt the British Aerial Corps with their dangerous notions of liberty for dragons. Temeraire and Laurence carry with them three dragon eggs intended to help establish a covert in the colony and destined to be handed over to such second-rate, undesirable officers as have been willing to accept so remote an assignment—including one former acquaintance, Captain Rankin, whose cruelty once cost a dragon its life.
Nor is this the greatest difficulty that confronts the exiled dragon and rider: Instead of leaving behind all the political entanglements and corruptions of the war, Laurence and Temeraire have instead sailed into a hornet’s nest of fresh complications. For the colony at New South Wales has been thrown into turmoil after the overthrow of the military governor, one William Bligh—better known as Captain Bligh, late of HMS Bounty. Bligh wastes no time in attempting to enlist Temeraire and Laurence to restore him to office, while the upstart masters of the colony are equally determined that the new arrivals should not upset a balance of power precariously tipped in their favor.
Eager to escape this political quagmire, Laurence and Temeraire take on a mission to find a way through the forbidding Blue Mountains and into the interior of Australia. But when one of the dragon eggs is stolen from Temeraire, the surveying expedition becomes a desperate race to recover it in time—a race that leads to a shocking discovery and a dangerous new obstacle in the global war between Britain and Napoleon.
I was very excited to read the latest book in the Temeraire series, as I’m a big fan of Novik’s writing and the very fun alternate history world she has created. However each one of the books in the series has been unpredictable for me–I’ve really enjoyed some of them (especially the first, second, and fifth novels) but wasn’t as wowed by some of the other sequels.
Unfortunately Tongues of Serpents was one of those that didn’t amaze me. As always, I liked hearing about Temeraire and Laurence once again, as they’ve become some of my favorite fantasy characters. On the other hand, Novik’s plotting in Tongues was much too drawn out and kind of boring. At first I thought the “desperate race” to recover the stolen dragon egg was just a brief plot twist, since it definitely did not have enough substance to make it the entire plot of the book… which of course is what it became. Most of the novel details Temeraire, Laurence & Co.’s journey through the dangerous and inhospitable Australian outback. It ended up not being very interesting or very harrowing at all. Most of the time I was bored and wondering when the real action would start–flying through deserts, looking for water, searching for an egg, and some brief encounters with scary-ish native reptiles did not an adventure make, at least not in my opinion.
It really only got exciting in the last quarter, once our noble characters reached their destination. What kept me going through the first three quarters of the book was Novik’s style of writing, which I love. I also really enjoy her characters and the dialogue and the way she describes interactions between dragons and dragons, or humans and dragons, or even humans and humans. So descriptive with the perfect amount of words. Some might call it a “traditional” or maybe even “archaic” or “Victorian” style of writing–whatever it is, Novik does a great job and I like it. I’ll read anything she writes, even if it gets boring once in awhile.
I’m not clear whether this is the last in the Temeraire series. While it was a great story, it seems to have been overly drawn out, and I’m not sure what Novik plans on doing.
- His Majesty’s Dragon
- Throne of Jade
- Black Powder War
- Empire of Ivory
- Victory of Eagles
- Tongues of Serpents