Review of Tongues of Serpents – Book 6 of the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik

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I’ve followed this delightful series in which the Napoleonic wars are conducted with fighting dragons. However in this sixth book – does Novik manage to sustain the freshness and quirky charm of the first books?

tonguesofserpentsConvicted of treason despite their heroic defence against Napolean’s invasion of Britain, Temeraire and Laurence – stripped of rank and standing – have been transported to the prison colony at New South Wales. With them travel three dragon eggs intended to help establish a covert in the colony, and destined to be handed over to second-rate undesirable officers willing to accept so remote an assignment.

But instead of leaving behind the political entanglements of the war, Laurence and Temeraire sail into a hornet’s nest of fresh corruption. The young Australian colony has been thrown into turmoil after the overthrow of the military governor, one William Bligh – formerly Captain Bligh, late of the HMS Bounty.

I really enjoyed this change of scene. Temeraire is a wonderful character who has steadily developed throughout the series and quickly pulls me into his various adventures with his singular dragon viewpoint. As I wasn’t attracted to the series through any particular knowledge of the Napoleonic campaigns, Novik’s necessary tweaks to fit her storyline with the historical facts don’t particularly disturb me. Neither was I worried that Temeraire was no longer fighting Napoleon – Novik’s tour of her version of the world is sufficiently engaging that I am perfectly relaxed about exploring it along with the protagonists. However, I did wonder if Laurence would have struggled more with the brutal reality of the penal colony. While I’m sure he would have coped physically with the hardship, I did think that he would have found the sense of his disgrace would have chafed – especially considering the circumstances that led to their transportation.

I liked Novik’s depiction of the Australian outback during Temeraire’s exploration of the continent. Her deft use of some of the Australian myths to produce some challenges to the dragons along the way manages to provide plenty of narrative tension, along with the surprises that await the expedition when they finally reach the other side of the continent.

All in all, I feel that Tongues of Serpentsis an entertaining addition to the series which I certainly wouldn’t characterise as a placeholder, and I’m looking to getting hold of Crucible of Gold, the next instalment.
8/10

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