Throne of Jade is the second title in Naomi Novik’s refreshing and original Temeraire series, which centers around the French Revolution of the early nineteenth century and the war with Napoleon Bonaparte—but with dragons! The series follows the adventures (and misadventures) of a dragon named Temeraire, as well as his captain, Will Lawrence.
A continuation of what came before
Throne of Jade picks up where the cliffhanger of the first installment, His Majesty’s Dragon, left the reader hanging. (Har har, see what I did there?) However, this does not in any way mean that a new reader will have trouble understanding the storyline. On the contrary, it works well both as a standalone novel and as a part of a larger whole.
The Chinese have requested that Temeraire be returned to China, as his egg was originally to be a gift to Bonaparte before it was intercepted by Captain Lawrence. To appease the delegation sent to Britain, Temeraire and Lawrence embark on a journey to China — a journey which sends them down and around the southernmost tip of Africa, across to the Asian mainland. However, on reaching China, the protagonists are embroiled in the peril and intrigue of Chinese society — a society which, unlike Britain’s, accepts and promotes draconic inclusion.
Temeraire’s growth also continues, and it becomes apparent that he is not only unique in breed but also in mind amongst the dragons of the Western world. His craving for knowledge is insatiable and he picks up everything very quickly, from mathematics to foreign languages. However, the other dragons are not to be discounted, as they all have character and history of their own, and the interactions between Temeraire and the others is truly where the story shines.
The story lies over the ocean
The one aspect of this novel which diminished it in my sight was the sheer amount of story which occurred at sea, on the journey to China. Much like everyone aboard the HMS Alliance, I was thankful to finally reach solid land after so much time at sea. Not that it was badly written — not at all. Much of my disenchantment came from the fact that most of the action and conflict during the journey centered around the tensions between the British and Chinese parties, with the occasional scuffle on the deck. Indeed, nearly 200 pages (half of the length of the book!) are devoted to the voyage from Britain to China. During my read, I probably put down the book three or four times to read something else, due to the inability of the storyline to keep my attention while at sea.
But look at that comeback, ladies and gentlemen!
However, once the story actually reached China, events picked up. Indeed, there is hardly a dull moment, what with the political intrigue and conspiracies, not to mention the cultural adaptations Lawrence and Temeraire must make. The action is engaging, the plot lines twisty, and revelations are made which will impact the rest of the series — for better or for worse!
Truly, the finale of this novel took me by surprise, and in a very good way. It wrapped up the main story of the novel very nicely, but left enough of an opening for the reader to want the next book now. The underlying plot lines of the series also get a boost, as our protagonists have been influenced by Chinese ideas and customs, as well as the contrast between the ways of China and the ways of the West.
Why should you read this book?
Read it for the story. Whether you’re just starting Temeraire or have been with us since book one, the story is captivating and the premise original. It is well worth the time of reading. Read it too for the action. The action sequences are truly well-written, be it the action of a pitched battle or that of political fencing over a dinner table. Lastly, read it for the dragons! Temeraire is often too damn clever for his own good, and it is so much fun just to watch him grow and mature. Well, there you have it, folks! And if you enjoy Throne of Jade, be sure to check out book three in the series, Black Powder War.