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Tongues of Serpents: A Novel of Temeraire Mass Market Paperback – Illustrated, June 7, 2011
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Convicted of treason despite their heroic defense against Napoleon’s invasion of England, Temeraire and Capt. Will Laurence have been transported to a prison colony in distant Australia—and into a hornet’s nest of fresh complications. The colony is in turmoil after the overthrow of military governor William Bligh—aka Captain Bligh, late of HMS Bounty. And when Bligh tries to enlist them in his bid to regain office, the dragon and his captain are caught in the middle of a political power struggle. Their only chance to escape the fray is accepting a mission to blaze a route through the forbidding Blue Mountains and into the interior of Australia. But the theft of a precious dragon egg turns their expedition into a desperate recovery operation—leading to a shocking discovery and a dangerous new complication in the global war between Britain and Napoleon.
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Praise for His Majesty’s Dragon and the Temeraire series
“These are beautifully written novels—not only fresh, original, and fast paced, but full of wonderful characters with real heart. [The Temeraire series] is a terrific meld of two genres that I particularly love—fantasy and historical epic.”—Peter Jackson
“A terrifically entertaining fantasy novel . . . Is it hard to imagine a cross between Susanna Clarke, of Norrell and Strange fame, and the late Patrick O’Brian? Not if you’ve read this wonderful, arresting novel.”—Stephen King
“A splendid series . . . Not only is it a new way to utilize dragons, it’s a very clever one and fits neatly into the historical niche this author has used.”—Anne McCaffrey
“Just when you think you’ve seen every variation possible on the dragon story, along comes Naomi Novik. Her wonderful Temeraire is a dragon for the ages.”—Terry Brooks
“Enthralling reading—it’s like Jane Austen playing Dungeons & Dragons with Eragon’s Christopher Paolini.”—Time
“A completely authentic tale, brimming with all the detail and richness one looks for . . . as well as the impossible wonder of gilded fantasy.”—Entertainment Weekly (Editor’s Choice, Grade: A)
“Novik has accomplished something singular with her Temeraire series. . . . At its heart, it’s a story about friendship that transcends not only time and class, but species.”—NPR
“[Naomi Novik] is soaring on the wings of a dragon.”—The New York Times
“A thrilling fantasy . . . All hail Naomi Novik.”—The Washington Post Book World
“An amazing performance . . . [I] was immediately hooked by the writing, the research and the sheer courage of the whole enterprise.”—Chicago Tribune
“Novik’s influences run the gamut from Jane Austen to Patrick O’Brian, with a side trip through Anne McCaffrey. Her books are completely involving and probably addictive, their central conceit explored in clever detail with a great deal of wit and historical insight.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Something new and quite wonderful . . . The Temeraire trilogy could well be this year’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.”—BookPage
“A superbly written, character-driven series . . . What keeps one turning the pages is the urge to find out what happens next to Captain Laurence and Temeraire, characters who win one’s heart from the beginning. Bravo!”—Booklist (starred review)
About the Author
- Publisher : Del Rey; Illustrated edition (June 7, 2011)
- Language : English
- Mass Market Paperback : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0345496906
- ISBN-13 : 978-0345496904
- Lexile measure : 1180L
- Item Weight : 6.2 ounces
- Dimensions : 4.1 x 0.9 x 6.8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #81,869 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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Laurence’s life is spared, but he is sent to Australia as a prisoner and expected to live in exile. All things considered, this is better than death, and Temeraire escaped the terrible conditions of the dragon breeding camps.
Of all the books in this series, this one was my least favorite. There is some political intrigue, a mystery to be solved, and Laurence is trying to figure out how to make a new life for him and Temeraire in Australia.
For me, the story dragged, and I felt we were going from one event to another without much passion or excitement for the story.
However, if you’re reading this series, I wouldn’t skip this book. Some of the things about Australia and Sidney are interesting, and you’ll miss some of the details of the story by skipping.
I love these characters, which is part of the reason I wouldn’t skip any of the books. This is a series I’ll reread in the future.
The interactions among the characters are part of the reason I find these books so delightful. Laurence and Temeraire have an endearing relationship. Iskierka provides a lot of humor. She relentlessly harasses Grandy and Temeraire.
Tharkay shows up in this book and adds some mystery to the plot. I like him as a character, but I’m not quite sure whose side he’s on. Because I like him I always give him the benefit of the doubt.
Jeremy Rankin, from the first book His Majesty’s Dragon, arrives in Sidney. He’s been granted an egg and awaits its hatching. In book one, he abuses his dragon, and Laurence humiliates him by forcing him to show kindness to his dying dragon. There’s no love lost between the two men.
I detested him in His Majesty’s Dragon, so this book gave me an instant villain. He hates Laurence and isn’t inclined to concede any kindness toward him. His arrival spells trouble.
Of course, Temeraire has been talking to the eggs, telling them they don’t have to be harnessed if they don’t want to be. Rankin gets to feel the sting of Karma!
Novik steps us back in time and shows Australia and Sidney in their infancy. Populated with criminals or people exiled for one reason or another, this country had a unique beginning.
In this era, most people had little or no understanding of indigenous people or any interest in understanding their cultures. Thrown in some Chinese and expect misunderstandings and trouble.
There are some very satisfying moments in the story, and Iskierka provides some funny and entertaining moments. She is a dragon with endless self-confidence and knows what she wants. Poor Temeraire, he is endlessly frustrated by her self-confidence, bragging, and pointed jabs.
But a slump had to come eventually. This book was disappointing if only for the fact that it felt half-finished. It was shorter than the others, and had no real twists to it; about the time one would normally come, toward the end when their long and monotonous journey comes to an end, there was a quick sort of climax that was rather unsatisfying that came to a close very quickly.
I was sad to see Laurence and Temeraire avoid the politics of the rebellion against the governor of Australia. I think there was the potential for Temeraire to explore a whole new avenue of radical ideas entirely outside the stifling British atmosphere, but they ditched that to go on a very straightforward and boring flight across the desert. Even then, there was Kulingule to wonder about, but even then he ended up just turning out to be a heavy weight. For a moment I wondered if he might end up with some ability not unlike the Divine Wind, with the way his body sagged and filled with air. But again, it was like the author was rushed and had no time to delve into that potential mystery.
I wonder if a part of my disappointment with this book lies in the fact that I read this one, whereas I listened to the audiobooks of most of the previous iterations. Simon Vance has the perfect voice for this series, and I think I might go back to listening to the rest. And I will continue through the series. I think that Naomi Novik is a wonderfully talented author and I have found myself enthralled with this series as a whole, but I am left with the impression that this book did not get the full attention it deserved. After reading five books in a row that were truly splendid, one book can’t change my opinion of he author’s talent.
Here’s hoping that the next installment has more of the spirit of the prior books. I’m in for the long haul, and flush with the hope that the next book will return Laurence and Temeraire to their place as two of the most interesting and charming characters I’ve come across in a while.
Laurence and Temeraire, after assisting the British military in forcing Bonaparte out of England, are exiled from Britain to the penal colony in Australia. They are still considered traitors, and hace lost their military standing.
All is not well in New South Wales.
The New South Wales Corps has evicted the governor, Captain Bligh. The citizens agreed to the ouster. The English government sends another governor who is ousted, too.
The three eggs that were sent to Australia in order to start an Aviary Corps have hatched; one being stolen away before hatching.
Laurence and Temeraine travel across Australia to find a road across the Blue Mountains, to discover the route of smugglers, and to find the stolen egg.
An acceptable story.
Top reviews from other countries
And it isn't as bad as the worst reviews claim, but nor is it more than just 'Okay'. As many of the other reviews state, Tongues of Serpents suffers from being, frankly, a rather dull book. A slow start segues into a lengthy middle-section that is, as another reviewer points out, one long interminable journey punctuated by dragons arguing with one another. When that journey finally ends it does so with an anti-climactic discovery, a brief burst of action and then the book sort of drifts to an end. At no point did anything on the page generate a real sense of excitement.
At times it almost seemed as if Naomi Novik's skills as a writer had deserted her. It might have been my imagination, but the both the descriptive prose and the dialogue in Tongues of Serpents felt leaden and at times almost garbled. Some of the sentence structures in the book's opening passages were quite frankly baffling and on several occasions I found myself rereading paragraphs to try and make sense of what was being said.
Equally her talents at crafting a compelling narrative also seemed to have gone missing. Not only was the story dull and unengaging; when she did try to liven things up her efforts fell flat. At one point, for example, Temeraire and his companions find themselves threatened by an unseen enemy that is by turns stealthy and deadly. This should have generated as palpable sense of danger and fear, as individuals first go missing inexplicably and then the danger is revealed, but the way the author handles it there is little or no tension generated. Even a passage when Temeraire himself trapped and in direct danger never really takes off.
Other reviewers have put forward various theories as to why the series has suffered such a dip in form with Tongues of Serpents. Personally I think that Naomi Novik, having placed Temeraire and Laurence in Australia, found herself in a narrative cul de sac and didn't really know what to do once she was in there. The result is this hugely underwhelming book.
All I can hope is that, with the precis of the plot of Crucible of Gold suggesting that it will see Temeraire and Laurence leave Oz and rejoin the war effort, the next book provides more action and with it sees the series get back on track after this major hiccup.
The Napoleonic war still rages and Temeraire and Laurence have been exiled or 'transported' to the prison colony in New South Wales. Their insistence on passing the cure for the dragonic plague to the enemy has disastrously ended their careers.
This book is a nice read , but the plot is non existent. Its mostly a tour of the Australian outback with a conclusion thats finally something worthy of a next book. The entirety of this book is spent waiting for something interesting to happen. there are various red herrings , such as the possibility of laurence and Temeraire becoming privateers , but this fails to materialise and the book concludes leaving the reader somewhat bemused. As plot devices go - the introduction of new plot threads at the end of this book - could have been revealed in the first chapters via an urgent summons and we could have skipped this books content entirely in favor of the next.
Yes the prose is fine, and we all want to know what Temeraire and Lawrence are up to - but not 300 pages of miserable and pointless introduction to the cast of the next few books. I actually think that this book can be skipped entirely unless you just want a comfortable and easy read. If you just want to judge the book on the prose its a 3 star book, but as part of an ongoing series I find it very difficult to justify its cover price given its lack of content.
For those of you dropping in at random, 'Tongues of Serpents' is Naomi Novik's sixth in her series about the intelligent dragon Temeraire, in an alternative world history where the British Navy defends against Napoleon's invasion with the help of a draconic Aerial Corps. It's a crazy idea - but it's worked superbly for five books. Ms Novik adroitly captures 18thC manners, speech and military environments. It might not be real history but it 'feels' right; and if you like Hornblower stories or some of the grand old Hollywood naval epics then this series is likely to appeal.
Other reviewers mark Book 6 down as 'boring'. My response is that we're seeing poor demoted Laurence (oh how deliciously serious! oh how swashbuckling!) and his magnificent dragon companion Temeraire at a very low ebb. Having your career and all hope crushed is NOT exciting. It's dreary and draining. No doubt the mismanaged convict colony was an appalling place to fetch up. Instead of naval and military efficiency, instead of devoted and honourable colleagues, Laurence and Temeraire are surrounded by crass, venal stupidity and brutishness. Horrible contrasts, compounded by screaming unfairness. With their lives in tatters, L and T battle to remain true to themselves. Tough on readers, perhaps. Is Ms Novik guilty of conveying her lead characters' downturn of fortune too well?!
Having glimpsed the Australian outback decades ago, I enjoyed the travelling sections with their atmosphere of heavy heat and lurking menace. I'd heard of bunyips but had no idea how they operate - great stuff! Temeraire's moment of danger was vivid to me (if not to others reviewing here); a powerful dragon mired in swamp is full of irony and epic heroism.
I do question the dragon's anatomical structure as suggested in the new hatched, disabled dragon. Dragon characters remain strong and very enjoyable. And suddenly we have trained sea serpents!
I like the linking to Laurence's previous adventures in imperial China: showing us a new aspect to those encounters, showing us the strain on Laurence and Temeraire's bond, showing us how both are thinking more and more independently.
Yes, I agree it's a bit of a stepping stone book. So? We're on a long journey with these two fine heroes. Keep up!
...Now where the blue blazes is Book 7 for Kindle?!!
It was with some trepidation, however, that I came to read Tongues of Serpents. I read the reviews and steeled myself to expect a poorly written piece of long waffle. I wanted to read it anyway before I moved onto book 7 (crucible of gold) of the series (which has disappeared as a Kindle e-book. Hmmm...)
Despite all of the bad reviews, I quite enjoyed reading this book. Yes, some of the descriptions were too long and my copy did not include a map which may have aided my understanding. Plus, the part in Sydney didn't really flow. It might have been better to combine this with another book to reduce the length which was a bit too long. But, there were some good plotlines: the treatment of the dragon who could not fly for one. I also liked reading about Temeraire getting stuck in quicksand even though other reviewers criticised this part.
So all in all, this book is not the best of the series (personally my favourite is the first) but it worth reading to follow the adventures of Laurence, Temeraire et al. Perhaps because this book is so far removed from the Napoleonic Wars is the reason why it is the worst to date of the Temeraire series. So Ms Novik, why don't you go back to the tried, tested and successful formula of having them fight Napoleon?