Review No.234 – Throne of Jade

Throne of Jade (Temeraire No.2) – Naomi Novak

HarperVoyager, 2007

Originally published in 2006

As Napoleon’s forces overrun Europe, England cannot spare a single dragon from its Aerial Corps, but with the discovery that Captain Laurence’s dragon Temeraire is a Celestial – China’s most valued breed – the ire of a different empire has been roused. To avoid a war on two fronts, the government is more than willing to hand over Temeraire, but Temeraire himself will not go anywhere without Laurence. Entangled in a ruthless political game and beset on all sides, Laurence may need to choose between duty and loyalty – but what will Temeraire decide?

This is the sequel to Novak’s superb first novel Temeraire, which I reviewed last year, and is equally enjoyable. Not only is the characterisation excellent – even the most alienating characters are given depth – Novak explores a wide spectrum of issues with a mixture of quiet compassion and sharp awareness. I also love the way she writes battles. Claws and teeth and wings, oh my! The series continues with Black Powder War.

Review No.130 – Naked City

Naked City – Ellen Datlow (ed.)

St. Martin’s Press, 2011

The old stories have followed their tellers out of the dark woods and into the city. In New York, real estate agents struggle to shift a cursed apartment. In Israel, a boy tracks the mystery of a magician’s assistant. In cities across time, across worlds, a vampire returns home to pay his debts, a woman drinks ghosts, and a photographer of the dead finds his way into the house of Death herself. Anything can be found in the naked city…

Urban fantasy is a favourite genre of mine, in part because it’s so incredibly flexible. Several of the stories in this anthology, however, would be better classified as horror, some were so obscure and incomplete I’m not sure what they were, and a concerning number see their female characters only through the male gaze. There are some excellent reads in Naked City – Naomi Novak’s ‘Priced to Sell’ was delightfully casual, ‘Fairy Gifts’ by Patricia Briggs was intelligent and different, Lavie Tidhar’s ‘The Projected Girl’ was beautifully enigmatical, and Holly Black was at her usual high standard in ‘Noble Rot’ – but I did not warm to this anthology as a whole.

Review No.125 – Temeraire

Temeraire – Naomi Novak

HarperCollinsPublishers, 2006

As Napoleon’s forces advance relentlessly across Europe, the difference between invasion and resistance may lie in a chance discovery at sea. A British ship captures a damaged French frigate and in its hold Captain Will Laurence uncovers a prize more valuable than the ship itself: an unhatched dragon’s egg. For this is a war fought from both sea and sky. Any new dragon is the greatest of assets to embattled Britain, but a hatchling chooses its own handler and will take orders from no other. When the newborn dragon ignores its offered candidate and chooses Captain Laurence instead, his life – and the tide of the war – will be changed forever.

Temeraire (also known by the title His Majesty’s Dragon) is an alternative history of the Napoleonic wars in which dragons battle for the skies over the Channel, and is written with such painstaking attention to detail that I was immediately immersed in Novak’s wonderfully rich world. Her writing feels as if it could have come from the period itself, and the dragons are gloriously believable. The Temeraire series continues with Throne of Jade.