Title: Tongues of Serpents
Series: Temeraire, #6
Author: Naomi Novik
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Publisher: Del Rey
Release Date: July 13th, 2010
Length: 369 pages | 9 hours 48 minutes
Source: Borrowed from my local library
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 do love this series, and I especially love it on audiobook. But this, the sixth book in the series, was a bit of a disappointment. It’s still well-written, and was still an enjoyable read, but it lacked the emotional weight of the previous books. Laurence didn’t get much agency, and neither did Temeraire, oddly enough. It mostly felt like a setup for the Next Big Conflict.
That being said, the Next Big Conflict is pretty ingenious. This book is where you see the solid split from the progress of the Napoleonic wars as they were in history, and what they might have led to here in fiction. I think Novik’s imagination is excellent, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit excited to see Great Britain pulled down a peg during their in-book world domination scheme.
Temeraire doesn’t grow much during this book, unlike the previous 5, so it may be that he’s mellowing out in his adulthood. We also have a couple of new dragons, and a lot of “Australia is miserable”. This isn’t a rehash of the old familiar anything (although the usual element of “the natives know what they’re doing and let’s stop assuming they’re ignorant savages” and “stuffy old white guys fighting each other for imaginary power” are around).
Each book in the series has felt fresh, in plot, pace, and setting. As much as I was slightly let down, and bored, with this one, I will happily continue the series. Especially is Laurence decides to become a privateer (because YES, PLEASE).
I’m a coffee-fueled, hobby-addicted bibliophage who makes cruelty-free mineral eye shadows (inspired by novels). I’m usually in front of a screen (writing, reading, or gaming), but I’ve been known to emerge for geekery, good food, and dark chocolate.