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Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik

Tongues of Serpents

by Naomi Novik

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Series: Temeraire (6)

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Okay, first, I adore this 'verse. I love the characters, the transformation of history into what it would be with dragons -- and I'm especially anticipating seeing how the Americas play out.

Tongues of Serpents is a transitional novel in the series, which, like transitional episodes of TV series, means that both a lot happens, and not much happens at all. And, of course, this is all meant to be so tiresome that Laurence throws in his proverbial hat and retires to the country. Then the next stage of the series' real plot can begin. Which is fine, if somewhat tiresome for the reader, too. It's the larger series that matters.

However, I'm always a little frustrated with Novik's writing because it's so fast-paced and action-oriented. We only really get a clear idea of how Temeraire himself feels about anything that's happening. Laurence has feelings in the moment, but we don't have much of a sense of him caring for anything beyond duty (apart from loving Temeraire fiercely). Even in the description of the settings -- we know what a character values based on what s/he notices, and it seems like most of the descriptions of setting come from Temeraire's POV, not Laurence's. I'm afraid all his attention is taken up by threats to their safety and imagining how his betters perceive him.

This is frustrating for me because I want to relate to him more, as a character, even as repressed as he usually is. Meanwhile when we met his parents and Admiral Roland, I was totally satisfied with understanding how he felt and what he valued. Maybe this is to show Laurence, at this point in his travels, is well past his ability to give a damn? He has every right to be depressed about his situation, but if that's the case, then I expect someone to notice. And no one has.

I think that's the root of my frustration, anyway. Apart from that, I loved the setting, the new people, the new dragons, and so forth. I wish Kulingile's story had more time. I'd like to see a whole book about him and Demane (and Sipho) getting educated and driving their teachers batty with their worldly experience and wealth of differing perspectives, since they aren't exactly at the Academy to be instructed by their elders, and then kicking ass and taking names on various missions.

I used the disability tag because of Kulingile's treatment when hatched...and also because of how a character initially crippled, unable to fly, and forced to be carried around on other dragons' backs, ultimately turns out to be a terribly valuable heavyweight, who isn't disabled at all. I'm biting my tongue on my critique of the "oh, but he wasn't ACTUALLY disabled at all!" trope (as if a disabled character really is only a pitiable thing to be euthanized against its will), because it pisses me off and I don't have the mental bandwidth to go there. But I do strongly wish George R.R. Martin & Lois McMaster Bujold weren't the only SFF authors I can think of who incorporate disabled characters into violent plots without magicking them "better" or dismissing their skill sets and hiding them away.

Anyway, definitely looking forward to the rest of the series. :) ( )
  sageness | Feb 7, 2014 |
This, sixth installment of the Temeraire novels, is in my opinion not quite as good as its predecessors. I enjoyed it, but it seems to suffer from a weaker plot line than the other books in the series. The end was a bit anticlimactic; it feels like not quite enough was resolved. In "Empire of Ivory", I found the plot more compelling, so even though there were stretches with little action, there were enough other developments and ideas to make for satisfying reading. "Tongues of Serpents" was less rich in ideas and plot, so the long stretches between action scenes dragged a bit.

This is not to say that I didn't enjoy the book; I did. However, it is not quite up to the high standard I have come to expect from the other books. ( )
  mehjg | Feb 6, 2014 |
I adore this series. Yes, it's silly at times, but overall, it's got great characters and a fun storyline. And Simon Vance narrates it spectacularly, in that lovely accent of his. My thoughts on the series as a whole are on Erin Reads. ( )
  erelsi183 | Nov 18, 2013 |
A good entry in the series. So this is how they ended up in Australia. He is still being tossed around on the seas of adventure. I long for him to take more control of his destiny....... ( )
  bgknighton | Nov 3, 2013 |
These books are still a joy to read, though I've pretty much accepted that none of the sequels in this series are ever going to come close to being as good as the first book again. At least this one was better than the last, which sees Laurence and Temeraire back on an adventure again in a faraway exotic place.

This time, the crew finds themselves in Australia, with Laurence having been banished to the prison colony of New South Wales after being convicted of treason. The British Aerial Corps has nonetheless tasked him of taking care of three dragon eggs, in the hopes of establishing a new base in the area. Exile in Australia is proving much more difficult than expected, however, as Laurence and Temeraire are caught up in a political mess involving an overthrown governor and a band of rebels. To escape, they readily agree to take on a mission to seek out a passage through the Blue Mountains.

Rather than fighting flesh-and-blood adversaries, their main enemy this time is the harsh wilderness of the Australian outback. It's not as exciting as some of the past journeys Laurence and Temeraire have been on, but I love seeing them go to new places regardless. Australia is still an unknown factor to our characters at this time, and it's both suspenseful and awe-inspiring to read about their struggles with the land, which includes surviving thirst, poisonous creatures, brutal storms and savage wildfires.

The characters' purposes, however, could have been more interesting. The goal of trying to find a passage through the mountains is as dull as it sounds, though the book picked up when one of Laurence and Temeraire's precious eggs are stolen. But then they spend more than half the book trying to hunt the thieves and track it down, and that was just too much to devote to this side plot. There really was no climax to this tale either, and the book's ending was not anywhere near as satisfying as I'd hoped. ( )
  stefferoo | Aug 28, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Naomi Novikprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davidson, AndrewCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For my father, Samuel Novik,
who also came over the sea to another country
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There were few streets in the main port of Sydney which deserved the name, besides the one main thoroughfare, and even that bare packed dirt, lined only with a handful of small and wretched buildings that formed all the permanence of the colony. 
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
A dazzling blend of military history, high-flying fantasy, and edge-of-your-seat adventure, Naomi Novik's Temeraire novels, set in an alternate Napoleonic era in which intelligent dragons have been harnessed as weapons of war, are more than just perennial bestsellers-they are a worldwide phenomenon. Now, in Tongues of Serpents, Naomi Novik is back, along with the dragon Temeraire and his rider and friend, Capt. Will Laurence. 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.
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Convicted of treason despite their heroic defense against Napoleon's invasion of England, Temeraire the dragon and his friend and rider, Capt. Will Laurence, are transported to the prison colony in Australia. They carry with them three dragon eggs intended to help establish a covert in the colony.… (more)

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