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Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik

Tongues of Serpents

by Naomi Novik

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Temeraire (6)

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Laurence and Temeraire have been sent to Australia to serve an indefinite exile of hard labor. Although the English government can ill afford the loss of Temeraire to the war effort, the can likewise not allow the blatant treason of the two to go unpunished. If Laurence pleases the governor of the colony, he might be able to earn his pardon and return. However, Laurence is much disenchanted with English politics and defeated in spirit. And when the arrive to discover a recent rebellion has taken place, things become only more complicated. Of course the old governor wants Laurence to raise the colony to the ground for its insurrection and reestablish him, but it soon becomes clear that the man is a failure and a scrub.

Together with Granby and the recently arrived Rankin, Laurence and Temeraire decide to avoid the problem by going on an excursion inland to see about establishing a track into the interior of the continent. At first the become lost and then one of the precious dragon eggs is stolen by an unknown party. Thus begins a chase that last most of the remainder of the book. When the finally reach the coast they discover a newly formed Chinese port city and the egg - already hatched. The situation is awkward in the extreme and only becomes more so when a British ship arrives intent on destroying the port. Beaten back by the trained sea serpents the Chinese have been using to transport goods, Temeraire and co. must return to the colony haggard and defeated.

The book closes with Granby leaving on a ship and the two friends beginning to realize the brutal reality of their exile. They must start a new life here - and Laurence hopes for a quiet one. ( )
  Juva | Oct 3, 2017 |
Tongues of Serpents is the sixth book in the Temeraire series. For me, this was the weakest in the series so far. It wasn’t a bad book, and there wasn’t any particular aspect of it that I disliked, but it didn’t hold my attention as well as the previous books. I think one big reason was because I disliked so many of the secondary characters. There were still some good secondary characters around, but they didn’t get that much page time.

But just because I liked this book less, doesn’t mean I disliked it. There were still plenty of great moments, and this book had an interesting setting that I enjoyed reading about. The middle part held my interest quite well and several sections had me anxious to learn what would happen next. There was also a new character introduced who was fun to read about.

I have a few more spoiler-ish comments within the spoiler tags:
I thought Iskierka was a little less annoying in this book, but I think that’s just because Caesar and Rankin were even more annoying than she was. I guess I should have expected Rankin to show back up eventually, but I wasn’t at all happy to see him, and he provides plenty of annoyance in this book. At least Caesar seems to be more than a match for him, but Caesar is pretty annoying himself.

I did love the new dragon, Kulingile, who came from the smallest egg. I was invested in his story after he hatched, and I was curious about him even before he hatched. I suspected the smallest egg would end up being something interesting. It was also nice to have a newly hatched dragon in the party who wasn’t completely obnoxious, unlike Iskierka and Caesar.

I also really like Tharkay, which is hard to justify when he gets so little page time. Even when he’s with the characters the entire time, we see so little of him that sometimes I forget he’s there. I wish he was in the books more, but I’m glad he keeps showing up. He seems like the more sensible and reliable character, even more so than the main characters, despite his initial appearance to the contrary. Authors tend to enjoy sacrificing some well-liked secondary character for emotional impact; I hope Tharkay doesn’t suffer that fate.
( )
1 vote YouKneeK | Jul 2, 2017 |
And then it all goes horribly wrong. Part of the problem is that I love the first 5 books so much; the bar was set high and the expectation was immense. Unfortunately, there's just so much wrong with Tongues of Serpents that I barely know where to start.

Will Laurence and Temeraire have been banished to Australia to establish new breeding grounds, convicts in all but name. But the colony is mutinous, its Governor in exile, and the continent hazardous, with no obvious opportunities for redemption.

Unfortunately, Tongues of Serpents passes up almost all of the exciting opportunities intrinsic to its setting in favour of a slow-burn plot that never really catches fire. I'm used to Temeraire books being episodic travelogues that build character, but Serpents doesn't even deliver on this basis: none of our principals grow or learn anything new, and we see far too little of the Aboriginal Australians and the indigenous wildlife (although the quicksand trap engineered by the bunyips will be traumatising for anyone who read The Neverending Story).

The only glimmer of joy is new hatchling Kulingile and his choice of captain - but it's not enough to offset the horror of having to deal with the odious Captain Rankin again. In the end, the entire book appears to be mostly interested in setting up the pieces for future novels - at the risk of losing readers before they get there.

Slow, frustrating and in places it appears to betray everything we know and love about our characters (even if I read this through the lens of Will having PTSD and acute depression post-Victory, his decisions at the climax are questionable).


Full review (i.e. more whinging). ( )
1 vote imyril | Apr 15, 2017 |
Good, but not as fluent as the other books in this series. ( )
  suesie | Feb 20, 2017 |
This fantasy series is now one of my comfort listening experiences. Simon Vance is such a skilled narrator and the story of the dragon Temeraire and his captain Laurence just takes me away, far, far away.

In this outing Temeraire and Laurence have been sent in disgrace to Australia along with three dragon's eggs. Temeraire is doing his best to make sure the eggs hatch properly and pick an appropriate person to be its captain. However, each egg presents its unique challenge. The first one to hatch promptly chooses the one person Temeraire was hoping it wouldn't, Captain Rankin, who is the son of an earl and thoroughly unpleasant. To keep out of the political upheavals in Sydney the dragons set out to find a pass through the Blue Mountains. Temeraire carries the remaining two eggs, some convicts and his crew. One of the eggs is stolen in the night and suspicion falls on a smuggling ring which has been bringing Chinese goods into Sydney. The group sets out to find the smugglers and get back the egg. When the final egg hatches it is a sickly runt and Rankin wants to dispatch it but Laurence's crew member, Demane, says he will look after it. Soon it is growing by leaps and bounds but it is unable to fly. Flying across the outback from watering hole to watering hole some of the convicts start to disappear. After a time Laurence and the others discover the water is a trap laid by beasts called bunyips. Eventually the group ends up on the northern coast where they discover the Chinese have established a trading fort and they find their missing egg has hatched. The Chinese are very hospitable and display their method of ferrying goods from China using trained sea serpents. Vessels from many lands come to the fort to pick up goods but everyone clears away when a British frigate is seen on the horizon. An all out war between Britain and China is narrowly averted. Laurence and the others (but without the dragonet that hatched there) return to Sydney carrying the news which is referred to England to decide what to do. Temeraire and Laurence settle down to a quiet farming life but I have a feeling they won't be staying there long. ( )
  gypsysmom | Jan 22, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Naomi Novikprimary authorall editionscalculated
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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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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