Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik (Temeraire Series #2)
I'm beginning to dislike book series, if only because the plot seems to dry up at some point after the first book (I'm looking at you, Sword of Truth series). Novik's second Temeraire novel has already begun to fall into the trap that seems to await book series, and I hesitate to continue reading the next 4 books.
The first book, His Majesty's Dragon was unlike anything I'd read before. A historical fiction, Novik almost seamlessly inserts dragons into the Napoleonic wars of the 19th century. No longer is the war simply on land or at sea, battles now rage in the air as well. Naturally, this book piqued my interest, partly because there was a dragon on the cover and partly because it was available for free for a time on my Nook. I was pretty pleased with the story line and the genre itself; I'd never been one for history but adding dragons pretty much guarantees my interest in it. Naturally, there are some discrepancies between her version of history and the 'facts' regarding dragons (as generally accepted, anyway. And yes, I'm racking up major nerd points right now).
This second book falls shy of my standard for it, however. I don't honestly know why I always hold books up to the same standard as their predecessor in the series; I'm not often pleased with this goal (Hunger Games, Eragon or so I hear...). It just seemed to me as though Novik was adding drama to the story line simply for the sake of adding pages. Sure, it's her fantasy to do whatever she pleases, but can't she give Captain Lawrence and his dragon Temeraire a break from battles and politics once in a while? There's always something new happening, and sometimes there is such a thing as too much plot.
Now don't get me wrong, I especially enjoyed their trip through China, and the plot twists and turns toward the end of this novel. I just feel like a lot of the actual journey to China was full of unnecessary strife. Sea serpents, attacks by the French, assassination attempts, storms.. I miss the good old days of character development in those plot lulls. Just look at Star Wars: A New Hope. Ben begins training Luke in the force aboard the Millennium Falcon, and those scenes are more for character development of these two important figures than they are for actual plot development. Novik should have attempted this in Throne of Jade, particularly in regard to Temeraire's crew, who I feel have not been given the attention that they deserve. Half the characters that died in this story were, to me, unemotional because they were never really given any attention by the author. Why even bother naming these characters?
I don't know, I think this is the inevitable pitfall of series (book or movie, it happens with any sequels and trilogies and so on). The first in the series is remarkable, original, and so fantastic that we as a consumer can't help but hold high expectations for the coming sequels, and are subsequently very let down when they don't live up to our abnormally high standards. It's really sad, honestly, because I'm sure if the first of Novik's books wasn't outstanding to me, I might have had lower goals for this second book, and therefore might have enjoyed it a little more.