Throne of Jade (Temeraire #2) by Naomi Novik
His Majesty’s Dragon is the second book in the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik.
When Captain Will Laurence’s ship the HMS Reliant captured one of Napoleon’s French frigates, a rare and valuable egg was part of the seized cargo. The egg hatched and out popped a delightful dragon. At first reluctant, Captain Laurence went from being a Navy man to being the handler of the newly hatched dragon. He named the dragon Temeraire and started his new service as Temeraire’s master in England’s Aerial Corps. Working together and living together, Temeraire and Laurence have become a part of each other. Neither can imagine himself anywhere else but by the other’s side. They are not just a great team in combat, they are best friends.
But now it has recently come to light that the dragon egg bearing Temeraire was intended to be a gift from China’s imperial emperor to France’s Napoleon Bonaparte, England’s worst enemy. Temeraire is a rare and valuable Celestial Dragon and now that he is in British hands, China is none too pleased. A Chinese delegation has been sent to bring Temeraire home. Facing forcible separation, Laurence and Temeraire must unwillingly embark on a voyage to China with Laurence’s former second-in-command, Captain Riley at the helm of the HMS Allegiant. The mixed company of the Chinese with the English navy and aerial corps plus one dragon is a voyage like Laurence has never experienced before.
Upon arrival in China, Temeraire is treated with the utmost reverence and Laurence begins to notice that he is being won over to Chinese ways. Important differences in cultural values are revealed to Temeraire. With his keen intelligence, Temeraire begins to realize the things he likes and doesn’t like about life as he knows it in England. Will’s experiences in China aren’t quite so pleasant and he faces great danger from the Chinese at every turn. Not only is his future as a companion to Temeraire threatened, his life is too.
It’s rather interesting and unexpected that Naomi Novik took us to a new country in this book. This was a great way to involve new characters and new dragons and expand Temeraire’s world. The author is rebuilding our world and its history to include dragons as a part of everyday life. The problem at times is that she seems to be doing so one brick at a time. This makes the story a wee bit slow at times. But in among such things as descriptions of what it takes to care for a dragon at sea, there are some really great moments simply because Temeraire is so engaging. When the action scenes do come, they are very good and the last third of the book really picked up the pace, making up for the slow drag of the voyage at sea. So far Novik has managed to end the first two books with great segues into the follow-ups. This series is currently up to nine books. While it will without a doubt keep the young readers enthralled, it will be interesting to see if Novik can keep it fresh for the more jaded reader. Having always wanted my own pet dragon, I’m willing to keep going at this point!