Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik
- Tongues of Serpents
- Naomi Novik
- Temeraire , #6
- Finished reading:
- 13th September, 2021
Might contain spoilers.
This is the last of the series that I was already familiar with. It’s not easy reading. Australia comes across as an extreme and unpleasant environment. The crossing takes so much out of everyone involved, and it costs them so much too. I’m disappointed that it’s all for nothing in the end, only the basis for a conflict between China and Britain that ends in a gory sea serpent frenzy—the stuff of nightmares. Then again, maybe that lack of reason is designed to provide the nudge Laurence needed to bid farewell to the war.
The poor man is so noble, and consequently always finds himself being courted by the wrong sort of person. Thank goodness for Iskierka and Granby. Demane deserves respect and plaudits for harnessing Kulingile (a great name) despite all his apparent afflictions, and for providing for his dragon as long as he could even as those around him struggled just to survive the journey. I missed everyone else, from the entire covert back in England to the ferals. I don’t know that it was a good idea to dismiss all the familiar characters, surround Laurence with undesirables, and dispatch him on a long, tedious, exhausting mission far away from civilization for most of the story. Rankin is a good antagonist, though, and Temeraire is correct that Caesar is just the right sort of dragon for him.
Tharunka is another name I quite like. The dragon and her people are a very interesting change from all the other cultures encountered thus far. I would have liked to see more of both than the brief glimpses we’re given. The bunyips are one more subject we don’t learn enough about. Everyone is confident Australia has no dragons before the bunyips strike; they subsequently spend a third of the book worrying about bunyip attacks; and once they start leaving offerings, the bunyips cease to matter, either on the way out or on the way back. There are too many questions left unanswered, the most obvious being: were they bred by the natives or are they a naturally-occurring species?
If I’m not mistaken, Roland’s comment about knocking out an officer because he put his hand up her shirt is the first mention of what must be a systemic problem with sexual misconduct in the Corps, given that its female members can’t even officially be acknowledged.
The next book (Crucible of Gold) is set in South America. I hope we aren’t going to follow Laurence and Temeraire on an eight-month journey, since I don’t much enjoy the detailed descriptions of life at sea. Nor do I care for the war, as I’ve said before. I suppose what I’m most interested in is the dragons and their relationships with the humans, not their use as weapons of conquest.