It’s always convenient when I can clear up a bit of my backlog while writing up a book I just read, so let’s talk about Naomi Novik’s Crucible of Gold and Blood of Tyrants, the latest installments in the Temeraire series.
The way the series has been structured so far is that each book is a little travel guide to one part of the globe, so we can see what it means for dragons to exist there. This has worked well, for the most part, but as the plot gets less connected to Europe and Napoleon, it’s tended to get less compelling—particularly noticeable in Tongues of Serpents. And so if you guessed that Crucible of Gold, which takes place in Incan-dominated South America, was going to be one of the weaker installments of the series, well, you’d be right. It’s a perfectly fine pulpy read, but it’s not more than that.
And when Blood of Tyrants starts in Japan, with a really obnoxiously ridiculous plot device, it looks like it’s going to be a weak installment, too. But by the end, it’s getting back to the core of the series, and matters Napoleonic are coming to a head, so it’s considerably better than the early premise threatens.
My only real concern at this point is that I’m told there’s one book left, and while that’ll be enough to wrap up Napoleon, I’m less sanguine about some of the other plot and thematic elements that have been dancing around the edges of the books for a while now. My strong suspicion is that the promise I saw in the early books is mostly going to have been squandered, when all is said and done.
Still, even if worst comes to it, these books have been consistently enjoyable, and a pulpy fun series about dragons was my optimistic case going in, so it’s not like I’d exactly be lining up to complain.