Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik

Even when you have a dragon for a best friends politics can still get in the way.

China demands to have Temeraire returned to them, Temeraire refuses to go anywhere without Laurence, the English are terrified of the repercussions if they don’t accede to the Chinese wishes. So they all get on a really big boat and spend an entire book sailing around the tip of Africa and into Manila. Which amounts to a Master and Commander novel with a dragon on the deck – my opinion is that when you add dragons to anything – much like bacon or monkeys – what comes of it is likely to be a good thing.

Laurence and Temeraire are faced with a truly moral decision when they arrive in China and find that dragons are not treated as animals there but as members of the citizenry and are able to read, write, and own money. Laurence finds he is incapable of asking Temeraire to leave behind such a lifestyle and return to living in a forest clearing in England and Temeraire is forced to choose between peaceful existence with his family and humans (but without Laurence – his most trusted friend) or a life of military service of societal solitude with Laurence at his side.

It isn’t an easy choice. If I were shown the contrasts in lifestyles that Temeraire is shown I would find it almost impossible to choose.

I find stories about sea voyages fascinating – probably because I have never been at sea (a cruise ship doesn’t count) – and well thought-out dragons are always a good thing. Naomi Novik’s world works really well. There are dragons all over the world of different breeds and kinds and sizes and each of them is unique and fits into society in a different way.

The real tension and difficult decisions that have no moral black-and-white obvious answer are also a nice touch.

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