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Minireview: Tongues of Serpents, by Naomi Novik

Tongues of Serpents is the sixth book in Novik’s “Temeraire” series, and it’s very much a transition piece. The previous book, “Victory of Eagles”, wrapped up most of the earlier major storylines, and saw Lawrence & Temeraire get exiled to Australia – a better fate than getting executed as traitors, but an ignoble one nevertheless.

Once they arrive after an uneasy sea voyage, they find the prison colony of New South Wales in turmoil; the previous governor has been overthrown and the political situation is unstable, to say the least. To escape, Lawrence and Temeraire enlist on a surveying expedition, which quickly becomes a rescue mission once a dragon egg gets stolen. The bulk of the book deals with the search & rescue expedition, and the discoveries hidden in the depths of the Australian desert.

While there are lots of potentially great story elements here, it doesn’t really come together. The sense of urgency and great impending events is gone here, and I got the feeling that the author herself was slightly at a loss of where to take the story next, other than “lets fly around alter-history Australia a bit”. It is, quite frankly, a fairly dull book, and adds very little to the main plotline. There are nice bits here and there, but nice bits do not a good book make if the main bulk is meandering and repetitive.


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