Thursday, June 6, 2013

Crucible of Gold by Naomi Novik

I first started reading Naomi Novik's Temeraire alternate history novels, where she added dragons into the Napoleonic wars when the first book His Majesty's Dragon was still known as Temeraire.

Back then I used to look forward to each and every instalment as something special, a bit of a highlight of the reading year. Crucible of Gold is the seventh Temeraire book and as the excerpt at the back of the book from Blood of Tyrants lists it as the penultimate novel in the series, it would appear that it's planned to end at nine books total.

The warning signs for the series were there in the last book Tongues of Serpents. That was set in Australia and a major disappointment for me as I felt it was badly handled and wound up being rather boring overall.

I'd hoped it was a bit of a road bump, but that does not appear to be the case. I doubt I would have even completed Crucible of Gold if I wasn't already so invested in the series.

The books have become a bit formulaic. Temeraire and Laurence head off somewhere new and exotic in the service of king and country. In the case of Crucible of Gold it's South America, which in Novik's version of the 19th century is still largely controlled by the Incas. They encounter local dragon life. There's a fight or two. Everything gets resolved to a point where the story can continue and they do it all over again in the next book.

I still like the way Temeraire himself is written, although as a character his development seems to have plateaued and while the fire breathing Turkish dragon Iskierka can be amusing, her continual arguing with Temeraire has become tiresome rather than entertaining.

The author gives credit to her beta readers and editors for improving the book during the process, aside from correcting any typos or grammatical errors I can't see evidence of editing in this book. At one point Laurence answers an unasked question.

I'll stick with it, but only because I want to see it through to the end. You could skip Crucible of Gold in the series, read a synopsis somewhere online and save yourself the time and money.

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