Review: Crucible of Gold

Posted: December 18, 2013 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: Naomi Novik, Alternate Historical Fiction, Fantasy

After the disappointment of the so-so TONGUES OF SERPENTS (EBR Review), it was a relief to see Naomi Novik back in form with CRUCIBLE OF GOLD (Amazon). I’m beginning to see the longer-range purpose of Novik’s series, and with several exciting scenes and more serious characterization, I have hope for the future.

In SERPENTS, Laurence and Temeraire were banished to Australia and spent the novel touring the country. A little boring. So when CRUCIBLE came out last year I decided to wait to buy it until they released the paperback. Now I’m wishing I hadn’t waited, but at least it means that the sequel BLOOD OF TYRANTS (Amazon) is now available.

At the start of CRUCIBLE we learn that Laurence has been reinstated as an Aerial Corps captain, and that he’s been assigned the duty to travel to and support the Portuguese (England’s ally) interests in Brazil. He’s reunited with Captain Riley and Ambassador Hammond on the dragon ship Allegiance and they set off in the Pacific toward South America. Of course, nothing goes as planned.

Sunken ships, misbehaving sailors, deserted islands, captivity by the French, escape, dragon fights… so much happens in CRUCIBLE. En route to Brazil, Temeraire and his coterie of dragons and their captains must first pass through Chile where they find that the local population are ‘slaves’ (it’s more complicated than that, but to explain would spoil the story) to the dragons, and that the Chilean empress is being courted by none other than Napoleon himself.

Sunken ships, misbehaving sailors, deserted islands, captivity by the French, escape, dragon fights... so much happens in CRUCIBLE OF GOLD.

We see more of Laurence here, he’s less wishy-washy now that his captaincy is restored. There is more of Granby and Hammond, who are both interesting (if a trifle flat). But the majority of the story revolves around Temeraire and his dragon friends, the gentle giant Kulingile as well as the uncontrollable fire-breather Iskierka. We see more interaction between these dragons as they work together (and sometimes at odds), and watch as their understanding of how the Chilean dragons change their own perceptions about the people for whom they feel responsible.

The landscapes are new as the dragons and their captains explore the lands and learn about cultures much different than their own. This is a frequent theme in Novik’s books, so if you found past iterations boring, beware. They run across old friends/enemies, forge new alliances, and learn more about themselves as the world’s wonders open up to them. Too much time is spent on what the dragons eat and there are other petty annoyances (poor Riley and Granby! and a strange addition of miscreant sailors…). But I liked the infusion of new politics, strategies, and battles. I can only hope Novik is picking up steam for what’s to come.

  • Recommended Age: 14+
  • Language: None
  • Violence: Some with blood
  • Sex: Vague references

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *