Tongues of Serpents is the most recent book in Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series. I enjoyed it, but those who aren’t delighted by the changes Novik is making to 19th-century history are likely to find it harder going.
This is the one where they go to Australia (rather like Empire of Ivory is the one where they go to Africa). The opening section is set in the British colony of New South Wales, which, as Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series had led me to expect, is quite a miserable place. Then there’s an extended travel section, which goes faster the second time around, when I knew that (small spoiler, ROT13) gurl raq hc pebffvat gur ragver pbagvarag, and the denouement.
This book has two terrific reveals, some exciting action scenes, and multiple political/worldbuilding developments that had me wriggling with delight. But it also has a lot of cheerlessness and not much happening, particularly in the middle travel section. And I continue to feel that the secondary characters are underdeveloped. Previously I was thinking that an omniscient viewpoint would help, à la the Aubrey-Maturin books, but now I think that instead, it’s not the type of viewpoint but the choice of viewpoint characters: Laurence and Temeraire are just not going to notice enough to give me a rounded perspective on most of those around them.
Finally, there are three more books in the series. As a result, I don’t mind the emotional state that Laurence is left in, but other people have had different reactions.
In short: it’s a Temeraire book, with a little more of the weaknesses of the series than strengths. If you’ve been reading, that probably tells you enough of what you want to know.