It's time for my I'm-back-from-holiday-and-I-read-stuff tradition: mini book reviews. This time, I caught up on book twos of series where I'd read book one, but somehow never got around to reading any more. I blame the pixies.
Throne of Jade (Temeraire #2) - Naomi Novik
The second book about the dragon Temeraire, set during the Napoleonic Wars. Plus points from the first book was the unusual setting for dragons and having teams manning the dragons (rather than a single rider). In book two, Temeraire and Laurence (his rider) have to travel to China, to smooth over the diplomatic issues caused by seizing Temeraire's egg from the French. Much sea travel ensues.
- The Chinese dragon culture was fun. Especially the cookery for dragons.
- It's unusual for a book about dragonriders to deal with the slavery issue of the dragons head on. Temeraire is starting to grow up and consider the issues.
- There is some Volly! (Cows!)
- I found this one a bit slow to get started.
- Most of the characters from the other books made few (if any) appearances as they're back in England. I liked some of the new characters, but given that they live in China, they may not be seen again.
- The China sections suffer a common problem with outsider perspectives: it's hard to get into the Chinese culture, as Laurence has little understanding of what he's seeing and doesn't make much attempt to do so. I often wished I could see this through Temeraire's eyes, as he could speak Mandarin and was actively absorbing everything around him.
- Despite pinyin tone marks being my mortal enemy, not seeing them here threw me off (not on names so much, but other words). Maybe I'm getting used to the things. I also find it odd to see some names separated by character and some combined (though you see Englishfied names as Family Generation Personal or Family Generationpersonal, mix and matching the formats isn't so normal). I'll note I'm not an expert at Mandarin, but those were my initial reactions based on what I do know.
I'm curious about how Temeraire's going to continue to change as he matures, but I liked it better when they weren't travelling around.
Changeless / Blameless (Parasol Protectorate #2 and #3) - Gail Carriger
The second and third book (handled together as the storylines are connected) about Alexia Tarabotti, a soulless woman living in an alternate Victorian England. The first book was a little heavy on the romance for my tastes, but I enjoyed the setup of having vampires and werewolves integrated into society, as well as the steampunk technology.
- For me, the steering away from romance was a good thing. There is still romance in the later books, but Changeless is more mystery oriented and Blameless is more of a thriller/suspense.
- The secondary characters get more meat on their bones, which was particularly needed in the case of the gay characters. The first book made me wince by talking about them mincing everywhere instead of walking, and so forth... so it was good to see a bit more character depth and a little less mincing.
- These two books improve on the handling of women characters - there are other capable women apart from Alexia (which wasn't really the case in Soulless). Alexia's sisters are also starting to get differentiated, rather than being generically insufferable.
- Some of the strongest scenes yet were in Blameless. Both in terms of funniness and emotional impact. Though I'd note they were the scenes back in London, rather than the ones with Alexia.
- Both books had periods where Alexia didn't really have someone to play off. She's paired a lot with Madame Lefoux, but the two don't really have a good chemistry (in the general sense, not necessarily the romantic sense). The banter just wasn't there. I preferred the scenes of Alexia with Maccoon, Lyall, Floote, Ivy, Akeldama... or really anyone but Madame Lefoux.
- The main storyline with Alexia dragged in places in Blameless, which was highlighted by the stronger scenes set back in London without her.
- The books have some unfortunate Americanisms, which are rather glaring to a UKer. It's a pity she didn't have someone from the UK to go through looking for those, because they would have been easy fixes. Ladybug... *shudder*.
- The book is omniscient, rather than limited third. I'm not picky about my viewpoints, but I know it annoys the stuffing out of some readers.
- On a neutral-for-now note, I have concerns that are also mild spoilers. ~~highlight for vague spoiler~~ It seems to be floating towards all homosexual relationships being tragic, when that isn't the case for the heterosexual ones (which end happily ever after). The next book could turn this around, so I'm waiting to see what happens. ~~spoilery end~~
I'm looking forward to the next book, but with some caution (as noted in my spoilery neutral comment). And no more ladybugs*, please. I wish Alexia looked more Italian on the cover, rather than an average Northern European.
Fool Moon (Dresden Files #2) - Jim Butcher
The second book following the wizard Harry Dresden, as he solves paranormal cases. I liked the mystery focus of the first book and Harry Dresden has a cat, so he's not all bad.
- The werewolves were interesting, as there are many different sorts, rather than trying to smoosh together all wolf-related legends into one variety.
- In the first book, Harry hides things from Murphy to protect the womenfolk. There wasn't really a lasting consequence to this. The same isn't true here, where trying to protect women by keeping them in the dark does lead to bad consequences.
- The character arc with Harry and Murphy did a repeat from the first book, with Dresden trying not to tell her anything, allegedly for her own good, and her getting annoyed with him.
- Due to the above, and Harry not spending much time at home, his main talking partners (Bob and Murphy) don't talk to him much. I don't think the replacements worked as well. One is a little low on character and one has plenty but isn't that talkative. Harry works best when he has someone to talk to.
- It'd be unfair to criticise the book for this... but I came into the Dresden files from the TV series, where Morgan was one of my favourites. He didn't appear here. More Morgan! (I will forever think of Morgan as Conrad Coates, even though the book tells me otherwise. You can't dissuade me from this.)
I enjoyed this one more than I expected, especially as I'd been warned it wasn't the best. It's not groundbreaking and the author does do some recycling from the first book, but it's entertaining enough. I'm hoping Murphy and Dresden will start working together more now (or at least, trying to work together).
* I had the urge to shout "It's LADYBIRD!!!" at the book a few times.