Another deviation from my usual reading, I finally picked up His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire Book 1) by Naomi Novik. This had been recommended to me by a couple friends but I’d been putting it off for no good reason.
This is a alternate history fantasy novel, set during the Napoleonic Wars and featuring (as the twist) DRAGONS. I love dragon books – I grew up on the Pern books by Anne McCaffery and the Dealing with Dragon’s books by Patricia C. Wrede. This did not fail to disappoint, although it was really different than I was perhaps expecting.
The book is written from the point of view of a British Naval Captain (turned “Aviator”) who finds himself unexpectedly saddled with a newly hatched dragon. This change rips him from his comfortable Navy life into the ranks of the Aviators – a change he dreads (at first). Laurence and his dragon Temeraire must quickly learn all that they can in order to help defend Britain from Napoleon’s invasion plans/attempts.
Naomi Novik’s writing style is a little old-fashioned – reminding me a little of maybe Tolkien or perhaps Jules Verne. It definitely worked with the setting and fit Laurence’s character very well. Laurence is a bit of a stuffed shirt – formal, stiff, duty-bound, and intolerant of disrespect. Despite that, I really liked him. He is honourable and cares for the men (and woman) under his command. He does the right thing when he needs to, and he also learns that getting “saddled” with a Dragon is not something he would trade for the world.
Temeraire is awesome. A rare, Chinese-bred dragon, he is cunning and intelligent, graceful, and adds a fresh perspective to contrast Laurence’s zeal for “duty”.
There are not many women in this book – but I am happy to say that there are at least a few that seem like strong characters. You meet two female Captains, one of whom is battle-scared and talks-like-it-is. The other, young and inexperienced, I feel has a lot of potential for being a Strong Female Character in future.
I am very happy that this is the first book in a series – which looks good and long. Yay!!
In sum: Totally different take on dragons, but completely worth the read! 4 / 5!