Book Review: His Majesty's Dragon (Temeraire, Book 1), by Naomi Novik
Author: Naomi Novik
Date Published: January, 2006
Publisher: Del Rey
Length: 353 pages, or approximately 10 hours on audiobook
Genre: Fantasy, parallel universe
Goodreads | Shelfari | Audible
Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors ride mighty fighting dragons, bred for size or speed. When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes the precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Captain Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future – and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.
I've had this on my TBR for a while and I finally decided to give it a try when a Shelfari friend gave it a high rating. I am so glad I picked it up!
The book revolves around the idea of what the Napoleonic Wars would look like if dragons truly did exist and humans found a way to communicate and work with them. It was a very interesting parallel universe, with a diverse number of dragon breeds, and fascinating maneuvers and tactics for war. It made perfect sense that each dragon would have a crew of men aboard, rather than just one flyer as we have seen in other stories (such as Eragon). It also made sense that the attitudes and culture of the men and women who worked with dragons would be different from the people outside the Aerial Corps. I really liked how Naomi Novik kept the close-minded attitudes of the early 19th century, but was still able to incorporate modern 20th-/21st-century ideas by using the Aerial Corps, such as having women be dragon captains and be just as involved as the men.
The creativity wasn't the only thing I liked either. I loved the characters! Captain Laurence felt very aloof and standoff-ish in the beginning, but I loved watching him turn into someone much more likeable as he raised and trained with Temeraire, exchanging his rigid Navy attitudes for the more relaxed ideals of the Aerial Corps. I loved Temeraire from the start; he was so intelligent and faithful and willing to please. I liked how he and Laurence would read together and exchange ideas with each other frequently. It made sense that an intelligent dragon would have a lot to say that would influence the people around him.
The plot also worked really well. I found the whole thing very active and interesting throughout. I did not get bored at any given point, as there was so much to read about. Even the parts where everyone was just going about their business was fun to read!
Overall, this was an interesting and intelligent mixture of fantasy and 19th century military war stories. I thoroughly enjoyed it, so my rating is:
I will most probably read it again at some point. I am interested in continuing the series and I've already started the second book. I would most certainly recommend this read to anyone who enjoys fantasy, particularly those who like dragon stories. Enjoy!