Review – His Majesty’s Dragon (Naomi Novik)

His Majesty’s Dragon

Temeraire, #1

His Majesty’s Dragon

ISBN: 9780345481283

353 pages

Goodreads

From Goodreads: “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.

The Good:

I think I’m developing a preference for black powder in my fantasy.

I really loved this book. I found it difficult to put down, which is an increasingly rare occurrence for me. This I think was due mostly to the excellent characterization and the very sweet, very true friendship between Temeraire and Laurence. It was very much unexpected, but I don’t think spoils to much to say, that for a fanged flying machine of destruction, Temeraire is completely adorable. Laurence is a gentleman through and through, and understands the true purpose of etiquette: to grease the workings of society. He is not the cold, arrogant ‘gentleman’ that sometimes appears in fiction.

I am an absolute sucker for beautiful, formal language, and Novik chooses a register that meshes well with the world she has built. It is just archaic enough to evoke the era, without becoming convoluted or stodgy.

I was also very interested in the fact that there seems to be no magic at all in Temeraire’s world. Dragons are just animals, albeit of human or near-human intelligence.

The Bad:

Not a turn-off for me, but something I know will disagree with some readers: the plot meanders. There does not seem to be a single, central problem for the story, other than perhaps Laurence’s problem of learning how to navigate the society of the Aerial Corps. The book is largely an introduction to the characters and world-building preliminary to the rest of the series. For some, that may be a dealbreaker. For me, just a reason to hunt down the rest of the series quickly.

In Conclusion:

Recommended. It has the feel of classical literature or a national epic.

*Note: I received a free review copy of this book via Goodreads.

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