His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

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Book Information  
AuthorNaomi Novik
TitleHis Majesty's Dragon
Book Reviews / Comments (submitted by readers)
Submitted by Archren 
(Jun 29, 2006)

There is nothing like an unabashed adventure story to brighten your mood. “His Majesty’s Dragon” is exactly that kind of fantasy. Dragons, Navies, the British Empire, Napoleonic wars, what could be better?

In this alternate history fantasy, our history is much the same except that dragons exist. There’s an entire class of species from small dragons that annoy birds and farmers to huge 100 ton battleship-type dragons. Some of the species are intelligent, but they will imprint on humans (one human per dragon), and from then on will serve usefully as couriers and scouts as well as air-support and bombers. Usually this process of imprinting and training is very tightly controlled. So it throws things for a loop when a dragon egg captured from a French frigate by the British Navy starts to hatch at sea, surrounded only by sailors. The baby dragon, showing excellent taste, imprints on the captain, Laurence, who names it Temeraire.

Temeraire is an exceptional character, and also an exceptional dragon, apparently having come from the Far East. He and Laurence form a deep bond, which sustains both of them as they are introduced ad hoc to the world of the British Aerial Corp. It throws both of them off since they weren’t born to it, but they manage to muddle through. It is doubly shocking for Laurence, as he is forced to change his mindset about a number of issues. In the secretive world of the Aerial Corp, some dragons imprint on women, forcing an egalitarian fighting force. Thus does Novik neatly side-step the kind of casual misogyny that usually characterizes works set in this period (the closest comparison is of course Patrick O’Brien’s Aubury/Maturin series). Like O’Brien, she matches her writing style to that of the period. This shouldn’t be any problem, it flows just beautifully. She has a good ear for rhythm in dialog. And if perhaps towards the end the plot suffers from a little bit of deus ex machina, don’t let it ruin the emotional impact of the writing. I surprised at how attached one can become to fictional dragons belonging to other people.

There is simply nothing cooler to read about than dragons. They’re like the best dog you could ever imagine, plus they can talk, they’re smarter than you, and they’re HUGE (but they still love you just as faithfully as any hound). Maybe it’s a bit Boy’s Own, but this woman reader loved it just as much for its adventurous spirit and fun.

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