Thursday, November 11, 2010

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

Posted by Simcha 6:57 PM, under | 5 comments

I've heard really good things about Naomi Novik's Temeraire series and have been curious to try the books myself. An alternate history novel with dragons sounded interesting though the strong military themes didn't excite me quite as much, leaving me doubtful if these books would appeal to me. But when my father-in-law presented me with a box of books that included the first three novels in the Temeraire series, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to finally read them.

To Will Laurence the navy is his life and he has worked hard to earn his captaincy on the HMS Reliant. But when a dragon egg is captured in a battle against a French ship, Laurence must give up everything he has worked towards in order to take charge of the newly hatched dragon.

Laurence's life as a navy man is now over and instead he must train in the Aerial Corp as a dragon handler. The dragons are Britain's strongest defense against the French army and Laurence must now learn to fight for his country from the back of a dragon.

Although Laurence would never have chosen for himself the solitary life of an aerial man, he quickly develops a close relationship with his dragon, Temeraire. As Tameraire grows and matures Laurence also grows into his new role as an aviator, and the two will soon get the chance to defend Britain against Bonaparte's invasion.

His Majesty's Dragon was an enjoyable book to read even though it was largely military, as I had suspected. Novik introduces some interesting ideas with her dragons and makes it all seem pretty credible, especially in the midst of her vivid battle scenes. In Novik's world dragons are used in place of aircrafts and are able to lift hundreds of soldiers in the air, ferrying them quickly from one destination to another.

While I found His Majesty's Dragon entertaining enough I will say that it's not the kind of book I would normally choose to read. I would have liked to read more about the characters' interactions with each other, and watch relationships between them develop, than read about combat training and battle plans. I also didn't really warm up to the story's protagonist, Laurence, who was too stiff and humorless for my taste. In addition, I found it strange the way Laurence so easily accepted the idea of giving up everything, including a family life, for his dragon, with so little regret. His relationship with his dragon, Temeraire, also struck me as a little odd. And the way Laurence kept calling Temeraire "my dear," creeped me out just a bit.

While reading the book I actually kept thinking that the story would be so much more interesting if told from the point of view of one of the female aviators. There was one character in particular who seemed like she would have an interesting story to tell, especially since the position of a female aviator was so out of the ordinary, and I do wonder why Novik had chosen to go with Laurence instead.

There was one other thing that didn't quite sit right with me, although it's probably ridiculous, but I just couldn't used to the idea of dragons that speak just like humans. I have no problems with telepathic communications between dragons and humans, which actually seems more appropriate to me, but a dragon hatching right out of the egg and initiating an intelligent conversation just bugged me. I know, this probably makes no sense because if you are going to envision a dragon why not envision a talking one, but I just think it seems unnatural.

His Majesty's Dragon serves up pretty much what it promises on the back cover. There are dragons and aerial battles and the occasional heated interaction between characters. If this appeals to you than you will likely enjoy the book. As for me, I found it entertaining and easy to read but I don't feel particularly driven to read the sequel, even though I already it on my shelf. As I said, it's just not my kind of book. But I am glad that I finally read it and was able to satisfy my curiosity about it.


Thanks for the review! I've wanted to try this series, too...

I really enjoyed book 1 :) But as it is now, I just feel the series could have ended already

hi simcha! it was great chatting with you on twitter the other day :)

thanks for your review! i've seen this book around and when i was in my fantasy reading phase i really wanted to pick it up but i never did. i'm glad because i don't think i would've enjoyed all the military stuff.

have a great weekend! :)

Aleksandra: If the description interests you than you will probably like it. I mostly read it because of everything I heard about it.

Blodeuedd: Really? I'm a little surprised. This doesn't strike me as your kind of book, particularly since Laurence is such a dry character.

Michelle: It was great talking to you as well! If you ever go back to a fantasy reading phase I would be happy to suggest books for you that you would probably enjoy more.

Thanks for the great review. I have seen this book on the shelves and such. I've heard great things about it too. But I just can't bring myself to read it. I love dragons in my stories. But something about this book doesn't seem like my kind of read. Sounds good, but not for me. But thanks for the great review! :)

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