Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors rise to Britain’s defense by taking to the skies . . . not aboard aircraft but atop the mighty backs of fighting dragons.
When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes its precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Capt. 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. (from Amazon)Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
I’m not sure why, but for some reason when I saw His Majesty’s Dragon at Suvudu I thought it would be a) a stupid fantasy with a hard-on for dragons, and b) boring/cliched/etc. So I didn’t try reading it until I ran into a review of it on another blog somewhere. That review convinced me to try His Majesty’s Dragon out, and I’m so glad it did because this book is FANTASTIC.
I’m not a particularly big fan of dragons, but I am a fan of the navy and anything to do with it, so I was stoked to find out that the main character (besides the dragon), Laurence, was a naval officer. And since this takes place in the early 1800s, that means lots of wonderful uniforms and stiff-upper-lipping and wooden ships and, well, Napoleon. But since this is an alternative history/speculative fiction book, things are just a little bit different in His Majesty’s Dragon than they are in our world.
For one thing, um: dragons. But they’re not standard dragons: not all of them breath fire, and they come in different sizes, colors, and temperaments. And they’re used in an aerial corps. Piloted by a captain and a crew. (Some of those captains are female, as well!) They do, however, like gold, eating meat, and fighting. So not everything’s different from the stereotypical interpretation of dragons. As a sort of a side note, I was a little surprised that there wasn’t more variation in dragons; all of them were the European kind. I was expecting there to be different species, like the different-looking Chinese and Japanese dragons.
Anyway, I’m sure if I was more of a history or military buff, I could talk all about the battles in the book, and how they differed (or didn’t) from the real-world battles, and I’d o on and on about Nelson or whatever, and this review would be so much for interesting. Unfortunately, I’m not, so I’ll have to make due with what I’ve already got: a lot of enthusiasm.
What I love most about His Majesty’s Dragon is that the dragons are more personable and likable than maybe in other fantasy books. I liked Temeraire, who was sweet and intelligent and kind, and I thought a lot of the other dragons (Volly!) were adorable. I liked spending time with them.
I also liked the human characters a lot. Laurence, as I’ve already mentioned, gained a lot of my love simply by being tied to the navy, but I also grew to love Granby, his lieutenant, and even Captain Harcourt, one of the female captains, who was a little bit stiff and kind of a milk sop.
The fight scenes were so exciting, especially the ending one which I can’t really talk about without spoiling. But even more I liked the relationship between Temeraire and Laurence– so cute! Watching it develop was lovely.
The writing was good, too; I can’t remember anything in particular I didn’t like about it. Even though I have basically no knowledge of the Napoleonic wars, I never felt hindered by it, nor confused. Novik definitely has a way of talking about military maneuvers and what have you without making them boring or complicated, and I appreciated that. The book overall has a real feel of C.S. Forester’s books to it, including language– though it’s a little updated, I’d say.
In my Twitter feed I said that His Majesty’s Dragon felt like Horatio Hornblower, but with dragons and a slightly more likable main character, and it truly does. I highly recommend it!
Read: March 20090