Book Reviews 2006 (26)

The twenty sixth book of the year is the debut novel by Naomi Novik, His Majesty’s Dragon.

His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire, Book 1)

by Naomi Novik
Napoleonic Wars with Dragons is the theme of Naomi Novik’s first novel, His Majesty’s Dragon. Captain Will Laurence of the Reliant has defeated a French ship in 1805 Mediterranean waters. And there is a prize on board the boat that could not be found in our world…an unhatched Dragon egg.
In a somewhat Pernish manner, such a prize means that a man (or a woman) is going to bond to the Dragon upon its hatches, their life bound with the dragons henceforth Despite his attempt to escape such a fate, the dragon soon hatches, and imprints himself on Will. And so Will leaves the Royal Navy behind, and joins the Aerial Corps, a small branch of the British military of those who take care, ride and direct the dragons in aerial combat. Because of the fewer numbers of British dragons, and the possibly very special nature of Temeraire, Will and Temeraire are given a crash course to get them up to speed in this new world.
This allows us the opportunity to learn about the Aerial Corps as Will does, gradually, as he learns more about this branch of His Majesty’s armed forces. The feel of the novel is definitely Napoleonic-era warfare. Rather than single riders a la Pern, these dragons are large enough that they serve more in the way of small ships of the line. with groups of men serving as the crew on the dragon.
The overall flow of history doesn’t seem to have changed from our own even with the presence of dragons in this world, although a divergence does occur in the novel for the eagle-eyed.
Although some aspects of the relationship between Temeraire and Will are not clear–just why he feels such a strong bond to the dragon so quickly, the description of life in the Aerial Corps, the tactics of aerial combat, the hints of the kinds of dragons out there make this a quick and pleasant read. I think the Draconophiles and the Napoleonic Era enthusiasts amongst my friends can find common ground with this new author’s work and world.
I do want to purchase and read the sequel, A Throne of Jade.