His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik
Well, first of all, if you didn’t hear about this book when it came out, you must be under a rock. Secondly, if you didn’t read it then, I hereby command you to read it now! His Majesty’s Dragon is a fascinating alternate universe idea that follows through with infinite precision. Although Novik’s version of the Napoleonic Wars involves dragons, her historical research is impressive and the surrounding world could not be better detailed.
The idea behind the book is that dragons are used in the military just as airplanes are nowadays, working in squadrons built to utilize each dragon species’ unique natural weaponry. Will Laurence, a captain in the British navy, is unexpectedly chosen by the hatchling of a captured egg and, despite his reluctance to leave his ship behind, does his duty and joins the dragon corps. What follows is an interesting and exciting story which does an extraordinary job at balancing Laurence’s changing view on his situation and trying to find his place in this new, odd society with good, old-fashioned battle scenes.
I was instantly smitten by Temeraire and quickly found myself harboring a cross-species crush on Temeraire. And Laurence isn’t so bad himself! The dragons, despite serving as basically a vessel for the army, are all distinct and interesting characters, as well, and the relationships between them and their captains are very nicely drawn. All in all, a wonderful debut novel!
My rating: A
Throne of Jade and Black Powder War by Naomi Novik
His Majesty’s Dragon was followed almost immediately by Throne of Jade and Black Powder War, but never fear, Novik insists that it is a series, not a trilogy.
These next two, but the second one in particular, turns more to the political side of the conflict. The second book covers Laurence, Temeraire and their crew’s journey to China – Temeraire had been intended as a gift from China to Napoleon but was intercepted by the British in the first book – to try and appease China’s insistance that Temeraire, who is a Celestial dragon (an extremely rare breed), should only be captained by royalty. The third book covers their return to Britain and ends with a very suspenseful, and rather upsetting, cliffhanger.
Their missions, of course, provide much opportunity for plotting and intrigue, but while this was a chance to see Laurence’s authority come through with his crew, I did find myself wishing there was more of the internal, emotional focus that had been present in His Majesty’s Dragon. I have to say, though, that Lien rocks my socks as a villainess, particularly in the third book, Black Powder War!
As I mentioned briefly above, Black Powder War has a very worrying ending and the excerpt from Book Four (still to be released at present) does not assuage any of that tension. I can only hope that Novik is furiously writing because I want to know what happens next! Aso, on a side note, Throne of Jade contains my favorite line, one which is enormous amounts of fun when spoken in a posh British accent around the house and that is ‘Temrer! Cow?’ Hilarious, for some reason.
Throne of Jade: B+
Black Powder War: A-