Saturday, April 14, 2007

His Majesty's Dragon

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik, 2006, Del Rey

I first heard about this book when it was published last year in the United States. Even though the author lives in New York, the series was first published in the U.K. by a separate publisher. Finding success on the other side of the pond, a U.S. publisher decided to give it a shot over here, and I am glad that they did, for this is a very enjoyable book.

The basic plot is this: the Napoleanic wars of the early Nineteenth century, but all sides have dragons to make a rudimentary air force. With this as a backdrop, we are introduced to our hero, a British naval captain who has the good fortune (or mis-fortune, as some of his comrades think) to capture a French ship transporting a dragon egg. The egg hatches before the ships can return to port, and our hero captain ends up bonding with the dragon, leaving the navy, and joining the dragon aerial corps. The majority of the book deals with everyone's adjustment to this new situation, and the training that both the human and the dragon do through. The only real action is at the end of the book, but that was very well written and quite exciting.

The real reason this book is so enjoyable is the characters. The hero, Captain Will Laurence, is a fine, upstanding gentleman of good breeding, but his dragon, Temeraire, is wonderful. Sometimes in dragon stories the dragons actually get to play second fiddle, but Temeraire's personality gets just as much attention was Captain Laurence's, and you can really follow the dragon's growth as he matures and grows into his full powers. If you don't like dragon stories than you probably won't enjoy this book that much, but dragon and alternate history fans should find a lot to like here.

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