Sunday, September 6, 2009

His Majesty's Dragon

Title: His Majesty’s Dragon
Author: Naomi Novik
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2007
Series: Temeraire
Next in Series: The Jade Throne

Captain Lawrence is a proud member of His Majesty’s Navy during the Napoleonic war. When we first join him he’s busy taking a French ship and is more than a little surprised at how vehemently they’re resisting falling into English hands. When one of his midshipmen tells him what’s in the hold, he suddenly understands. The French were carrying a dragon egg that is very close to hatching. Knowing that this beast is the exact boost the English Aerial Corps needs for its smaller and genetically weak fleet, Captain Lawrence has his officers draw straws to see who will attempt to harness the dragon when it hatches.

And then things begin to go awry. The beastie hatches and refuses to accept its harness from the chosen officer. Instead it walks right up to Captain Lawrence and asks him why he looks so sad, dragging Lawrence away from the life he chose and into the Aerial Corps. What’s he to do? He names the dragon Temeraire and abdicates the ship to his Second Lieutenant, since the First Lieutenant is already in charge of the prize vessel.

The Aerial Corps isn’t exactly thrilled to have a navy man, either. He’s not been indoctrinated into their ways. He doesn’t understand their tactics. He’s too ridged. He may not accept their instructions. And he has one of the best dragons in the Corps.

Overall though, Lawrence is well drawn. It’s easy to see where he’s coming from and relate to the displeasure and annoyance he feels with his sudden change in status. He’s no longer an eligible bachelor and he’s been taken away from the sea. Despite this, he is thankful for what he has and adapts quickly. Similarly, Temeraire stands apart from the other cast of characters. He’s intelligent and eagerly devours the books Lawrence reads to him. Unlike many other “smart” dragons in various series, he isn’t just a reflection of his rider. He has thoughts and ideas all his own, which at times conflict with things deemed important in Regency England.

Sadly, the wonderful characterization ends there. The other dragons and Captains that Temeraire and Lawrence serve with are hardly drawn at all. I had no feeling of who Captain Roland was, nor did it even seem to matter that she was a female. I felt no sting at a person’s betrayal because I didn’t know whom they were and didn’t care about their motives, nor could I feel sorrow for a comrade’s death because it was like reading an obituary from another country. “Pity Great Aunt Mildred’s third cousin twice removed husband’s mother’s college roommate died, isn’t it?” I just couldn’t work up any feelings either way.

Third person limited, sticking with Lawrence.

My Thoughts:
I love books with dragons and I love historical fiction books… but this one fell a little flat. Despite the obviously close relationship between Lawrence and Temeraire I found it out of character for Lawrence to call Temeraire “My Dear”. Also, too many sentences of dialogue started with “Pray.” While that was a common phrase in the Regency era, I don’t think it was used that often and it got on my nerves. In the end, it was decent but not stellar. I probably could have found a better use for those 6 or 7 hours.

Favorite Scene:
Lawrence’s conversation with Jane Roland made me laugh.

Who this book is best for:
Adults who are obsessively into alternate history or dragons may like it. Otherwise, it doesn’t seem worth it.

Violence: 1 of 5, for description of dragons eating, which apparently leaves them messy and entrails strewn about.

Stars: 2 of 5

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