Hello everyone! I’m bringing you this Great American Blogpost to you via my mother’s computer. Mine has decided it hates me and lets me type exactly two and a half sentences before freezing for 32.58 minutes. My brother kindly offered to let me use his computer, but the ‘L’ and ‘O’ keys won’t work for me. I didn’t think yu guys wud enjy reading a pst with speing ike this, so I’m braving my mom’s laptop (thanks, Mom!) to bring you this post. All for the love of books.
The novel I want to talk about today is His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik. A friend provided me with a list of books I might like, and this was one of them. My purchase of it had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the word ‘dragon’ appears in the title. Nope. I’m not that shallow.
I got it because there’s a picture of a dragon on the cover. And, you know, I thought the whole alternate history where dragons are involved in the Napoleonic Wars sounded pretty cool:
When Captain Laurence and his crew capture a French frigate carrying an almost-hatched egg, it seems that England has received a huge stroke of luck. When the dragonette Temeraire hatches and chooses Laurence as a rider, luck is on England’s side once again, as having a new harnessed dragon can help even out the numbers between the French and British aerial corps.
Unfortunately, it would seem that good luck is not with Laurence. Not only must he abandon his post in the navy, but he must join the British Aerial Corps, a branch of the military widely regarded as uncouth, unruly, and undesired. But the bond between the dragon Temeraire and his chosen rider cannot be broken. Together they must leave their life at sea to enter into grueling aerial training.
The switch from strict naval practices to lax aerial regulations challenges everything Laurence has ever known. In the air corp, officers and cadets fraternize like old friends, female officers are not uncommon, dueling to settle a wrong is unheard of, and the only agreed upon etiquette seems to be that riders must always put their dragons first. No naval officer has ever joined the British air force, and no respectable dragon has ever taken a liking to men from the navy. This puts almost the entire Aerial Corps at odds with Laurence and Temeraire.
But soon Laurence’s strong sense of duty and Temeraire’s unparalleled strength and intelligence make them impossible to ignore. They are thrust into the middle of a dangerous maneuver designed to keep Bonaparte’s men from stepping onto the King’s soil. Succeed, and the war is won and Temeraire and Laurence will be free to fly the oceans once more. Fail, and all of England will be under French rule and His Majesty’s dragons will be enslaved…or slaughtered.
The idea of this book is carried very convincingly. The way it is written leaves no doubt in my mind that, in some alternate timeline, the Napoleonic Wars were indeed fought with dragons. And, frankly, I’m a bit bummed that I wasn’t born in that timeline.
Alternate history novels can be pretty hard to pull off without being either overly historical and dry or just downright ridiculous. His Majesty’s Dragon did not go to either of these extremes. Naomi Novik’s writing style is very straight forward, not beautiful, but very functional. The book is written a bit like a historical fiction, which is as it should be given the genre it falls into (Alternate History).
The characters were all very well-done. Temeraire is by far my favorite, though it did take me about forty pages to figure out how to pronounce his name correctly (and I’m still not 100% sure that I’m saying it right). His constant questioning of following duty over logic leads to some interesting conversations between him and the dutiful Laurence.
Also, Temeraire gets bonus points, since he is of an ancient and uncommon Chinese breed of dragon. Being Chinese, he is by far superior to all other dragons. Which makes sense, because we all know that if dragons were real, China would figure out a way to make theirs better than everyone else’s. That’s just how China rolls.
Last thing and then I’ll shut up and let you go on your way: I found the addition of female captains and extremely young cadets interesting. I didn’t feel like these characters were added in a lame attempt to be political or feminist, which is so often the case, but rather to bring about some needed depth. Kudos to Naomi Novik for that. I especially enjoyed watching Laurence struggle with the idea that these people, unable to serve in other branches, were accepted in the Aerial Corps.
All that said, the story-line, though enjoyable, was fairly predictable and sometimes a bit slow. Not that I minded. Being a fan of both historical fiction and dragons, I thought this book was pretty good. And I’m assuming most people will, too. Because, honestly, who doesn’t like a book with dragons in it?
His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik is definitely worth a look. It might possibly give you some (fairly warped) insight into the Napoleonic Wars. If not, it’s still a fun read. Temeraire is now my third favorite dragon, Toothless and Smaug going in front.
What about you? Who’s your favorite literary dragon? Leave a comment below. And, if you’ve read it, don’t forget to tell me what you thought of His Majesty’s Dragon. I’d love to hear from you!
Hannah Heath – bookworm and aspiring author