Series: Temeraire #1
Genres: Epic, Fantasy, Historical
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In this delightful first novel, the opening salvo of a trilogy, Novik seamlessly blends fantasy into the history of the Napoleonic wars. Here be dragons, beasts that can speak and reason, bred for strength and speed and used for aerial support in battle. Each nation has its own breeds, but none are so jealously guarded as the mysterious dragons of China. Veteran Capt. Will Laurence of the British Navy is therefore taken aback after his crew captures an egg from a French ship and it hatches a Chinese dragon, which Laurence names Temeraire. When Temeraire bonds with the captain, the two leave the navy to sign on with His Majesty’s sadly understaffed Aerial Corps, which takes on the French in sprawling, detailed battles that Novik renders with admirable attention to 19th-century military tactics. Though the dragons they encounter are often more fully fleshed-out than the stereotypical human characters, the author’s palpable love for her subject and a story rich with international, interpersonal and internal struggles more than compensate.
Anyone who loves stories with dragons should read this!
The storyline is basically about a naval commander who comes into ownership of a dragon egg and, when it hatches, the dragon chooses him as his rider. They join the aviator army.
What I loved most about this was the relationship of Laurence and his dragon, Temeraire. It developed fast, sometimes feeling a bit too quick, but it brought the story along at a nice pace. Temeraire is a character in and of himself. Though the story follows Laurence’s PoV solely—which I must say was a great choice by Novik—the dragon still shined in its own way. However, I was caught up most in Laurence’s story.
The world is set in the Napoleonic Wars but with dragons. Brilliantly done. I’m not a history buff, but I never felt bored or bogged down by military tactics or lines upon lines of history. Instead, it just moved along and I felt as comfortable as if the setting were entirely imaginary. This makes me believe that both those interested in this particular part of history and those not will enjoy it equally.
With that said, Laurence is a man born of station and thus under ridicule for his choices by the society he kept. His proper manners and how he carries himself in his new station—which was way less formal—were handled incredibly well. I felt for him and his struggles, and Novik, in my mind, did a brilliant job conveying it all.
The action scenes were great, the pacing wonderful. The plot isn’t complicated but is far from boring. I will say it took me a bit to adjust to Novik’s writing style. It felt a bit choppy with an excessive use of colons and semicolons. Not that I felt they were used improperly, but I’ve never read a book that favored them so. Also, for those visual folks like me, take a look in the back of the book before you start. Novak has a few diagrams that help show us rigging and compares some dragon sizes. I wish I would have seen it at the beginning.
Overall, this is a great fantasy and an incredible book for those who love dragons. I highly recommend it.