Saturday, July 10, 2010

Girl on Book Action: His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik
ISBN: 0-345-48128-3


Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors rise to Britain’s defense by taking to the skies…not aboard aircraft but atop the mighty backs of fighting dragons.

When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes its precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Capt. Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future – and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarefied world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.


Aside: As you remember, this novel was the winner of the most recent Reader’s Choice Poll. Thank you to everyone who cast their vote and without further ado let me give you a review! (I’m a poet and didn’t know it…)

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book. It had everything you could want in an alternate history about the Napoleonic war: adventure, battles, heroics and people concerned with honor over all other things, oh and of course it had dragons. Surprisingly, the only thing it didn’t have that one has come to expect from these types of stories is a breathtaking romance. A fact that was actually rather refreshing.

I think the only thing that I didn’t really like throughout is that at times I felt a little bit lost. It was hard for me to picture exactly how big the dragons were – and the author did try to give some size comparisons, they just didn’t work for me. And sometimes in the battle scenes I had some issues with getting my bearings.

Temeraire as a character was very charming and I really appreciated his growth throughout the book and his intelligence. It made me feel that he really wasn’t appreciated by anyone around him, because he really is very special. That feeling diminished as the story progressed and Laurence and the other aviators learned more about Temeraire and his abilities, but he still seemed to play second fiddle more than he should have.

The depiction of the relationship between Laurence who isn’t exactly a willing participant at first and the young dragon was well done, too. The bond that the two form felt believable to me and Novik did a nice job of providing a foil for them in the figure of Rankin and his dragon Levitas. Setting those two relationships side by side really showed the way things could have gone if Laurence had been a less intrinsically good person. Levitas’ treatment really made my heart break a little.

Minor Spoilers! Ahoy!

Women were also well-represented and their inclusion in the ranks of the aviators made sense and was backed up with a reasonable explanation. While there aren’t any central female characters to carry the feminist flag, women are present and accounted for with a couple of decently strong showings. They are presented as warriors in their own right and are not reduced to damsels in distress or the near-superhuman woman of fantasy. They are actually pretty much presented as equals, which was nice. And if you’re wondering why I labeled this a spoiler – well, you don’t find out that there are women aviators until a good ways into the book and now I’ve spoiled that for you.

We’ve passed the murky spoiler-rich waters without mishap!

Let’s see, what else is there to say? I think the different breeds of dragon were quite imaginative and I appreciated the inclusion of a scientific accounting of how they came to be and their varying merits at the end of the book – which is written by one of the characters. It served to fill in a few blanks that weren’t addressed in the narrative, because it wouldn’t be something that Laurence would learn about.

And last but not least – is it any surprise that Temeraire was my favourite character when he loves books and laments not being able to read and write on his own because of his size? So endearing!

So, if you’re looking for a fun book about the Napoleonic wars and you love dragons, you should read this novel. I’m definitely going to be picking up the next part or two when I get a chance. I want to know what Temeraire does next.


  1. great review. you were able to sum up all the things that i liked about the book. i knew i loved it but wasnt sure why it was so appealing. then i read your review and now i know!!!

  2. Thanks! Always good to hear I'm doing good.