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Dragons, Napoleon and Plots, Oh My!
on October 3, 2009
There are a few book series in my life that have caught my imagination to where it's not a question as to whether I'll read the rest of the series but rather a question of how fast I can get my hands on them and to be honest, it's been a long time since a book had that effect on me. Books in the past that have done that are Hugh Lofting's Dr. Doolittle, Tolkien's Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, and Frank Herbert's Dune. Set aside against those high standards have been countless clunkers and many books that we're decent enough but didn't quite rise to that level.
When I was younger, I couldn't explain to you what the qualities were that made a book great and now that I am older and better read, I can do so but it doesn't suffice to explain how a book can grip you.
Imagine my delight to find that this was such a book. What are the qualities that make it work? This is a historical novel that has been very well researched with an intriguing twist. What would the Napoleonic wars have been like with air power? What if that Air Power were dragons instead of machines? Add to that a very strong character development and themes that reflect the struggles of that day, many of which are still being wrestled with today and you have a multi-faceted novel with several hooks well-set and ready to catch any readers who cross its path.
The dialogue between characters is masterful and captures a quality that very few authors manage to develop. I found myself reminded in places of the dialogue typical of David Eddings' fantasy that captures the natural, easy and affectionate relationship. Further, the flowing dialogue captures cultural nuances and differences that moves beyond what could easily become stereotypical and lands smack dab in the middle of believable and accurate for that day and age.
This book has been very strongly researched and considered on several levels and the hard work shows. Historical fiction it is to be sure and the characters are fictional and even those historical figures referenced are put into fictional settings, but what is not fictional is the understanding of military tactics, cultural nuances and relationships that leave the reader feeling that if this story is not true, it should be!
I took advantage of downloading this book on my Kindle for free, thinking it might help to spend some time on a long commute. It was calculated no doubt as a loss lead to entice readers to then download the next 4 books in the series and I cheerfully concede that they planned well as far as I was concerned.
An outstanding introduction to an outstanding series and it's nice to know that even in one grown older and far removed from some of the early magical reading experiences, that there are authors like Novic who can weave that magic and draw a reader in.