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on November 3, 2014
I love the Temeraire series, the characters are well fleshed out, imaginative, and beautifully written about. The world is interesting, dragons and gun powder co existing. Well worth the read!
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on October 6, 2014
What if dragons and their riders formed their own corps of soldiers adjacent to the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars? You get Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, the first novel of which, His Majesty’s Dragon, I have just finished reading on my Kobo.

William Laurence, a Royal Navy captain engaged in the Napoleonic Wars, captures a French ship bearing unusual cargo: a dragon’s egg. When it hatches, the creature accepts Laurence as his master, changing the captain’s life forever. Laurence names the dragon Temeraire, thinking of the name of a British ship. ‘Temeraire’ means ‘bold,’ ‘reckless,’ ‘dauntless,’ and is the sort of name a navy man without experience in the Aerial Corps would bestow.

Here you see the real originality of Novik’s world: Temeraire is named after a ship, hinting that dragons take the place of ships in this alternate nineteenth-century universe. Lawrence does not become the sole, independent rider of a dragon but the captain of a dragonback crew. Temeraire truly becomes one of His Majesty’s dragons, flying alongside His Majesty’s ships, which are trying to prevent the transports for Napoleon’s army from crossing the Channel.

Laurence initially loathes the idea of becoming a member of the Aerial Corps. However, he sees that he has no choice but to join, given his profound sense of duty. It means he must forsake his promising Navy career. He will also never be able to enjoy social functions, since those in the Corps live in isolation due to the nature of their duty and are even looked upon as social outcasts. Lawrence must furthermore lose the hand of a woman he has never formally courted.

But as Temeraire grows in size from a hatchling, so does Laurence’s bond with him. Soon he learns to favour the company of his dragon over that of human society. He learns to accept his lot as Corps captain.

Mix Master and Commander with Eragon and you might think you have a good idea of Novik’s concept for this historical fantasy world. But the truth is more complicated than that; dragons are an analogue for warships and function alongside the Navy. This element of fantasy shows how similar an exchange of broadsides in a naval engagement is to dragon fire.
I was uncertain what to expect wading into His Majesty’s Dragon, but I was pleasantly surprised. The prose style alone is remarkable; Novik uses polite semicolons to render her dialogue and style into the period cadence. Temeraire is about as polite in his speech as dragons come; he is the sort of dragon to whom you could read an Isaac Newton treatise over a cup of earl grey. Temeraire is also special for another reason, an unusual feature of his that makes him feel different from other dragons. But that I leave readers to discover.

The first chapters of His Majesty’s Dragon set off at a roaring start. It was a pleasure to not only learn about the biological aspects of dragons and their military uses, but the social consequences of humans who associate themselves with the creatures. Although the middle sags, when Laurence and Temeraire must train for war and get to know about life in the Corps, it picks up at the end and introduces the sequel around a promising premise. I was personally hoping that premise would get addressed in His Majesty’s Dragon, but I suppose I would have to buy Throne of Jade to find how it plays out.
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on June 21, 2014
This was recommended by a friend and I found the story quite delightful, and thoroughly enjoyed the book. Read the entire thing in a day or two, and was eager for the next one.
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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.

5 stars.

Bart Breen
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Imagine if the Napoleonic wars had been fought using an air force... of dragons.

That idea is the root of Naomi Novik's Temeraire series -- an alternate-history fantasy that explores the idea of a Horatio Hornbloweresque navy officer who suddenly finds a dragon uprooting his life. The plot is a bit thin in the first book of the series, "His Majesty's Dragon," but Novik makes up for this with her richly-realized alternate world and adorable friendship between man and dragon.

Captain William Laurence's Reliant has captured a French ship -- which turns out to have a dragon egg in its hold. And when the baby dragon hatches, it decides it wants Laurence and no other to be its rider. Unfortunately, accepting the dragon (now named Temeraire) means giving up his Navy commission and joining the Air Corps -- especially since Temeraire violently rejects the idea of accepting another rider.

But both rider and dragon have a lot of learning to do, especially since Laurence has some very unusual ideas about how to treat his dragon. And Laurence discovers that not all riders treat their dragons with such love, and that life among the Corps is very different from 19th-century England's. But as the bond between them grows and Temeraire grows rapidly to maturity, the Napoleonic Wars are raging -- and Temeraire's true power hasn't yet been shown.

The Temeraire series is what Christopher Paolini's books SHOULD have been -- a richly-drawn, intelligent series about the bond between a young man and his dragon. Novik still has some rough spots in "His Majesty's Dragon" -- such as the all-too-convenient explanation for how Temeraire speaks English right out of the egg -- but it's an undeniably fascinating mesh of what 19th century war would have been like if there had been dragons.

So she conjures up a pretty fascinating world, giving dragons different breeds, physical makeup, quirks, biological features (they can blast acid, fire, even sonic waves), and relationships with their riders (one poor little dragon's rider treats him like a disposable vehicle, inspiring Laurence's rage).

Admittedly there's not much plot until the last quarter; most of the book is about Laurence and Temeraire getting used to the Corps and each other. But Novik keeps it interesting with lush, detailed writing and some truly thrilling aerial battles aboard the vast dragons. On land, there's plenty of gentle comic relief ("I am afraid that some of them go there to drink, and keep low company." "Oh, you mean whores!") and lots of messy eating (including a very reluctant sheep).

And our heroes Temeraire and Laurence are a study in contrasts. The human is mannered, thoughtful and very tied to society's mores and expectations, while the dragon has a child's enthusiasm, curiosity, honesty and stubbornness (and a gold chain he uses like a security blankie). The supporting cast -- dragons and humans alike -- are a likable bunch as well, such as a delicate schoolgirl and her refined Longwing Lily, the vast Maximus, and even a vaguely sinister Frenchman.

"His Majesty's Dragoin" is a solid introduction to a brilliantly-conceived series, with plenty of adventure, humour and a lot of lovable dragons. Definitely worth flying with.
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on June 1, 2008
An excellent book. Novik's protagonist is a fully-rounded character who (against his will) becomes the Captain of a dragon (essentially aerial troops). The world-building is superb, as are the depictions of social mores.
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on September 24, 2007
A wonderful alternate history of the Napoleonic war where dragons provide the aerial support for both sides of the conflict. Good swashbuckling fun written in an engaging prose that is evocative of the period it is set in without being cumbersome. Naomi Novik has created a wonderful secondary world and filled it with loveable characters both human and draconian; the death scene of one of the dragons brought tears to my eyes. Highly recommended.
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on January 17, 2007
I would say it is unfair to compare this book to something written by G.R.R. Martin or others like him. This is an alternate historical fantasy, not what you might call hard fantasy. I like Martin's books for their epic nature, this is not the same style of book. Two completely different genres, like comparing Victorian mystery stories to something by Patterson or Sandford. Each are good in their own ways and need to be judged on their own merits.

For the style and setting of His Majesty's Dragon it is written very well, one of the most engaging books I've read in a long time. As others reviewed, very much like some of the sea-faring stories, just with a fantasy twist.

You might be inclined to dismiss it based on the pulpy fantasy title (although it is fitting considering the storyline), I for one am glad I gave it a chance. I picked it up from the library but will be buying it along with the sequels, and hope to see more from this author soon. Also glad to hear Peter Jackson has already picked up the movie rights, would love to see a good film adaptation of this book.
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on September 17, 2006
I was disappointed in this book. After reading series by George Martin and Scott Bakker, this novel was superficial. Characters were fairly flat and the plotting was pretty simple. I think this book might be most suitable for readers in middle school - there just isn't much substance to it.
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on September 1, 2006
This book, which I stumbled on in a review, is a wonderful blend of Horatio Hornblower and Dragonriders of Pern! The Napoleonic-era descriptions, and the naval descriptions, are right up there with C.S. Forester, and the impressing of a dragon with all the joys and angst that can bring is very much like Anne McCaffrey's great fantasy series. If you can achieve the necessary "willing suspension of disbelief", you'll enjoy this series (there are two after this one).
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