Brilliantly combining history and fantasy, author Naomi Novik has created a world of aerial combat, dragons and adventure galore that is utterly fascinating and addictive. This first book in the Temeraire series begins at a time when the British are struggling to contain the growing threat of Bonaparte’s ambitious war. Their formidable Navy is stretched thin trying to prevent Napoleon’s forces from crossing the English Channel, while their aerial fleet cannot begin to compete with the formidable fleet of dragons and airmen that the French are rightly proud of.
It is at this crucial juncture that British Naval officer Captain William Laurence captures a French frigate that yields a most surprising bounty – an unusual dragon egg. But when the newly hatched dragon, named Temeraire, instantly bonds with him, Laurence realizes he must give up his Navy career and any hopes of a normal family life for the dubious honor of joining the Aerial Corps, an elite cadre of courageous but rough men who live far from normal society in remote coverts and dedicate their entire lives to living, training and flying with their dragons.
As Temeraire grows both in size and intellect and becomes family instead of burden, Laurence begins to find the loss of his dreams quite tolerable. Their integration into the Corps isn’t as easy, for with his startling intelligence and independence Temeraire isn’t content to just follow orders, even as Laurence finds the lack of respect for rank and virtually no discipline absolutely intolerable. But there are more growing concerns as Bonaparte concocts a fiendish plan to invade England, and Temeraire together with Laurence may be the only thing standing in his path of conquest.
Novik’s debut novel has all the hallmarks of becoming an unforgettable epic, such is the visually stimulating writing, intense story-telling and powerful characterizations. Novik’s carefully envisioned world has real events from history woven in with a fictitious world of dragons and their flyers. This gives an entirely new perspective to the whole scenario, one that is more aerially adventurous, varied, and intriguing socially and species-wise. Superb plotting leaves the reader agog with anticipation of what further surprises the pages ahead hold even as the one they’re currently reading hogs their whole attention to the exclusion of more mundane matters.
Novik humanizes Temeraire, the exotic dragon, while retaining his full draconic majesty and peculiarities, thus making him appear all too real. Laurence with his initial reluctance and later whole-hearted absorption into the life of an aviator also makes absorbing reading. The bond between human and dragon is so close and emotional as to bring a tear to the eye. Other interesting side characters also add to the general intrigue. In short, lots of action, real and imaginary, together with emotional depth and tense plotting makes His Majesty’s Dragon a recommendable read for book-lovers everywhere. Further adventures await Temeraire and Laurence in the Throne of Jade, coming soon.