In the first book of this series His Majesty’s Dragon, Navy Captain Will Laurence reluctantly finds himself becoming an aviator when the dragon Temeraire chooses him as his handler. Soon they become boon companions and, in an all-out exciting aerial battle, play a pivotal role in preventing Bonaparte’s dragon fleet from invading England. However, danger is far from over, at least for this duo.
Upon learning that the rare and precious Celestial dragon egg sent to Bonaparte has instead landed in the hands of an unknown British soldier, an angry Chinese Emperor dispatches a huge delegation to get Temeraire back to China. But when neither Laurence nor Temeraire show any willingness to be separated, an irate British government orders them both to China with the delegation.
While both are delighted to back at sea, enjoying myriad adventures and perilous escapades that naturally occur, neither realizes what exactly lies at the journey’s end. When Temeraire meets his family and observes the independence, learning, respect and honor that dragons are given in his native country, will his love for Laurence diminish, or will Laurence voluntarily separate himself for Temeraire for his own good? Court intrigues, battles, romance, assassinations and more lie in wait for this daring duo.
Set in the early 1800s, this alternate history/fantasy saga reaches new heights under Naomi Novik’s skillful guidance, although this time the Far East – or, rather, China - takes center stage rather than a war-infused Europe. Not just relying on personalities, events and relationships already established, Novik challenges her characters in new and exciting ways, whether exposing sailors to novel sea perils, pitting dragon against fearsome dragon or testing the deep bond between Laurence and Temeraire by showing them a world completely different from what they’ve so far been exposed to.
The unique setting at once captures the vastness of China together with its immense populace, beautiful art forms, complex court structure and the caring manner in which the Chinese treat their dragons, including a surprising racial prejudice among the dragons themselves. The narrative, which slows to a crawl once the central characters arrive in China, takes on sudden bursts of speed during some exciting action sequences, but the overall feeling is one of alienness and pensiveness. The exciting end somewhat compensates for this and also brilliantly sets the stage for the next and final installment of this series, set to release soon.