The Good reads of the month is this bright red book (very appropriate in the Christmas month), which has been on my bookshelf for several years. I got it recommended by one of my friends and bought it a few months later… and then nothing more happened. Actually a little strange, since the book is about dragons, and I’m an absolute sucker for dragons!
‘His Majesty’s Dragon’ is written by Naomi Novik and is the first book in the ‘Temeraire series’. Notice that I did not write a trilogy – this is a series that so far is up to eight books, so there is plenty of reading material waiting for it to be a book for you!
Imagine the beginning of the 19th century during the Napoleonic Wars, where the British are fighting against the French. Then imagine one of the most important weapons in the fighting being dragons used in the attacks on the enemy. Will Laurence is the captain of the English Navy and helps defeat a French ship that turns out to have a dragon egg in the cargo.
However, the enthusiasm for the valuable catch is quickly changing into concern as the English crew realizes that the egg is soon hatching and they are far from land. No one on board is particularly comfortable with the situation, and it doesn’t get any better when the egg hatches and the dragon chooses Laurence as his future rider.
Laurence has to give up his post as a captain and devote himself to the training of the dragon Temeraire, but he soon begins to enjoy being with the intelligent and fascinating dragon.
Quietly and quietly, a close friendship between man and dragon is built, even though Laurence’s changed title does not fall into good ground with his family or in the English navy, where his superiors are not much to give one of their best captains to the dragons. But dragons themselves choose their riders, and Temeraire is important in the fight against Napoleon.
The first 50 pages were a little dry to chew through, but then the story really took off, and I was completely engrossed in the exciting and surprisingly cozy story about Laurence and Temeraire. Of course, the book had an advantage alone by dealing with dragons, but I thought that the historical angle was both interesting and innovative. There is now something fascinating (in my view) by combining 19th century war actions with fantasy.
The relationship between Laurence and Temeraire is reasonably traditional. I often find that the bond between dragons and their riders is described as being so strong that one party can poorly survive if the other dies. This is seen, for example, in Anne McCaffrey’s books on Pern, but I will probably go into that in more detail next month, when I report several of her books. As a kite fan, I can easily put myself in this close bond, for who would not love to be a kite fan? (… Ok, here I am very subjective, sorry).
It is quite obvious that this is the first part of a series. The book is primarily about Temeraire’s upbringing and how the bond between him and Laurence is linked, and it is only towards the end that they are really going to show their worth in the war against Napoleon. The rest of the time uses the author to build a personal gallery consisting mainly of dragons and dragons belonging to the same company as Laurence and Temeraire.
As I said, I was surprised at how nice the book is most of the time. I was a little afraid that it would be very dry and focused (too) much on war strategy, but I did not think it suffered. Temeraire is an intelligent – and slightly childish-naive – dragon that can only be loved, and his conversations with Laurence made me smile several times.
The book was a really positive surprise, and I look forward to reading the next books in the series (which, incidentally, I hastened to order a few pieces as soon as I had read this to the end).