His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

This is one of my favorite books of all time. Over the next few months, I will be reviewing each of Naomi Novik’s books from the Temeraire series, culminating in a review of Tongues of Serpents which is due to be released in early July.

 I first read this book by accident. I was working for a small printing company where I inputted changes from corrected manuscripts into the corresponding digital files. I worked with dozens of manuscripts a month from a plethora of genres. Then His Majesty’s Dragon came across my desk. I thought it was just another assignment. As I made the detailed corrections I began to scan the text of the book; it was pretty interesting, a unique take on Napoleonic era history. I am not usually a fan of the fantasy genre. I can honestly say I had never before read a book with  a dragon in it, let alone one who talks (unless you include The Hobbit and the children’s picture book Saint George and the Dragon).  But I found myself immediately intrigued. The characters drew me in and soon I found myself looking forward to getting the next draft. I ended up working on the novel three or four times. By then I had practically read the whole thing. I got a brief taste of the next two books, Throne of Jade and Black Powder War. I found myself wishing that history had unfolded more like Naomi Novik’s version. As soon as the book hit the stands, I bought it. I read it, several times. I’ve bought every Temeraire book Naomi Novik has written ever since. I’m currently waiting with baited breath for the latest release Tongues of Serpents. I was looking forward to reading this book on my first real vacation in three years. Sadly, it isn’t being released to the public until two weeks after my vacation. If only I could procure myself a pre-release copy. I’d gladly review it for the chance to enjoy this much anticipated next chapter to the Temeraire saga.

 I only had a cursory knowledge of the Napoleonic era before reading this book (and the others that follow). While Novik makes some minor historic alterations, I still found this book highly educational. But what really drives the story isn’t the dramatic action sequences, well done as they are, it’s the appealing characters. Temeraire has a wonderfully childlike quality to his personality with Captain Will Lawrence serving as the father/older brother figure. Yet as the relationship of the two begins to evolve they become less like a pet and handler and closer to a team or even a married couple. This will be a relationship that lasts a lifetime, though presumably dragons are much longer lived than humans. But Lawrence is a navy man, and never expected to find himself saddled with a dragon, let alone one who is destined to become one of the most significant member’s of the British Aerial Corps.  This is the touching tale of a man who left his profession and social status behind for the sake of his nation and instead found an intimate friendship unlike any he had ever experienced before, and a dragon upon who rests the hope of a nation, but who serves for the love of his captain.

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