In this delightful first novel, the opening salvo of a trilogy, Novik seamlessly blends fantasy into the history of the Napoleonic wars. Here be dragons, beasts that can speak and reason, bred for strength and speed and used for aerial support in battle. Each nation has its own breeds, but none are so jealously guarded as the mysterious dragons of China. Veteran Capt. Will Laurence of the British Navy is therefore taken aback after his crew captures an egg from a French ship and it hatches a Chinese dragon, which Laurence names Temeraire. When Temeraire bonds with the captain, the two leave the navy to sign on with His Majesty’s sadly understaffed Aerial Corps, which takes on the French in sprawling, detailed battles that Novik renders with admirable attention to 19th-century military tactics. Though the dragons they encounter are often more fully fleshed-out than the stereotypical human characters, the author’s palpable love for her subject and a story rich with international, interpersonal and internal struggles more than compensate.
Okay, so why does this book makes me think of Jane Austen meets Eragon? Well, I suggest you read this book and find out. But honestly, since I’m anything, but a fan of Eragon, I probably just insulted the book by comparing the two 😉
I haven’t read any books featuring dragons as main characters in a while and have been a bit more focused on the darker, grittier fantasy novels, but honestly, this one was fun. His Majesty’s Dragon is definitely one of those light, entertaining reads and Novik could definitely do a bit more in terms of in-depth-characterization, but overall I enjoyed it.
What initially intrigued me was her ‘what if?’-premise, introducing dragons and the Aerial Corps in connection with the Napoleon wars. It definitely is a fresh idea, deviating from the more traditional ideas of the Dragonriders of Pern or the Eragon series. This is where I really liked her approach of making Temeraire into a very human character who is quite different from your standard heroic and monstrous war-dragon etc.
Another thing that I liked was how Novik’s writing style does remind me a little bit of Jane Austen, especially as far as her dialog is concerned. Her characters definitely speak in style with the 19th century which makes the book and its characters so much more authentic and believable.
Despite the fact that the main character Will Laurence is quite obviously an adult, I’d definitely say that the border between adult fantasy and young adult fiction is a bit blurry here. The Temeraire series probably falls into the same category as Harry Potter et alia, being recommendable for a young adult as well as an adult audience. Right now I have the next three books, Throne of Jade, Black Powder War and Empire of Ivory sitting on my shelf to be read. His Majesty’s Dragon definitely is one of those first books that introduce you to a world and characters that only wait to be explored in further detail.