REVIEW: His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik
Dear Ms. Novik:
I resisted for about 3 weeks in buying your book. It wasn’t a romance. It featured a male protagonist. It was about war and warlike things. War scenes are hard for me to follow. Even the glowing reviews couldn’t budge me but then I saw it for sale at Fictionwise and I thought, why not.
There is a kind of glowing feeling that you get when you close the cover of a really good book. It makes you happy that you are a reader. It invigorates your love for books. It makes the grass greener, the flowers more fragrant, it . . . well, I guess you get the idea.
The plot is fairly simple: Naval captian William Laurence, a younger son of the gentry, who likes the opera and has an understanding with a gently bred young woman, captures a French frigate. On board is a dragon’s egg. Laurence immediately calculates the bounty he will recieve as a result of turning over a dragon’s egg. The ship’s surgeon informs him that the egg is hard and ready to hatch. Laurence’s hopes for a big bounty goes down the tubes. A feral dragon is not worth much. His only hope and really, his duty, is to attempt to harness the dragon before the dragon’s first meal, thereby making the dragon useful to the British army.
Lots are cast with Laurence’s name included which sets the stage for all of Laurence’s actions thereafter. Laurence always acts for duty. He always acts with honor. While this may sound insufferable, it is not. Laurence is portrayed as an honorable man who is fighting for his country. He treats everyone with honor, from the lowliest seaman to the highest Admiral but he also expects honor and respect in return and will not hesitate to take to task those who do not provide the same courtesy. It was a character show in perfect synchronization with the time period and the setting. You did a superb job of showing us the man that Laurence was in just the first chapter.
A young seaman’s name is picked from the lots but when the egg hatches, Temeraire isn’t interested in the young seaman, he is interested in Laurence. Laurence accepts his role as the dragon’s handler immediately and resigns from his position as captain. Laurence is sick hearted. He knows that as an aviator his whole life will change – and not for the better. His father will be disgusted. His love will not wait for him (nor would he expect it). He will no longer be a part of society that he enjoys so much. Aviators must devote themselves to their dragons and are relegated to the fringes of society – living together in enclaves with other dragon handlers.
Laurence soon realizes that he would rather give up his life than be separated from Temeraire. The relationship that develops between Temeraire and Laurence is one of such deep connection that I do not even care to see a romance between Laurence and some woman. If it happens, fine, but the true love story is between the man and the dragon. The depth of feeling and devotion these two exhibit is more touching than I have read in a romance in a long time. An underlying tenderness and sweetness resounds on each page. It is evident that the loss of one would be dire to the other. This was true for almost all the dragons and handlers. Your characters were multi-dimensional, including the dragons. Your alternative world was completely believable.
Another thing that I found superb was your ability to transform the reader’s experience. When I was reading your book, I was transported to that time period and every page reinforced that. Laurence and Temeraire’s dialogue was period appropriate. There was never a moment I felt was anachronistic.
Finally, I even enjoyed the fight scenes. You have a great touch with the pen and I am so joyful that this series is to be released one month after another. I am certain by the end of June, you will have cemented yourself as a bestselling author. Thanks for the story. Can’t wait for the next entry. A for you.
Man, this sounds good. Thanks for the recommendation, I added it to my Amazon wish list.
I’ve never heard of this book, but that was a great review!
WOW, Jane liked fight scenes! Whoopeee! Now you just need to watch a few good Errol Flynn movies, the final battle scenes in Return of the King and we’ll totally convert you. Perhaps even to the point of changing your bio here?
The really cool thing about this series is that the books in the trilogy are coming out a month apart. I’ve pre-ordered my future copies because the first book sold out right away.
I do have one tiny quibble. If there have been dragons in this world for ages, how could it so closely parallel ours?
In spite of that, I did like the book quite a bit. The preview of book 2 on Novik’s website is about a battle. I found the battle a bit boring, preferring character interactions. I reallly hope the other books don’t focus on battles!!
I thought that the dragons were the only “other” in Novik’s alternative history fantasy and that they were just a part of life like horses. It will be interesting to see where the series goes from China to Istanbul. I read a couple of reviews on a sci fi site when I was googling novik and the reviews stated that all books were as good, if not better than the first and that the last one, in particular, deals more with political intrigue.
I bought this one last week because of the rave reviews I was seeing on SF sites. Can’t wait to dive into it, but not sure if I’ll wait until all three are out or not.
I’m currently reading this book now. I skipped your review of Wolf Who Rules by Spencer – afraid to read it.