His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik
- His Majesty’s Dragon
- AKA: Temeraire
- Naomi Novik
- Temeraire , #1
- Finished reading:
- 17th August, 2021 (second time)
Might contain spoilers.
I believe I read the first six books in the Temeraire series between 2011 and 2012, which must have been just as Crucible of Gold was published abroad but before it had been released in India. I was delighted to revisit the series in its completed form. It’s always wonderful to read the work of an author who can both tell a compelling story and maintain the authenticity and tone of the work throughout. I never for a moment doubted the verisimilitude of this alternative history with dragons in the Napoleonic Wars, even though it ought to entirely change everything about, well, everything. I enjoyed contrasting it with that other dragon-related series I read recently because of how differently they approach their subjects, each captivating in its own way.
His Majesty’s Dragon is a lovely beginning. Laurence isn’t interesting because of a litany of character flaws or a sordid past but rather because he’s an upright, honourable, yet very human character doing the best he can in an extraordinary situation and finding himself changed by it. Naturally, however, Temeraire is the star of the show. His combined naïveté and wisdom are instantly charming, making the moments when his immaturity peeks through all the more endearing. As an aside, I must confess it’s difficult to comprehend the size of the dragons, given how much larger it is than most stories.
The geography is all Greek to me, since I know nothing about the layout of Britain or France. Perhaps it detracts slightly from the story, but I don’t think it’s unfair to expect some familiarity with the areas on the part of the reader.
I’m keeping a keen eye on how the female characters are treated, considering the times and the setting but also the author. I’m curious to see how they will evolve. So far, Edith is dealt with fairly (Laurence feels rightly chastened by her outburst, and her logic is presented as reasonable); Captain Roland is obviously disinterested in convention and believes in telling her own story; and Captain Harcourt is more traditionally feminine in both behaviour and treatment, but hardly irrelevant or unimportant.
It’s painful to see Choiseul being executed and his dragon practically losing his will to live. Indeed, every single a time a dragon feels pain, it feels like a dagger to the heart—comparable to the barbaric way the horses are treated, but infinitely worse for dragons being intelligent, communicative, sentient beings who are simply used as weapons. I think it’s fair to say that any reader would gladly help Laurence put a period to Captain Rankin’s existence after the way he treats Levitas.
Next in series: Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik(#2 in Thoughts & Spoilers: Books: Temeraire (2006))