His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik
Published: March 28th 2006 by Del Rey
Format/Source: Paperback Review Copy from Goodreads’ giveaways
Genre: Alternate History/Fantasy
Pages: 353 pages
Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors ride mighty fighting dragons, bred for size or speed. When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes the precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Captain Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future – and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature.
Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.
Dragons could very well be listed as my favorite animal. It’s becoming clearer to me that if a book has dragons in it, I will generally love it. Particularly if the dragons are funny and emotional creatures that you can bond and talk with like you always wish and perhaps achieve with your other pets (but really, dogs).
This was a book that I had to get over the outrageous premise first before really settling into enjoying the story. I mean, it’s a book about dragons in the Napoleonic Wars…WTF right?! I haven’t read too many alternative history books either so perhaps I had a larger mental hurdle to leap than others. It was a premise that even as I was fangirling about it for the short time it took me devour the story, I felt I had to frame my discussion of the book with, “I know it’s super nerdy, but…” I don’t really care if someone thinks I’m a nerd and thinks that it’s weird. Whatever. I own it. But when I was describing the book, I couldn’t help but feel particularly aware of how nerdy it sounded.
Typically when I finish one book and immediately delve into a new one, I have a bit of a transition period where I have to get used to the new author’s voice and writing style. Usually by the second chapter I’ve adjusted. With His Majesty’s Dragon, I didn’t need any transition time. I personally didn’t have any trouble with the writing style, though I have read that some people thought it was written in a “I-want-to-be-Jane-Austen” style, which I really don’t see. If anything, perhaps the fact the author is American writing British-isms is strange, but nothing stood out to me as being too artificial.
I don’t have to guess why I won this book from Goodreads. I have been undertaking the task of reading Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series (and the ones written by her son) for a few years now (though I’ve taken a somewhat extended break from them). There are a several initial similarities between His Majesty’s Dragon and the dragons of Pern:
- You can ride the dragons.
- The dragons serve human’s needs for survival to different extents.
- The dragons connect with one human in particular, again to varying degrees.
- There’s a hierarchy between the different types of dragons.
- It’s important to be near the dragon egg at its hatching.
- Dragonriders and those of the Aerial Corps live in a culture outside of the mainstream and live geographically separate from the main populations.
- Part of that different culture is that women are more equal in the dragon-lovers-society than in mainstream society.
While I know there are plenty of people who would lament the lack of originality at this point, let me remind them that these are not dragons on some planet in space, fighting ravenous microscopic entities capable of destroying almost everything on a planet. In His Majesty’s Dragon, they instead are dragons that are owned by different countries, serving as basically B52s. They have riflemen shooting at the enemies from the sides of a dragon, other people dropping bombs from the dragon’s undercarriage, and swordfights atop their backs. To me, that’s freaking exciting.
Sure, it’s not the deepest of books. But you know what, I don’t care. I loved it and am a little upset (but pleased) that I now have another series with lots of books in it to get into. (When will the chain effect end?!) I give props to Goodreads’ algorithms—another Del Rey book that hits the mark for me and has received an honest review.
My rating: 5/5