After the hearty meal of The Name of the Rose, His Majesty’s Dragon was the dessert that I needed. It was a rather light, fun read that I devoured in essentially one sitting.
His Majesty’s Dragon, or Temeraire in its UK printing, takes a rather unique approach to dragons in what is almost an alternative history world. Dragons are an ancient, powerful, and intelligent group of many species and breeds and humans have learned to ‘domesticate’ them. The military use of dragons is of particular importance and in the time of the Napoleonic Wars, Britain is overmatched by France’s superior Aerial Corps
Laurence is the captain of HMS Reliant and has just seized a French vessel carrying valuable cargo – a dragon egg. The crew rejoices in their prize, imagining their share of the spoils, however the captain realizes all is not so simple – the egg is about to hatch. A newly hatched dragon must bond with a human before its first feeding or it will never be tamed – Britain cannot afford to loose even one potential war dragon. The officers must draw straws to see who will forfeit their life and join the distant and queer Aerial Corp. The dragon makes its own choice, and Laurence is forced from the life he loves to the strange and demanding life of the Aerial Corp.
Laurence names the dragon after the great naval vessel, Temeraire, and discovers that Temeraire is a rare Oriental breed, unique in Europe. Laurence and Temeraire are relative outcasts as they train for war in Scotland and get thrown into the greatest aerial battle yet fought in the war.
His Majesty’s Dragon is Novik’s first effort, and a rather good first effort at that. This is not the book that will further arguments of literary speculative fiction, but it is great fun in a new wrap. Novik’s take on dragons is as refreshing as her inclusion of them in the Napoleonic Wars as she balances characterization and action well in a book that I would describe as a page-turner. The timing is a bit off, but I would call it an ideal beach book.
On my 10-point rating scale, His Majesty’s Dragon rates a 7.5 for the entertainment it provides. This book is the first in a series, and sequels Throne of Jade and Black Powder War are available, books I intend to read.