His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik
Publisher: Del Rey
Published: March 2006
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.
Laurence is a Captain in the Navy when his crew defeats a French ship. To everyone’s surprise, they find and capture a dragon egg on board. When the dragon hatches, his first words are to Laurence, automatically making Laurence his handler and requiring him to transfer to the dragon aerial corps and become a combat aerialist. But nothing is as simple as that — Temeraire is a rare and unique dragon breed, making him both an asset and a target for the British corps. Laurence and Temeraire must work together with their new crew to defeat the French, or risk worse fate.
My first Novik experience was with Uprooted. A few years trickled by and I devoured Spinning Silver. Now as we wait for another similar fantasy from her, I turned to her first books: the Temeraire series, about dragons and the British aerial corps during the Napoleonic Wars. At first glance this doesn’t seem up my alley at all. I like witches and magic more than dragons in general. Especially talking dragons. Especially military fantasy. Plus I’d heard that those of us who read her standalone Eastern European fantasies first may be dismayed with her dragon series. But I took a chance—I pretended this was a wholly different Naomi Novik, with the expectations it would be nothing like Uprooted. I’m so glad I did, because I loved this!
Temeraire is funny, unique, and intelligent; Laurence a gentleman and good officer. The adventures are fun and well-paced, and the training was interspersed with moments of adorable joy (the dragons running across the beach to splash in the ocean) and sadness (mistreatment and neglect). It was so well-written, the humor subtle but fantastic, and featuring a thoroughly explored world that I wished dragons were real and this was true historical fiction.
I enjoyed this book and I have the next ready to go—and I highly suggest you give it a shot too if you were like me and read Novik’s latest work before her backlist. She’s an amazing storyteller. (Plus, gotta love the bromance!)