'Temeraire' - Book Review

by Naomi Novik
HarperCollins, 330 pages

Called His Majesty's Dragon in some markets: Novik's first book.

Temeraire is set in Britain during the time of the Napoleonic wars - with the addition of dragons. Our main character is sea captain William Laurence: at the beginning of the book he and his crew capture a French boat carrying a dragon egg - and the British are in dire need of dragons. Unfortunately, it's about to hatch and they're weeks from land. Which means that when it hatches they have to find it a handler and harness it immediately if it's to be of use. Instead of accepting the chosen crew man, it picks Captain Laurence - condemning him to the unenviable life of an aviator.

The book follows his growing bond with his new dragon, their training and acclimatisation to their new life, and the battles they eventually find themselves in.

As with McCaffrey's dragons, these ones are intelligent beings in their own right, and extremely attached to their handler - but not telepathic. And the setting Novik has chosen is radically different - a re-imagined alternate-reality/fantasy 19th century Earth.

Novik writes mostly in modern English. She plays on Laurence's desire for polite company (which aviators are not), and writes the dragon as a charming character. It was a fast and very enjoyable read.

As of now, the book has spawned eight sequels (or related works, I'm not entirely sure). I enjoyed it enough that I'll check out at least the next book in the series, 'Throne of Jade.'