What I’m Reading: His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

What the book is about:

His Majesty’s Dragon follows the story of Laurence and his new dragon, Temeraire, who he acquired as an egg when his ship captures a French frigate. The two are swept into a new world of aerial dragon combat, away from the prestige of the Navy and into the disrespected world of Aviators. At least that’s what the outside world believes. Once in this new world, Laurence discovers some of his own prejudices and beliefs turned on their heads and he must grapple with this new order of the world, which seems entirely contradictory to the world he knew before.

What I liked: 

  • Dragons, dragons galore! There are so many different breeds of dragons and instead of elusive, hidden creatures, they are paired with humans for the defense of the world! Wild dragons are unpredictable, though we never actually meet one, and so the public mistrust and discomfort around dragons is palpable and Laurence has to learn to deal with his new station in life.
  • A twist on the world we know – this is set in Earth’s own history, during the time of Napoleon, which is fantastic and whimsical in its own way. The dragons play a major role in both sides and are terrifically important.
  • The comparison of Aviator society with Naval society – they are starkly different and it takes Laurence time to get used to the change and his reaction when he once again encounters the Navy is brilliant. His once familiar home is suddenly foreign and for the first time, he sees some issues in the Navy, which he never saw before.

What I didn’t like: 

  • Not enough exposure to the outside world – I have a vague idea of history at the time, but we never really understand the true outer society in this world. We get brief glimpses, like when Laurence visits his home on his way to the dragon training grounds and is surprised by the party there, and so we see some of high society and their reaction to him.
  • The process by which Laurence ends up with Temeraire is rather predictable. I think I might have preferred to see the story unfold from the perspective of the person whose lot was chosen, but considering how much care had been taken to introduce Laurence, the dragon of course, would have always gone to him. In full transparency, I did NOT read the blurb on the back of the book, so I went into reading the book completely blind. Reading the blurb will, of course, give away that Laurence ends up with the dragon, but I didn’t know that going in and found myself slightly disappointed.

 

Overall thoughts and opinions: 

I binged this book in a day. It was a fast read (for me) and the storyline kept me interested the entire time. The start was a bit slow and slightly confusing, but once I got into it, I enjoyed the book so much. Perhaps it was simply the transition from the previous modern book I’d read that made difficult to shift into pre-industrial society mode, but eventually I did make the switch and was immersed.

The Naval and Aviator worlds are rich and diverse, full of idiosyncrasies that make the shock of the switch from one to the other understandable. I think she played this transition well; neither over nor under doing it. Laurence’s ability to be adaptable absolutely plays into the successes he experiences throughout the book, though certainly his naval tendencies get him into some pickles as well.

I found myself wanting SO MUCH to get to the next page, the next scene, the next plot point because the story was written SO brilliantly and believably. Laurence is so well-developed and everything he does fits perfectly with his personality. Same with Temeraire – I was always unsurprised by his reactions and words because it was so consistent with the character built. That is not to say that everything was predictable, because it certainly wasn’t, but it never threw me for an unexpected loop of ‘Where did THAT come from??’ I always believed their decisions and reactions.

I am absolutely going to continue reading the books in this series. The writing is delightful, the story is thoughtful and rich, and the subplots are wonderful (too many -ful words, I apologize!).

If you can at all, I highly recommend reading this book.

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