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Review Revisited: Naomi Novik – His Majesty’s Dragon

April 30, 2009

Re-read. His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik (2006)
Temeraire, Book 1

Length: 356 pages

Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fiction hybrid

Another one in the very sporadic series where I re-read books for which I’ve already written reviews, and see if I still agree with myself. In this case, I read the book originally in May 2007. Since then, I’d acquired the next three books in the series… and completely forgotten what happened in the first one. Something to do with dragons, I remembered that much. :)

Started: 20 May 2007 / 20 April 2009
Finished: 23 May 2007 / 23 April 2009

Verdict? Loved it as much as I did the first time.

Like bacon and cheese,
everything’s better if you
add in some dragons.

Summary: It’s the Napoleonic War, and Captain Will Laurence’s ship has just taken a French frigate as a prize, only to find out that it’s carrying an about-to-hatch dragon egg. Britain’s aerial corps are constantly in need of more dragons to defend their ships and their lands against the French. Dragons bond to their handler almost immediately upon hatching, and Laurence is horrified when the dragonlet chooses him – it will mean leaving his career, disappointing his family, and removing himself from society in order to join the Aerial Corps. However, what he doesn’t expect is the bond that he comes to form with Temeraire… who turns out to be much more than the average dragon.

Original Review: I enjoyed the heck out of this book. It was light, not fluffy light, but light-hearted, easy to read, and utterly charming. I enjoyed it from word one, and fell in love about the time that Laurence and Temeraire meet another dragon for the first time (“Cows!”). It’s a wonderful blend of historical fiction and fantasy; easier to read than Patrick O’Brian and better-written (by far) than Eragon. The military action does come late in the book, but the bonding and training of Laurence and Temeraire is really what this book is about; the aerial battle just sends it out with a bang. Interesting alternate history, lovable characters, a very enjoyable read – I spent most of this book with a smile on my face. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Thoughts on a Re-Read: I still agree with everything I said the first time around: Thoroughly, charmingly enjoyable. I am a big ol’ sucker for boys on boats, so I’m generally predisposed to anything set in the Age of Sail – throw in dragons and I’m pretty well hooked. On the other hand, I am categorically terrible at envisioning battle scenes – which can be a drawback if you read as much fantasy as I do – but Novik does such a good job with the descriptions that I can understand the broad sweeps of what’s going on, even if I still can’t always remember which dragon is which, and who’s where. There is more military action than I remembered the first time around, but the best parts of the book are not when they’re fighting.

On re-reading it, I noticed a lot of things that I hadn’t caught the first time (or had caught, but had forgotten about in the intervening two years.) There are a lot of subtle jabs at the strictures and sexism of conventional early nineteenth-century society; I particularly enjoyed Laurence’s discomfiture at the notion that there should be female captains in the Corps. He’s not a particularly deep character – thus far, he’s pretty much an upright officer and gentleman – but he’s so darn affable that he makes an excellent hero. But, of course, the show-stealer is Temeraire… there are so many moments between the two of them that just steal my heart and make me smile. As I said the first time.

Recommendation: If there are any fantasy fans out there (who even vaguely like period piece books or movies) who haven’t read this one yet, for shame! It really is a lot easier to read than you might expect, and you’re missing one of the best dragons I’ve ever met. For historical fiction fans who are generally leery of fantasy, give this one a try… I bet you’d be surprised how seamlessly dragons fit into the Napoleonic wars – and how much you miss them when they’re not there.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Links: Naomi Novik’s website

Other Reviews: Book Nut, Dear Author (1), Dear Author (2), The Written World, Deliciously Clean Reads, Fantasy & Sci-Fi Lovin’ Book Reviews, Fiddle-de-dee’s Not English, Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog, Gamila’s Review, The Wertzone, Adventures in Reading, Confessions of a Bibliovore, Neth Space, Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, Sandstorm Reviews
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: The deck of the French ship was slippery with blood, heaving in the choppy sea; a stroke might as easily bring down the man making it as the intended target.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. April 30, 2009 2:52 am

    It feels to me as if it’s time to check this series out. I’m a sucker for anything dragonish and it sounds like great fun!

  2. April 30, 2009 5:17 am

    Love this one too! Who knew that dragons could fit in so well? =) This one’s perfect for someone who likes both historical fiction and fantasy.

  3. edifanob permalink
    April 30, 2009 7:07 am

    This book didn’t work for me! I found it boring and exhausting.
    Flat characters and a linear story.

    We are all human beings and fortunately we have different tastes.

  4. April 30, 2009 8:01 am

    It’s wonderful when you can re-visit a book and enjoy it as much the second time around. I’ve never been one to re-read much, but I do have a couple of old favorites that I visit from time to time.

  5. April 30, 2009 2:38 pm

    I’ve only read the first one in this series, and after reading your revisit review, I really need to get moving! Thanks for the reminder. :-)

  6. April 30, 2009 3:30 pm

    Peta – Oh, I bet you’ll love it. Temeraire is such a great dragon!

    Meghan – I think this was the first (or among the first) fantasy/historical fiction hybrid that I read, and I feel completely in love with the genre.

    edifanob – I can see where you’re coming from with the flat characters and linear story complaints, but it really didn’t bother me… I’ve got other places I can go for complexly twisty narratives, and I was just thoroughly charmed by this book. Ah, well, as you say, to each their own.

    bermudaonion – I have multiple re-reads that I go back to over and over again (and those I don’t really ever review), but this was more a case of re-reading so I can remember what happened before I read the sequels. Darn faulty memory!

    Darla – You and me both! They’ve been sitting all pretty on my shelf for at least a year, taunting me with their unread-ness.

  7. April 30, 2009 5:22 pm

    I loved your review because it reminds me of how much I loved reading this book, and the next two. The latest one was a disappointment, but that’s partly because my expectations were sky-high. Did you know that Peter Jackson is slated to direct the movie?

  8. April 30, 2009 10:30 pm

    Oh, Temeraire! He’s certainly my favourite dragon. I love his blend of naivety and wisdom. He’s a delightful character. I reread this a while back, and I’ve been meaning to reread the rest of the series ever since. Durned TBR, getting in the way!

  9. May 1, 2009 9:24 am

    OH, I loved this when I read it for the first time. Now I really want to go back and read it again!

  10. May 2, 2009 12:11 am

    “Like bacon and cheese,
    everything’s better if you
    add in some dragons.”

    Lol. Isn’t that the truth?! I haven’t read these yet but I’m seriously thinking about it now :)

  11. May 2, 2009 9:26 pm

    I am glad this book stood up to a reread! I was going to say I think I reviewed it, but then I noticed my name on the ‘other reviews’ line. :)

  12. May 3, 2009 5:32 am

    Okay, I have an e-book version of this waiting to be read, and after your review I’ll REALLY have to stop putting it off.

  13. May 3, 2009 9:02 am

    Jeanne – I’d heard that Peter Jackson optioned the rights to it – Do you know if it’s actually in production?

    Memory – Boy howdy, do I know that feeling. I’m still a little boggled as to how I managed to accumulate but never read the sequels, seeing how much I liked this one.

    Elizabeth – It’s still great the second time around!

    Ladytink – There are few things in life which cannot be improved with either bacon, cheese, or fresh raspberries.

    Kailana – Score one for the Book Blogs Search!

    Nymeth – Definitely! It’s fast, fun, and I bet you’ll love it.

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