Temeraire by Naomi Novik (pt. 1 of 2)

temeraire-series

Review by: Glory Skyfire

This is a book series after my own heart (so far, I’ve read through book six of nine).

The Napoleonic Wars… WITH DRAGONS. What more could I ever want?

The main character, Captain Will Laurence, is a quintessential British gentleman: loyal, polite, smart, honorable, and devoted to his duty. At the beginning of the series, that duty is the captaincy of HMS Reliant, on patrol in the winter of 1804. Circumstances change, however, when the Reliant encounters an enemy French vessel.

Its cargo turns out to be a dragon egg, very close to hatching. Allowing the dragon to run away and turn feral is impossible because Britain desperately needs dragons for its air force. When the dragon refuses to choose a rider from among the crew, Laurence steps up and becomes the captain and rider of the dragon Temeraire.

Once he reaches land, Laurence and Temeraire are sent off to the dragon covert where they will learn to fight and fly as a team with other dragons, and with a human crew. Napoleon and his dragons are battering at the English navy, and every dragon is needed, especially Temeraire.

Temeraire is my favorite literary dragon. That’s saying a lot for me. I read about Ramoth, Saphira, Smaug, and Seraphina and loved them all.

One of the main differentiating factors is that Temeraire has a very unique perspective on the world. It’s not exactly what you would expect from a dragon, but it’s truly memorable. He’s very impulsive and doesn’t think through the consequences of his actions, but he’s actually a good leader and tries to be a good companion to Laurence. He’s quite as intelligent as the average human, but has very different priorities, including treasure, fighting, and his captain. Temeraire also has some character flaws. He realizes what some of his flaws are and his character changes and grows throughout the series due to that… with a lot of prompting from Laurence.

This series is set in an alternate history that is quite changed by the existence of dragons. Nations that were colonized in this timeline (e.g. South America and most of Africa) were able to easily fend off the colonizers with the aid of dragons. The United States does exist, and the Revolutionary War did happen, but much fairer and more amicable relations between the Native Americans and the Europeans seem to be normal, and the President of the United States in 1812 is Tecumseh. China is a world power due to their sheer number of dragons, and Africa is an incredibly dangerous place for Westerners, again due to the dragons.

In book one, His Majesty’s Dragon, described above, Napoleon attempts to invade England with his air force of dragons. In book two, Throne of Jade, the characters visit China due to an interesting set of circumstances, then Mongolia, Turkey and up through Eastern Europe (Black Powder War), Africa (Empire of Ivory), back to England again (Victory of Eagles) and then finally to Australia (Tongues of Serpents). I don’t know for sure where Temeraire and his captain go in Crucible of Gold, Blood of Tyrants or League of Dragons, because I haven’t read them. And I won’t divulge any further plot details to you, because I’m mean and/or I just want you to read the series.

Part 2 of this review is coming soon.

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