Review by: Glory Skyfire
I freely admit that this series is definitely not for everyone. It’s written in Regency style, so if you weren’t able to understand Jane Austen’s prose, this may be a little difficult for you to enjoy. (However, Temeraire is much easier to read.) There are heaping helpings of tactics, warfare, politics, and Regency era high society sprinkled throughout these pages. There’s a bit of swearing, mostly when the situation is really getting bad, but it isn’t every other page (more like every six or seven chapters). It’s not a little kid’s book, and does drag at some points in the later books. But after the initial setup of the first book, which is interesting in and of itself, the pace never slows.
This series is also notable for tackling societal issues of the early nineteenth century. There are several female dragon captains, because Longwings, which are a very valuable acid-spitting breed, only bond with women. Women are given equal consideration and rank within the Royal Aerial Corps; it’s noted that one of Laurence’s runners, Emily Roland, will probably be captain of her mother’s dragon one day. But it’s also noted that women are frequently looked over for other leadership positions, and when Laurence’s friend Jane Roland (Emily’s mother) is promoted to Admiral of the Air (book 5), it’s over strong objections from the Army, Navy, and Parliament. Laurence and his former second lieutenant Riley nearly get into a fistfight over the “slavery question;” Riley is for slavery, Laurence strongly against it. They meet several freed people in book four, including a missionary who gets passage on their dragon transport to Africa, which gets Riley’s back up again (he’s the captain of the transport at that point).
The main societal struggle is actually not one we had to deal with in the real world: dragon rights. As dragons vary from “two-year-old kid” intelligence to “calculate artillery trajectories in your head” intelligence, voting rights, property rights, and more are up on the table. In Britain, dragons are the property of the Royal Aerial Corps, and cannot really choose what they want to do due to their fierce loyalty to their riders (who are all in the Aerial Corps). In China, dragons are treated exactly like humans, with schooling, trading, etc., and some have status around that of the emperor himself. When Temeraire visits China, he sees a lot to improve back in England, and getting dragons rights is a significant subplot which helps to inform Temeraire’s and Laurence’s character development.
There’s Laurence, Temeraire, Riley, Granby, Choiseul, Iskierka, Tharkay, Maximus, Berkley, Lily, Harcourt, the Rolands, Volatilus, Sipho, Demane, Kulingile, Yongxing, Lien, Perscitia…
and there’s the characters borrowed from reality. Napoleon (obviously), the Duke of Wellington, Horatio Nelson, William Wilberforce, and William Bligh… and more.
I can’t describe how much I love this series. Characters? Well-developed and interesting. Plot? Incredibly original and immersive. Settings? Not the focus, but beautiful just the same. My favorite books of the series are books 1-3: His Majesty’s Dragon, Throne of Jade, and Black Powder War. DISCLAIMER: I have not read books 6-9 and am not responsible for your loving them, liking them, or *shudder* not liking them.
This review is in no way complete because of Temeraire’s size and scope. I just don’t have the ability to detail everything I like about this series. I’ve hit 1000 words in total and climbing, and I haven’t told you everything.
Just give Temeraire a try – you won’t regret it… unless you can’t stop reading and don’t get any sleep for a week in a caffeine-fueled haze of dragons.