This New York Times-bestselling series blurs the lines between historical fiction and fantasy to relate the captivating tale of a dragon named Temeraire.
Set in the early 1800s at the peak of the Napoleonic Wars, Naomi Novik’s debut novel, His Majesty’s Dragon, is a wonderful, original blend of historical fiction and fantasy. The story follows the fortunes of Captain William Laurence, an officer in His Majesty’s navy, and his dragon, Temeraire.
The novel begins as Laurence’s carefully planned world is rocked after his ship defeats a French frigate warship carrying precious cargo: a dragon egg. In Novik’s world, dragons—though rare—exist in harmony with mankind. When they hatch, dragons are fluent in whatever language is spoken outside their egg. They are so large and powerful that they are used as living aircrafts, patrolling the skies and attacking enemy ships.
In this reality, dragons form a deep emotional attachment to their human partner, the person the dragon chooses when they are first hatched. Dragons are also exceptionally long-lived (and high-maintenance). The dragon’s chosen person will have to forgo any semblance of normal life: The dragon will always come first. For Laurence, who is perfectly content with his life at sea, this poses an unexpected conundrum. When the egg hatches and the infant dragon chooses him, Laurence suddenly finds himself bound to the dragon, whom he names Temeraire. All future plans of naval promotions and marriage must abruptly be set aside.
One of the most beautiful parts of this book is that, to Laurence’s surprise, devotion is a two-way street.
He quickly becomes besotted with Temeraire. Their relationship is a warm, engaging mix of the love one feels for a cherished pet crossed with the responsibility one feels for a wise, precocious child (assuming that child was larger than a school bus and could fly with 30 men onboard). Laurence’s tenderness with Temeraire is all the more impactful given how reserved and composed he is with others.
Laurence and Temeraire begin their training with the secretive Aerial Corps. Soon they find themselves on the front lines protecting their homeland from Napoleon and his dragons. Their adventures are engrossing and heart-warming and, fortunately for us, the first of a nine-part series.
Tammar Stein is the author of several novels for young adults and children. Her latest is Beni’s War, coming in 2020.
His Majesty’s Dragon has a slow start. A dragon is featured on the cover, but for the first few chapters, the story revolves around an egg. Once Temeraire hatches, however, things start to get more interesting.
After getting to know Laurence (the very bemused main character), Temeraire begins to act like a dog, nuzzling him and curling up around him. Throughout the book, Temeraire acts like a dog in many ways. And having a dog of my own, I really enjoyed that similarity.
One thing that surprised me about His Majesty’s Dragon was that I had to go back and re-read a sentence or two. Since the story takes place a few centuries ago, the book is written in formal English. Because of that, sometimes it can be hard to comprehend what is going on. Most of the time, however, everything is pretty easy to understand. Readers should just be ready to look up some words they do not understand.
The storyline progresses throughout the book and becomes very action-packed and fun to read towards the end.
The book takes place in the late 1700s through the early 1800s. During the story, Napoleon tries to invade England. This invasion is much more interesting than a normal invasion, however, because it includes dragons who can spit acid and breathe fire.
Overall, I would give this book a nine out of 10 rating and I would especially recommend it to readers who enjoy fantasy books like The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter.
Tovar Stein is a freshman at the Singapore American School in Singapore.