Book Review: His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

Posted June 29, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 4 Comments

Book Review: His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik
Genres: Science Fiction, Alternative History, Military
on March 28, 2006
Pages: 353
Format: Paperback
Source: the library

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Also by this author: Throne of Jade, Black Powder War, Empire of Ivory, Victory of Eagles, Tongues of Serpents, Crucible of Gold, Blood of Tyrants

First in the Temeraire alternate history-fantasy-military series and revolving around a partnership of dragon and man.

In 2007, His Majesty’s Dragon won the Compton Crook Award and the Locus Award for Best First Novel and was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel.

My Take

The relationship that builds between Laurence and Temeraire is so sweet, and Novik pulls in the dragon love for treasure just as sweetly. Temeraire is primarily about that relationship, and Novik tugs away at our animal-loving heartstrings using Laurence’s compassion for all living beings and Temeraire’s perspective on loyalty and love to introduce us to this alternate world.

I love it that Temeraire speaks from the start. How intelligent and curious he is. That inquiring mind of his leads to many a’many philosophical discussions, and Laurence is going to have to keep up, lol. His intelligence also means that Temeraire gets bored easily.

The concept is fascinating, and for the most part I enjoyed this. The part that irritates me is actually rather minor and has to do with Laurence’s family. That they would be so disappointed and think Laurence had failed. It’s not like Laurence has much choice. If anything, they should be lauding his honor in putting his country first. Instead, Daddy Dearest thinks he deserves to be disowned. WTF?

The stories going ’round about life with a dragon are depressing, and it only goes to show how badly the truth can be mangled. What is not mangled is the rivalry and distaste of the navy for the aviators and vice versa.

As much as Laurence loves Temeraire, it’s a hard adjustment to life as an aviator. Part of it is that rivalry, one that feeds resentment amongst the airmen and there are several who are quick to anger, to act against such an interloper as Laurence. Laurence is also accustomed to the discipline and neatness of the navy. The complete opposite of the aerial corps.

Oh, man, seems it’s not just the dragons who are bred for the corps, *she says, laughing*

I love it when Laurence takes Rankin to task — gawd, what an understatement — and forces him to be kind to his wounded dragon. It’s too bad I was crying at the time. It does provide Laurence an opportunity to do good by Mr. Hollin.

Yep, Laurence and Temeraire are going to upset a number of aerial corps customs. I particularly enjoyed Laurence and Temeraire reading together in the evenings and Temeraire and the other dragons appreciation for music. I am very much looking forward to reading what happens next in Throne of Jade.

The Story

Taking that prize, the Amitié, creates a disastrous conundrum for the crew of the Reliant, for everyone knows a baby dragon must imprint when it hatches. They’ve heard the stories. No sane man wants such a life.

And England is desperate for more fighting dragons.

The Characters

Temeraire is a Chinese Celestial dragon intended for Napoleon from the Imperial Throne. A dragon with divine wind who knows his own mind, lol.

Captain Will Laurence commands the Reliant. Edith Galman is the woman he loves. Lord and Lady Allandale are his parents, and father does not approve of his naval career. God knows what he’ll say about the Aerial Corps. Fernao is a local servant on Madeira.

The Aerial Corps makes…

…good use of dragons in combat. Captain James and Volatilus ride dispatch. Captain Portland intends for Lieutenant Dayes to take over Temeraire. Andrews. Admirals Powys and Bowden are part of Aerial Command. Lieutenant Green. Laetificat is a female Regal Copper.

Laggan, Inverness-shire is…

…the training camp to which Laurence and Temeraire are sent where Admiral Lenton, commander-in-chief of the Channel Division, is in charge and rides Obversaria, a golden Anglewing flag-dragon. Celeritas instructs the new dragons. Captain Joulson instructs in aerial signalling. The harness master is Fellowes.

Temeraire’s ground crew will include…
Hollin, a leather worker, who heads up the crew, Pratt as armorer, and Bell as leatherworker with Calloway as the gunner. More crew includes Midwingman Ezekiah Martin, Cadet Emily Roland, Andrew Morgan, and Peter Dyer, Collins, Donnell, Dunne, Challoner, Wright, Lieutenant Riggs is excitable but a good shot, Allen is about to be ensign, and Turner is the signal-ensign. The disrespectful Lieutenant John Granby is assigned as first lieutenant. Other lieutenants include Evans and Johns.

Temeraire will join…
…a team with Berkley who rides Maximus, a Regal Copper; Captain Catherine Harcourt who rides Lily, a Longwing; Immortalis, a Yellow Reaper; Messoria, another Yellow Reaper ridden by senior Captain Sutton; Dulcia is a Grey Copper; and, Nitidus, a Pascal’s Blue whose rider is Captain Warren. Captain Chenery. Peck and Midwingman Wilpoys are part of Lily’s ground crew.

Levitas is a sweet and horribly neglected Winchester; Captain Jeremy Rankin, a third son of the Earl of Kensington, is his partner. Jean-Paul Choiseul, a Frenchman who fled Napoleon’s France, rides Praecursoris. Victoriatus is a Parnassian ridden by Captain Richard Clark. Excidium is a Longwing whose rider is Captain Jane Roland (and Emily’s mother). Inlacrimas, Excursius, Fluitare, and Actionis are other dragons mentioned.

Servants include Tolly and Nan who are quite accommodating while Jenkins is reluctant and Marvell is a moaner.

The Royal Navy

Admiral Lord Gardner is a commander in the Channel. Admiral Croft commands Commendable and the ships that include Reliant. The resentful Captain Barstowe of the Shorewise was Laurence’s first posting as a lieutenant. Bedford commands the Hibernia and had served with Laurence aboard the Goliath at the Nile.

The Reliant is…
…a ship in His Majesty’s Navy. Mr. Tom Riley is the second lieutenant and Laurence’s friend. First Lieutenant Gibbs has found something odd in the hold of the Amitié. Mr. Politt is the naval surgeon. Midshipman Jonathan Carver, who’s afraid of heights; Lieutenant Fanshawe; Battersea; Mr. Rabson, the armorer; Mr. Wells, who is the third lieutenant; Giles, the steward; and, Gordon, who caught the shark, are more of the crew.

The French

Napoleon Bonaparte leads his Grand Armeé on the continent. Triumphais is a Grand Chevalier and a dangerous fighter.

The snotty Miss Montagu, Viscount Hale, and Bertram Woolvey are houseguests of Laurence’s parents. Lord and Lady Galman are Edith’s parents. Mr. Donnellson is Laurence’s banker in Edinburgh. Lord Winsdale is quite condescending.

Sir Edward Howe is an expert on dragons and is a member of the Royal Society. The various kinds of dragons include the common Yellow Reaper, three-ton Winchesters, Regal Coppers are red-gold, LongWings only accept female riders and are among the most deadly dragons, Grey Coppers are a pale greenish, Anglewings can maneuver in tight circles, Parnassians are large mid-weights, Fleur-de-Nuit, Pêcheur-Rayé, Chequered Nettle, Petit Chevalier, the middleweight Pêcheur-Couronné, and Poux-de-Ciel.

The Cover and Title

The cover has an orange woodgrain background with a black dragon, Temeraire, curled around a pocket watch that holds the image of a navy ship in full sail. The series information is at the top — thank you, Novik! — with the title in an embossed metallic gold right underneath it. The author’s name is also in white and at the bottom of the cover.

The title is a snarky comment on Temeraire having been intended as His Majesty’s Dragon.

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4 responses to “Book Review: His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

  1. Yep, you do. For a military novel, it’s so compassionate, and I absolutely adored Temeraire! I’ve got Throne of Jade on my bedside table, calling my name.

  2. This is a fabulous series and goes on developing, so that Temeraire continues having all sorts of adventures all around the world, at the same time raising some gnarly questions about equality and diversity. Thank you for your lovely, thorough review:)

    • You’re welcome, Sjhigbee! I just finished Throne of Jade, and wow! Does Laurence ever get an eyeful of dragon equality in China!! I can’t wait to read Black Powder War!

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