Dragons? Sign me up. Not only are there dragons, there are dragons fighting in the Napoleonic war like some sort of precursor to the RAF. It’s a fantasy book jacked up on historical accuracy. I loved it.
Title: Temeraire (Temerarie Book 1)
Author: Naomi Novik
Captain Will Laurence of the Navy gets a bit of a surprise when he boards a French frigate, only to find a dragon egg in the hold. Things get a little more complicated when it turns out the egg is due to hatch any day now, weeks from land and the British aerial corp. Things get incredibly complicated when the dragonet resolutely ignores the young officer Laurence picked to be it’s handler and picks Laurence himself instead. As he names the dragonet Temeraire, Laurence has to relinquish his title, his ship and his career to join the Aerial Corp, the British elite dragon force in their fight against Napoleon.
I love the overall idea. I love the idea that there is a dragon branch of the army, and this incredibly insular society of aviators. I also love that a very “proper” recency navy man ends up with a revolutionary dragon as his bezzie mate/dragon. I liked the characters well enough – Laurence is entertaining enough in that he is incredibly oblivious, and he has some very fixed ideas of what society should be like – then he arrives in Scotland and suddenly all the secrecy and insular society of the other aviators makes sense. He doesn’t really try to fit in, but does eventually, after getting irate at dragon abuse and working alongside actual dragons and I absolutely adore Captain Roland!
In terms of female representation, Laurence arrives to the aerial Corp fresh from a Recency-navy captain’s mindset if what is proper and what is decent and women’s place in all of this. SPOILER ALERT there us a breed of dragon that will only accept female captains. And this breed of dragon (the longwing) are often the lead dragon in a battle convoy, so their Captians are in charge of the entire section. Ergo, the women are section leaders, and some of the section leaders have children, but no expectation for marriage or anything like that. It takes sexist Laurence a while to get used to this, but then he gets annoyed that they have to keep the female captains a secret from society at large to stop all the men from swooning so I guess that makes up for it.
I am not a history aficionado by any stretch of the imagination, but I found it surprisingly easy to fit dragons into the were against Napoleon. The world building is incredible, and you can almost believe that there is actually a dragon training base in the Scottish Highlands.
I will confess that I was ambivalent towards the main human character for a good chunk of the novel, but his relationship with Temeraire was adorable, and he grew intimately more personable as the book progresses. In fact, I picked up book 2 when I was in the library the other day, and had hoped to be able to include Throne of Jade in this review also. Alas. Maybe next week.
World building is excellent, historical dragons, and women in charge so yup sign me up to the good dragon Temaraire!