Three or four years ago, I heard (or read) about a series of books by Naomi Novik. Or maybe I just tripped over them in Barnes & Noble. I really don’t remember anymore, but the point is that I looked them up, and read the blurbs about them. Of course, the fabulous cover photos would catch anyone’s attention, as well as the title of His Majesty’s Dragon (published as Temeraire, in the UK). But then I found out that the story is set during the Napoleonic Wars… but in a world that includes dragons.
Well, can I just tell you, that one-line description had me at hello. I love reading about history, but fiction and non, and I love fantasy… especially where dragons are involved. So, I didn’t need to know much more, but I eventually found out all about Novik’s wonderful books, because I went out and bought the first four, right away.
The story begins with Will Laurence, captain of a ship in the British Navy, when they capture a French frigate. Onboard, they discover a dragon egg of an unknown type, and it is close to hatching. They are too far from shore to find an aviator to take care of the dragon, and it’s known that a dragon that isn’t bonded with someone at birth, well, they’ll go feral. So, they draw straws among the officers, but the newborn dragon had a mind of his own.
Named Temeraire, the young dragon and new aviator, Laurence, must leave his beloved Navy behind and go to join the Aerial Corps, which all countries have in their military, along with the Army and Navy. With most humans being terrified of dragons, the aviators and their dragons live in secluded areas, and their rules are a bit different from that of “polite society”. Some breeds of dragon will only accept a female aviator, so the female captains are a bit of a shock to Laurence. The existence of female aviators is also kept hidden from society.
If you know your history about the Napoleonic Wars, then I won’t explain any of it to you. With the existence of fighting dragons, all the battles take place in a slightly different fashion, with occasionally different results. For example, Napoleon does manage to invade England, eventually. But the author still remains as true to history as she can, and the battles are quite interesting, as you’re seeing them from the air, rather than from the ground.
The second book in the series takes our characters to China, the fourth to Africa, and the sixth to Australia. Yes, this series takes you all over the globe, but you must remember that the Wars weren’t just in one country, and at the same time, slavery was still in place, in other areas of the world. And some people were rebelling against it, or arguing for abolition. I wasn’t a big fan of Tongues of Serpents (book 6), but before that, they were all excellent. Maybe it’s because exile to Australia, contemplating treason, and having philosophical discussions about whether war is ever justified… well, it got to me, while it was mixed into the early colonial landscape of Australia. And the bunyips were just creepy, though they’re supposed to be a myth (nowadays).
I’m not going to give you huge details on books 2-6, you’ll just have to try book 1, and then go from there. I am going to tell you a little about book 7, but just another moment. If you are still wondering if this series is really interesting enough to read, then I’ll tell you that Peter Jackson has optioned them, to make into films, after he’s finished making The Hobbit. Whether you read them now or read them later, there will be dragon movies coming to theaters, a few years from now.
Crucible of Gold finds Arthur Hammond, England’s ambassador to China, spending three weeks straight on a dragon’s back (no stops, as far as I can tell), in order to reach Laurence and Temeraire. After thawing out, finding his feet, and nearly being eaten by a bunyip, Hammond finally finds Laurence. His mission is to reinstate Laurence to his former rank. Napoleon’s machinations are reaching to South America, and Temeraire and Laurence are requested to go there and defeat the French’s purpose.
Only a dragon transport can take them across the Pacific Ocean, so Captain Riley and the HMS Allegiance are recalled, along with Iskierka (the fire-breathing dragon) and Kulingile. These two add to the chaos of conflicting personalities amongst the dragons, as well as the humans. Iskierka is excitable, selfish, and frustrating (especially to Temeraire), while Kulingile has now grown bigger than his friends, though he’s very lazy and laidback, to go with it.
Shipwrecks, marooning, capture by the French, and possible marriages to an Incan queen are just the least of what’s in this story. Both dragons and humans must learn the strange customs concerning “ownership” in South America. Then, assisting the Tswana dragons from Africa to retrieve their descendants, who are now slaves, Laurence must figure out how to get them back to Africa, while screwing with Napoleon’s plans at the same time. When I reached the end of the book, I was impatient to read the next one, as it looks like the dragons may be traveling into North America next.
I hope I’ve been able to give you a small taste of what you’ve been missing out on. I know, it’s a little difficult to hear about, seven books in, but give it a chance. I thought I’d written a little about the Temeraire books, before, but I guess I only touched on them in my Anne McCaffrey post (the heart of a dragon…)! That’s what happens when you’ve been reading these books for four years, but only blogging for one.
Well, almost one year, because there are three more weeks before I’ve officially blogged for a year. And while I’m counting down to something, in LESS than five weeks, I’ll be flying home!