Review: His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

Book: His Majesty’s Dragon

Author: Naomi Novik

Pages: 374

Source: Owned

Publisher: Random House

Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fantasy, Dragons

Publication Date: January 3, 2006

Goodreads Summary:

Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors ride mighty fighting dragons, bred for size or speed. When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes the precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Captain Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future – and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.

My Review:

My sisters have been begging me to read this book for years, and I finally decided to give it a try.  I have been sleeping on this book!  I almost couldn’t put it down.  The only thing that kept me from reading this in one sitting was that I was reading four books at once.  I don’t know why, but sometimes being told a book is amazing can deter me from reading it.  It makes no sense, but I finally finished this one!  I’m glad I did.

His Majesty’s Dragon is a historical fantasy taking place mostly in Great Britain during the Napoleonic Wars.  In this era when wars were fought with rifles, frigates, and cannon fire, Naomi Novik has crafted a story with a mythical twist.  In addition to the traditional tools of war, the countries in the conflict also have aerial corps made up of dragons, their handlers, and crews.  This leads to some exciting and dangerous encounters throughout the story which I really enjoyed.

The main character is a Royal Navy Captain named William Laurence.  His ship, the Reliant, overtakes and boards an enemy French vessel just off the coast of Africa.  Laurence is surprised by how hard the crew fought once he sees the conditions they’ve been living in on board – little food or water, and most of the men were malnourished.  That is until he discovers the reason for their fervor in the hold of the ship.  It’s there he finds a dragon egg, and after consulting his ship’s expert on such things, Laurence also learns the egg is close to hatching.

It is important to note that dragons in this world can go feral.  This can happen when a newly hatched dragon isn’t presented with a suitable person to be its partner and handler.  This renders the dragon useless for combat purposes, and these dragons are often only used for breeding at that point.  Britain is in need of every combat dragon it can get to fight the French, so Laurence feels it’s his duty to have every man on board his ship draw lots to see who will try to put this new dragon into harness once it hatches. 

Unfortunately, even though Laurence’s name isn’t the one drawn, the newly hatched dragon only has eyes for him.  Thus, Laurence’s time with the Navy abruptly ends.  He finds himself uprooted in the middle of his Naval career and is whisked off with the newly named Temeraire to be trained in the Royal Aerial Corp in Scotland.  Laurence and Temeraire quickly develop a deep bond of partnership, and they both learn as quickly as they can to help in the British fight against Napoleon.

First of all, I absolutely adored this book.  I can’t believe I waited so long to read it.  The characters were all very well developed (even the one I absolutely hated by the end), and the world felt so real.  It was interesting that the dragons all had their own personalities just as people do, but it was a nice twist that this knowledge is largely only known to those in the aerial corps. 

Speaking of characters, Laurence is not a perfect man.  He has a tendency towards temper, and he takes his duty very seriously.  This sometimes makes him seem harsh or cold to the less mannered people of the aerial corps.  It takes him a while to earn their respect and friendship.  His dedication to Temeraire’s comfort and quality of life soon takes care of that for him, though.

Temeraire is the perfect partner for Laurence.  He is insatiably curious and very intelligent for a dragon, or for a human for that matter.  Laurence spends a lot of free time reading to Temeraire which has helped the dragon become just as much a part of the strategists of the corps as any other member.  Temeraire is also desperate to prove himself to the other dragons. He is obviously a different breed from those normally found in Britain, and this causes him to be self-conscious for a while.

Despite them both having some setbacks, Laurence and Temeraire manage to become instrumental in repelling the French time and time again.  They work together with their crews and fellow dragons and corps members to overcome many obstacles.  Their friendship was a beautiful theme throughout the book, and it made another character’s callousness towards his dragon that much more infuriating to me. 

His Majesty’s Dragon is definitely worth a read for anyone who enjoys historical fantasy.  Don’t let the fact that the story takes place during a war and amongst military ranks deter you from reading this book!  By the end, this book almost had me crying over a mythical creature, and the relationships are beautiful to read about.  The different dragon personalities and breeds and abilities were so interesting, and I can’t wait to continue this series.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I gave His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik five out of five stars.  I practically devoured this book whenever I could, and it should be a staple in everyone’s fantasy collection.  Laurence and Temeraire’s personalities, relationships, and dedication to the cause were so much fun to read about.  Like any good story, not everything that happened was happy or perfect, but that’s life.  It just added to the story’s realism in a wonderful way.  I will definitely be continuing this series.

Have you read His Majesty’s Dragon?  What about any other books by Naomi Novik? Let me know in the comments!

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