How can dragons be so cute and so bloodthirsty at the same time?!?!?
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.
Ever since I read Uprooted, I have been dying to read this series. The ninth and final book just came out, so I figured it was time to start.
I loved this book. It’s the Napoleonic Wars with dragons—what could go wrong? But it ended up being so much more than bloodthirsty dragons and fight scenes.
Laurence was the perfect protagonist. He started the book as a naval captain, but then the dragon, Temeraire, chose Laurence to be his companion. Thrust into the Aerie Corps, Laurence had to not only figure out how to be a dragon captain, but unlearn his navy habits and learn new Corps ones.
Older than other captains and an accidental captain, Laurence was a permanent outsider, creating a fascinating POV for the book to be told from. His voice was simultaneously stuffy and empathetic, so if his naval prejudices were ever annoying (which they were), his clear compassion for dragons and his fellow officers made up for it. His character’s arc was nuanced but natural, and though he learned how to be a part of the Corps, he never lost his naval quirks.
While I loved Laurence, I LOVED Temeraire. He was adorable—there’s no way around it. His voice was clear from his first line. He was unabashedly himself and ridiculously loyal to Laurence. Intelligent, inquisitive, and wholly unconvinced about things like royalty, Temeraire was also an outsider in the dragon world. Also, he was freaking bloodthirsty. Like Laurence, his character created a fascinating window into the dragon world because he has one foot inside and one foot outside of it.
The rest of the characters helped round out the novel. None of them had complex characterization, but in their own ways, they added necessary personalities to the story. I especially loved the different dragons that Naomi Novik added to the story and the way they interacted with Temeraire.
The world-building in His Majesty’s Dragon found a rare balance between historical accuracy and fantastical creations. Naomi Novik created an intricate dragon culture both a national level in the Corps and an international one, with different breeds and training systems for countries across the world. Additionally, the Corps’s society was hierarchical but easy to understand.
Set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars, the book was tied closely to real historical events and details. However, Naomi Novik managed to add dragons to the story without losing the historical fiction feeling. Reading His Majesty’s Dragon honestly feels like reading historical fiction—so much so that I sometimes forgot that dragons didn’t exist in Napoleonic times (not really, but almost).
His Majesty’s Dragon started out a little slow, but after the first quarter of the novel, the pace picked up. Honestly, I didn’t mind the slow pace of the beginning because it gave me time to understand the characters and the world before the intense fighting started. Laurence and Temeraire’s training was dramatic at times, but also light-hearted, giving the book an interesting mood. However, His Majesty’s Dragon got intense, and if you’re looking for heart-pounding fight scenes, this book is perfect for you.
I would recommend this book for anyone looking for a story that straddles the line between historical fiction and fantasy. Though the characters are adults, I feel like this book would be accessible to YA fans. There is no romance, so the story is a celebration of friendship and loyalty, something every reader can connect to.