by Naomi Novik5 out of 5
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.
Captain Laurence unexpectedly finds himself partnered with a hatchling dragon. A man of duty and honour, Laurence forsakes his Naval career and standing in society, to be an aviator.
I was recommended this book by fellow author Kimberly A. Riley when I was in a bit of a reading slump.
I really enjoyed this story, an alternate history where dragons exist, and their flying units a vital part of Britain's defence against Napoleon.
But it's not really the war that drives this fantasy book, but the etiquette and social protocols that Captain Laurence adheres to. Laurence could have stepped directly out of an Austen story, and he is very fixed in his ideas of right and wrong. He has a celebrated naval career, and is used to being a Captain, and enforcing law on his ship.
This strong sense of self makes him well-meaning, but often stuffy, especially when he moves in with the aviators. These dragon-riders don't care for prejudices against class or gender, and are a very modern outfit, compared to the tight traditional rules elsewhere.
It was very interesting to see Laurence find his place amongst them, and the people he inevitably upsets. As the book continues, he loses the stick up his arse, and finds out what really matters.
And then we have Temeraire. The dragon is definitely the star of this story.
He is a fully-rounded character, and is never a sidekick, or glorified pet.
I liked how incredibly intelligent he is, whilst maintaining a certain innocence. Temeraire never shies away from voicing his opinions, not understanding duty or social protocol that humans lumber themselves with. But even when he doesn't understand something, he will still go to any length to help his Laurence.
Their friendship is really sweet, and fills a lot of the story. They become like brothers, each watching out for the other, as the war with France looms ever closer.
The book is written in a manner suited to the period, and as such it is delicate and descriptive, and can sometimes slow down the exciting scenes. But I liked it, it was a very pleasant book to read!
I can't wait to find out what happens next for Temeraire and Laurence!