Monday, 10 December 2012

Review: Temeraire, by Naomi Novik

Title: Temeraire
Author: Naomi Novik
Format: Paperback
Length: 342 pages
Genre: Historical Fantasy
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I have to admit that it was the cover art that drew me to this series... But seriously, ships AND dragons! Could anything be more up my street than that?

Temeraire is set in the Napoleonic War, and opens mid battle, with Captain Will Laurence and his crew taking on a French man-of-war. Once the ship is captured, they find a dragon egg inside, the prize money for which the entire crew could probably retire on. There is only one problem: the egg is about to hatch, and the Dragon will need a handler, also known as an Aviator, to take responsibility for the Dragon. So when the dragon hatches and lets Laurence harness him, he fears that he has lost all that matters to him in life; his navy career, his station in life, his fiancĂ©e, and his freedom. What he doesn't expect is to find a new lease of life as an aviator, and a friend in the form of Temeraire, the dragon. 

Laurence and Temeraire face many challenges together in this book. Dragons are vital for the war effort, and Temeraire's training starts immediately. But will they be ready for any invasion attempt that Napoleon will launch?

The friendship between Temeraire and Laurence is really sweet in the book- they have a real bromance going on, mixed with Laurence feeling almost paternal over the dragon. Its actually really touching, especially while they are still on the ship at the beginning of the story. 

The plot is interesting, and the book serves well as the introduction to a long series of books (The seventh installment was published earlier this year). Novik's ideas of how the Napoleonic Wars would have been played out differently if Dragons were added into the dynamics of battle planning were really fascinating- especially from the perspective of someone who studied the Navy in that era at university. The battles are described beautifully, and are clearly well planned and thought out. 

Laurence is the perfect embodiment of stiffness and etiquette pushed into a new situation that sees many social rules and regulations ignored. He is entirely balanced out by Temeraire, who is naive and inquisitive, and so unbelievably cute. Yes, I just called a 40 ton Dragon who fights for King and Country cute. 

The book does drag slightly in the middle, and the subplots are touching for character development but not vital to the story (and ultimately have a disappointing conclusion). But, the final 80 pages or so more than make up for the slight slowing of pace before them. Overall, a really good read, and I have already picked up the sequel, Throne of Jade.  The only real problem now is that I really want a dragon of my own. 7.5 stars.

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