Temeraire by Naomi Novik
Review by Jacqui Slaney
I saw this in a bookshop and the idea sounded intriguing, dragons being used in Nelsons navy! I did not know the author, but took a chance this is the description:Captain Will Laurence has been at sea since he was just twelve years old; finding a warmer berth in Nelson's navy than any he enjoyed as the youngest, least important son of Lord Allendale. Rising on merit to captain his own vessel, Laurence has earned himself a beautiful fiancée, society's esteem and a golden future. However, the war is not going well. It seems Britain can only wait as Napoleon plans to overrun her shores. After a skirmish with a French ship, Laurence finds himself in charge of a rare cargo: a dragon egg bound for the Emperor himself. Dragons are much prized: properly trained, they can mount a fearsome attack from the skies. One of Laurence's men must take the beast in hand and join the aviators' cause, thus relinquishing all hope of a normal life. However, when the newly hatched dragon ignores the young midshipman Laurence chose as its keeper and decides to imprint itself on the horrified captain instead, Laurence's world falls apart. Gone is his golden future: gone his social standing, and soon his beautiful fiancée, as he is consigned to be the constant companion and trainer of the fighting dragon Temeraire…
As I said, the idea in this book is interesting. Novik builds a world where dragons are common and are used as an aerial threat in the Napoleonic wars. The dragon riders themselves are seen as a service apart from the others and not quite part of polite society.
In this story, Captain Lawrence has all his life planned out, but when his ship captures a French frigate and finds a dragon egg that was being sent by the Chinese to the French, these plans drastically change. The young dragon will only bond with him, so he is forced to leave everything he knows and enters a strange world of dragons and their riders. It is quite a harsh world where the dragons themselves are not understood by the riders or the service themselves and are treated like dumb animals. Its takes the friendship that grows between Lawrence and the other riders and most particularly between him and the dragon Temeraire that’s starts to change this attitude and also the fighting skills that are shown in England’s defence.
This is not a heavy read, its easy going and quite fun. There is some action and descriptions of the battles, more of which would probably have helped the story but those that are mentioned are quite vivid, but it is still an enjoyable read. I know the thought of changing this part of our history may seem a bit odd, but read it, it is different and it does work.
The descriptions of the dragons are excellent and the character of Lawrence and his dragon develop well through the story. Unfortunately, the rest of the characters are less fleshed out and could have been improved upon. I was not to sure if I would actually like Lawrence as a character but he grows on you as the story progresses.
This is clearly the first in a series and there is enough in the book despite some flaws to keep you interested enough for the second part, and I would suggest that it is definitely worth a read.
7 out 10