“His Majesty’s Dragon”
Author: Naomi Novik;
Narrator: Simon Vance;
Publisher: Books on Tape (2007).
I’ve had this book on my TBR list for quite a while. My husband is a big fan of the seagoing adventure books of the time period (Patrick O’Brian, C. S. Forester, etc.) and I’ve read a few myself. As a fantasy reader, I thought this would be a great combination, and I was correct. When I saw the narrator was Simon Vance, it was a no-brainer.
The story: During the Napoleonic Wars, a British warship captained by Will Laurence captures a French frigate. The frigate’s prized cargo is a dragon egg, a rare and valuable commodity. Dragons are used as a kind of air force in this alternate universe, and when they hatch, they bond with a human for life. Will becomes the unwilling partner to the young dragon, whom he names Temeraire, and they must leave the Royal Navy for training in the Aerial Corps to learn to defend England from the skies. Book 1 in the Temeraire series.
Ms. Novik is a talented writer and certainly knows the time period. The dialogue was wonderful and sounded authentic to my 21st-century ears. The women in the story were plainly ahead of their time (ahem), and although that seemed anomalous, this is fantasy, after all!
The story itself was handled very well and moved along at a fine pace until we got to the training. I felt it dragged somewhat in the middle of the book. There were quite a few characters to contend with and some didn’t have much depth, but perhaps these will be further explored in a future volume.
I would like to know more about how the characters are feeling, not just acting, and I believe this was somewhat lacking. A few points were belabored, such as that Will Laurence was honorable and cared for Temeraire, and that Temeraire was special for some reason; Those were obvious and didn’t need to be repeated and/or proven so many times, in my opinion.
Meanwhile, Simon Vance did his usual exemplary work with characterizations and accents. Coupled with the fine writing, there was never a time that I didn’t understand who was speaking or what was intended.
I am looking forward to the next book and have already procured it. I’ve also talked my husband into trying this one (in paperback, no less) and am interested in the results of his read.