His Majesty’s Dragon – A Good Ole English Time

I have finally gotten around to reading one of the most popular fantasy series from the last decade, Temeraire, by Naomi Novik. The nine book series starts with His Majesty’s Dragon, and has just concluded last year with its final installment. The series is a historical fiction set in the Napoleonic Wars, with almost everything the same except that everyone has dragons. This book has been on my to do list for a long time and I was excited to see if it lived up to the hype.

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Our protagonist is a man named Laurence, former captain of His Majesty’s Navy, who gets unfortunately coerced into the aerial corps. Laurence, and the ship under his command, open the book by capturing a French vessel that contains a dragon egg about to hatch. Due to the value and importance of dragons to the war against France, the officers of the ship decide they need to have someone try and imprint with the dragon as it hatches to recruit it for England’s forces. Unsurprisingly, the dragon (Temeraire) imprints on Laurence.

The rest of the book follows Laurence as he transitions from his life as a naval man to the air force and begins his training with Temeraire. Novik does a great job of showing the life of a dragon rider, and the training of Temeraire had me captivated from the moment that they set down at boot camp. The dragon corps and its effect on England’s wartime strategies are very well fleshed out and integrated into the history of the Napoleonic wars. That being said, while Novik did a great job showing how dragons have impacted the current era wars of England, there was little to no indication of how the advent of war dragons affected the course of human history. It felt as though they had just showed up right before the start of this book and the rest of history stayed pretty much the same. However, this is an instance where I am hoping that the historical effects of dragons is explored in the later sequels.

In terms of characters, we kind of get a mixed boat. I was a big fan of Temeraire. The dragons have a lot of personality, and watching Temeraire explore the world and learn things was incredibly endearing. On the other hand, Laurence is a bit of a wet noodle. He is the most stereotypical English character I have ever read, whose idea of a good time is queuing in a line. While Laurence doesn’t really detract from the story, another reviewer I saw put it best when she said “we could have had Jack Sparrow, but instead we got James Norrington”. Moving past our leads, I found the support cast very strong. Laurence spends a good part of the book recruiting a crew for Temeraire, and I found his underlings and fellow dragon captains a lot of fun.

Overall, the book was fun but slightly on the dull side. The final conflict of book is a bit of a let down, but the build up and the reveals are exciting. I will definitely be continuing the series, as I suspect that it is a bad idea to judge the series from just its first installment. Overall if you like dragons, historical fiction, or queuing in lines than this will be a great book for you.

Rating: His Majesty’s Dragon – 7.5/10

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Uprooted – Just Go Read It Already

22544764Today I am doing a micro review, but know that I am doing it for your own good. Many of you have probably heard of Uprooted, by Naomi Novik, as it made a ridiculous number of “top book lists” last year; usually at the #1 spot. There is a good reason for this, it is a great book. However, Uprooted is one of those many things in life that it is best to go into knowing as little as possible. The less you know the more you will enjoy the journey the book takes you on, and it is a worthwhile adventure.

What I will tell you is that the story begins in a classic fairy tale setting with a village girl who has nothing special about her. She is given up as a tribute to the dragon who is lord over the village in exchange for protection and the book follows her life as it is completely uprooted. The book’s plot is clever and surprising (hence the need for the hush hush) and there are a lot of subtle things going on. For better and worse, the characters are very unique and memorable and stand out from traditional fantasy archetypes. On top of this, the magic is incredible. The magic of the book feels alive or real in a way I haven’t felt since I was a child reading Harry Potter, and that is truly saying something. I found myself attempting to cast spells in my mind as I read Uprooted and it was a transportive experience.

The one flaw I found with Uprooted was that pacing could at times be a bit jarring; jumping from long stretches of meandering to intense action with little warning. Other than that Uprooted is a stand out book that everyone should read; especially as it is fairly short and a standalone. Naomi Novik has made something truly magical in this book. While I am likely preaching to the choir as I seem to be the last person to get around to reading it, if you haven’t picked up and read Uprooted yet The Quill to Live recommends you do so.

Rating: Uprooted – 9.0/10