Captain Will Laurence is an up-and-coming naval captain who, at the opening of Naomi Novik’s His Majesty’s Dragon has just captured a French ship in one of the many naval skirmishes of the Napoleonic Wars. British naval superiority was respected around the world, so the victory was no surprise. The cargo, though, was a whole other story.
The French have a dragon egg, one that is just about to crack open. Laurence has all officers draw lots, including himself, for the dubious honor of becoming the dragon handler. It is not something these sailors would seek as dragon handlers are very much cut off from normal society. When the dragon hatches, he has no interest in the sailor who drew the bad lot and instead introduces himself to Laurence who is duty bound to become the dragon’s handler, thereby losing his ship and his naval career.
While he regrets the loss, he soon comes to love the dragon whom he named Temeraire whom he named after a famous ship. They develop a strong friendship and are soon off to learn how to fly in formation with other dragons preparing to defend England from the invading forces of Napoleon.
This is a fun, inventive alternative history, one that is rooted in the Napoleonic Wars and its great battles, but with dragons, talking dragons. What could be more delightful?
I enjoyed this book very much and will be checking out the next two volumes in the Temeraire series as soon as I can. Novik is an excellent writer of fantasy fiction. So many fantasy writers dream up this alternative world and then dump it all like an encyclopedia in long exposition. Novik trusts the reader to figure it out, letting readers learn as the characters learn. I love that. There’s some humor and lots of adventure. The focus of the story, though, is on Laurence and Temeraire’s training and their close friendship.