His Majesty’s Dragon

by

His Majesty’s Dragon

September 30, 2009 by Christine Edison

Author: Naomi Novik

Title: His Majesty’s Dragon

Genre: Historical Fantasy

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 264

Geographical Setting: Great Britain

Time Period: 19th Century, Napoleonic Wars

Series: Temeraire

Plot summary: Captain Lawrence and his crew capture a French frigate carrying a precious cargo: a dragon’s egg. Before they can bring it to land, it hatches, and the dragon chooses to bond with Lawrence as his master. (Lawrence names him Temeraire after a British warship.) Lawrence must therefore leave the Navy and become an aviator, which ruffles the feathers of his admiral, his family, and the Royal Flying Corps – but he is a man of honor and soldiers through. Lawrence and Temeraire travel to Scotland for battle training and are eventually sent to Dover to defend the English Channel against French invaders. He also begins a casual romantic relationship with one of the female pilots in the Corps.

Appeal: densely written, engrossing, authentic, detailed characterizations, intriguing secondary (characters), well drawn, character-centered, complex, plot twists, resolved ending, thought-provoking, bittersweet, detailed setting, details of seamanship and dragon air corps life, evocative, exotic, historical details, complex, elaborate, elegant, extravagant, flamboyant, ornate, polished, restrained, seemly, sophisticated, unusual.

Subject headings:

Novik, Naomi
Science Fiction – Alternative History

Alternative histories (Fiction)
Fiction / Fantasy / HistoricalFantasy – Epic
Dragons

Napoleonic Wars, 1800-1815
Ship captains
Fantasy romance

3 terms that best describe the book: Historical details, evocative, sophisticated

Three relevant nonfiction authors and similar works:

Patrick O’Brian’s Navy by Richard Neill gives a vivid picture of what life was like for British sailors of different ranks serving on tall ships during the Napoleonic Wars. This compendium is a companion to the Aubrey-Maturin series listed below, which is based on a British Naval officer serving during this time period.

Historical Dictionary of the Napoleonic Era by George F. Nafziger is a review of political, military and popular historical figures, as well as artistic movements, cultural and theological events during the Napoleonic Era, 1789-1815. Novik refers to historical events at times in the Temeraire series, particularly in regards to Napoleon and what was happening elsewhere in Europe, and this book could help fill in gaps for readers eager to learn more about the period.

The Dragon in China and Japan by Marinus Willem de Visser explores numerous stories of dragons in Chinese and Japanese culture in this revised text with a new introduction by cryptozoologist Loren Coleman. Temeraire the dragon’s background in China is discussed in His Majesty’s Dragon (with more to follow in the second book, Throne of Jade), and the dragon receives a book of stories about Asian dragons during the course of the story, which he asks Captain Lawrence to read to him again and again.

Three Fiction Titles:

The Hornblower saga by C.S. Forester, The Ramage series by Dudley Pope, and The Aubrey Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian are all well-known action-adventure series set on the high seas in British tall ships during the Napoleonic era. The Temeraire series features battle scenes as well as shipboard life scenes much like those seen in these books.

Persuasion by Jane Austen includes many discussions of the British Navy and shows the women’s side of life at this time. Naval officers are featured as characters, and there are discussions as to what a woman’s proper place is when he husband is to go to sea, a theme taken up in the Temeraire series, where women are part of the Air Corps.

The Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey features humans riding fire-breathing dragons to burn away threads that would otherwise kill off all life on the planet of Pern. Scenes of humans tending their dragon charges and bonding with them are much like what happens in His Majesty’s Dragon.

Annotation By: Christine Edison

Tags: densely written, engrossing, detailed characterizations, intriguing secondary (characters), well drawn, character-centered, complex, plot twists, resolved ending, thought-provoking, bittersweet, detailed setting, details of seamanship and dragon air corps life, evocative, exotic, historical details, complex, elaborate, elegant, extravagant, flamboyant, ornate, polished, restrained, seemly, sophisticated, unusual.

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