This is the first book in the Temeraire series and it is also Novik’s first novel. The book starts off with Captain Laurence taking a French a ship; it is the Napoleonic Wars and so Britain and France are fighting. In the French ship they find a dragon egg- a great prize as dragons are rare and are used in aerial combat in times of warfare. However a problem arises when the egg starts to hatch while they are still at sea. Dragons must be ‘harnessed’ by the person who will become their commander soon after they hatch or else they will fly off and become ‘rogue’ or wild dragons which is now rare. The baby dragon takes a liking to Laurence and he is forced to harness it; he has to give up his life in the navy and join the aerial corps- the military group that trains both dragons and humans for aerial combat. However Laurence and the dragon (now called Temeraire) ‘s training is cut short when word reaches them that Napoleon is planning an aerial invasion of Britain. Laurence and the rest of the aerial corps must defeat the French or the war could vary well be lost.
There are so many great things that I like about this book. The fantasy is very light; besides the existence of dragons the world is exactly the same as it was during the Napoleonic wars. Novik sticks to the actual events of the war well. It’s a very easy read and the action is fast-paced. Laurence is a believable and easy to like character and I was eager to find out how he would adjust to the new circumstances that he found himself in.
Of course, the beast part of the book is the dragons. Dragons are capable of talking and they all have their own personality. There are a variety of breeds of dragons, each with their own distinct characteristics. Some can spit acid or venom. A select few can breathe fire. The dragons are different sizes and colors depending on the breed. Some are bred for speed and swiftness while others are bred for brute strength. But by breeding for certain characteristics sometimes intelligence is lost. But this is not the case of Temeraire; a Chinese breed of dragon, he is incredibly smart. He is too big to turn the pages of books so Laurence begins to read to him every night, something that they both enjoy. He is very curious and he has a bit of an independent streak. If he doesn’t understand why he is being asked to do something he wont do it. That being said he is very gentle and kind and he and Laurence’s relationship is one of equals.
Dragons aside there were a few things that I did not like about the book. I did not really buy into the romantic aspect of the book. Fortunately, it made up such a small part of the novel that it was not big problem for me. In comparison to other parts of the military and society in general the aerial corps are informal and more direct. That’s fine and all but I did get annoyed that she would stress this over and over again for no reason. I understand that they are more friendly and informal, I don’t need to be told so every few pages! The only other thing that I wished had been different was the battle at the end: I wished that it had been longer because I was really enjoying it and I wanted it to last longer! But these things were all small annoyances and didn’t drastically alter my opinion of the book.
This book is fun, has plenty of action, and is really entertaining. There are five other books in the series so far. Their titles’ are, in order: Throne of Jade, Black Powder War, Empire of Ivy, Victory of Eagles, and Tongues of Serpents.
I am definitely planning on continuing this series. I only own the first book but I think that will be remedied in the not so distant future