Temeraire by Naomi Novik – Book Review [Bane of Kings]
Bane of Kings reviews the first in the Temeraire novels, named Temeraire in the UK, and His Majesty’s Dragon in the USA. It’s published by Harper Voyager, and written by Naomi Novik. It’s also her first novel.
“Historical Fiction with Dragons. Awesome.” ~The Founding Fields
Okay, seeing as I’m in one of my lazy moods today, and I can’t be asked to come up with my own summary for the book, I’m going to borrow it from Harper Voyager, the kind folks who sent me a copy to review:
“Captain Will Laurence has been at sea since he was just twelve years old. Rising on merit to captain his own vessel, Laurence has earned himself a beautiful fiancée, society’s esteem and a golden future. But the war is not going well. It seems Britain can only wait as Napoleon plans to invade.
After a skirmish with a French ship, Laurence finds himself in charge of a rare cargo: a dragon egg bound for the Emperor himself. Dragons are much prized: properly trained, they can mount a fearsome attack from the skies. It falls to one of Laurence’s men to take the beast in hand and join the aviator’s cause, forcing him to relinquish all hope of a normal life.
But when the newly-hatched dragon decides to imprint itself on Laurence, the horrified captain’s world falls apart. Gone is his golden future: gone his social standing, and soon his beautiful fiancée, as he is consigned to be the companion and trainer of the fighting dragon, Temeraire …”
Truth be told, I’ve read very few books with dragons in. The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini, which seemed a bit too much like fantasy Star Wars for my liking, and well – aside from the odd mention in Warhammer Fantasy novels, and The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, that’s pretty much it. However, I’m a huge fan of dragons. I love ‘em, and if I had the time to read more about them, then I most certainly would.
In Temeraire, Novik manages to create a wonderful history of the dragons, and creating various breeds that are seen all over the world and I hope she can expand upon it in the following Temeraire novels, which I am eagerly looking forward to.
The characters, although pretty stereotypical, are strong and interesting ones. Laurence is of course the main protagonist, so he shares most of the screen-time with Temeraire, and as Temeraire is a new, young dragon – the author uses this as an opportunity to expand on the dragons more, informing not only Temeraire, but at the same time, the reader. Although this may have a few incidents of info-dumping, the novel makes up for that flaw in other places.
I can see why Peter Jackson, director of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy (and the upcoming The Hobbit), liked this book: “These are beautifully written novels, not only fresh, original and fast-paced, but full of wonderful characters with real heart.” I agree with him, with the exception of the fact that he believes this book to be fast paced. I found the pacing a bit off. Sometimes, yes – it would be fast paced, and indeed, we’re thrust into the action right from the get-go, but at other times the pace crawls down to the point where Novik is throwing tons of information on the reader…
Despite that though, Temeraire is an exceptionally good novel for someone’s first published attempt, and I will be picking up the next instalment in the series when I can, and I’ll probably review that as well.
Temeraire, as far as my knowledge of the Napoleonic Era goes, is pretty accurate, with the right terms being used and rather than calling the Dragon Riders, well Dragon Riders, Novik uses a term called Aviators, and organises her Dragons into the Royal Air Service, and uses experiences of negative attitudes to 20th Century RAF Air Pilots from other armed forces to tie in with this novel.
Another flaw that I felt showed in Temeraire was the fact that the final outcome, of the book, the grand final battle (I won’t spoil it for you, but if you know your history than you can probably guess which one), seems a bit rushed for my liking. Sure, the scale is big, but it just… fell short of my anticipations. It could have been an awesome ending.
More Temeraire: Temeraire, Throne of Jade, Black Powder War, Empire of Ivory, Victory of Eagles, The Tongues of Serpents.