December 7, 2011

An Embarrassing Truth: I Wish I Had a Dragon

Maybe it's the influence of all the Anne McCaffrey books I read as a pre-teen? I seriously couldn't get enough of her Pern novels. Or maybe that in most fantasy books I've read there's a special bond between dragon and rider which doesn't quite compare to anything else? Anyway, reading Naomi Novik's books make me wish I had a dragon.

Captain Will Laurence has always been a Navy man. Until the day his ship rousts a French ship, and acquires their precious cargo: an about-to-hatch dragon egg. Laurence ends up bonding with the dragon hatchling, Temeraire, and thus has to leave the Navy and join the Aerial Corps. The son of an Earl, Laurence was raised with proper Georgian respect for etiquette and rank, and is shocked by many things about the Corps. He's especially astonished by their lack of formality and the fact that women are allowed to serve among them. But his discomfort with the Corps is overshadowed by duty to England and his ever-growing bond with the intelligent Temeraire, an especially rare breed of dragon. As the series progresses, prim and proper Laurence finds himself becoming more and more of an aviator, and this sometimes puts him at odds with his high-society family and his former comrades among the Navy.

I've been hooked on the Temeraire series, although I'm suffering a wee bit of burn-out partly through book five. After a mini break though, I'm excited to continue. I think it's because I've read so many books set in the early 1800s (Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen, et al), and Novik hits the perfect right note: capturing the reaction that Polite Society would have had if it was forced to deal with wild dragons and free-spirited aviators.

I also love the nuanced way she's stuck close to true history and yet altered it slightly. The Battle of Trafalgar still happens...but with dragon assistance on each side. There are still European colonies in South America and Africa...but fewer of them, because groups such as the Inca have fought back with their own dragons and retained their cultural supremacy. It's a vivid re-imagining of world history mixed with a sweet relationship between the thoughtful, private Laurence and the brilliant, dangerous Temeraire.

Rating: varies from book to book, from 3.5 to 4.0
Should I recommend these to my grandma? Sure! They're a lot of fun.

Reading The Black Stallion books made me want a horse too. 
Have you ever wanted a creature just because of a book you've read?

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.