His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik
His Majesty’s Dragon is the first book in the Temeraire series by author Naomi Novik.
Will Laurence is the successful naval captain of Britain’s HMS Reliance. Laurence comes from well-to-do family, he’s patriotic to the core and he’s got his sights set on getting home to propose marriage. Little does he know that his life is about to undergo a drastic change.
The HMS Reliance has captured one of Napoleon’s French frigates and seized its cargo. Included in the cargo is an unhatched dragon egg which will hatch before they make land. In Britain and France, dragons are a valuable asset. A dragon and its handler are assigned a crew and form part of the Aerial Corps used in combat against the enemy. It is common knowledge that the dragon’s handler has to be a person that is present at its hatching, and he must be able to harness the dragon. One of Laurence’s men must be willing to give up his life at sea and go into aerial combat with the dragon. His man Carver is picked to be that person but much to Laurence’s chagrin, when the baby dragon hatches it has different ideas. The baby dragon chooses Laurence to be the one that harnesses him.
Laurence names the dragon Temeraire. When he hatches he is already very knowledgeable. He began learning the languages of those around him while he was still in the shell. Did I tell you that these dragons talk too? Temeraire in particular, takes great interest in learning as much as he can and loves nothing better than having a book read to him. Laurence is charmed by the little fellow and enjoys his company immensely. But being Temeraire’s handler means that he will have to give up his navy career and become part of the aerial corps. He also realizes that his station in life will now be much different and he won’t be able to make that marriage proposal.
With Napoleon’s forces drawing close, her Majesty’s forces rally to defend their country. The question is whether Captain Will Laurence will be defending it from the air or the sea. Can Temeraire be convinced to accept a new handler?
Captain Will Laurence is a likeable character; he’s a stand-up guy who is well-bred, young and successful, a man you would want by your side in a time of need. Temeraire is absolutely delightful. His enthusiasm for learning and everything around him is infectious. That said, this is definitely an introduction to a series of books and a lot of this book is just fleshing out the story to come. It’s a fun premise with the combination of humans and dragons set against the background of the Napoleonic Wars. I enjoyed it and I plan to continue reading. I am certain that this series has a lot more to offer.