I'd seen Naomi Novik's books and they were always floating around on my someday TBR pile. The first one was on a "series starter" sale for the Nook so I went ahead and bought it. Like a year and a half ago. Looking for something new to read and wanting a short break from my usual YA fare, I opened it up. And got completely captivated.
So here you go - 10 (un-spoilery) things I loved about His Majesty's Dragon!
- The premise. I adored the way Novik made this almost an alternate history. It's fantasy, yes, but it's fantasy set during Napoleon's military campaigns. It's set in England (hence, His Majesty), in a very real time and place - but there are dragons! To my mind this is so much harder to do than simply creating your own world. Not only do you have to make sure you create rules for how the fantasy elements work, but you also have to do a ton of research to make sure your historical details are correct AND make sure that the fantasy elements you bring in don't feel anachronistic. And Novik does this well (at least, I think she does - I don't know a lot about this period in history so...)
- Laurence. At first I wasn't really sure how I felt about him, but I really enjoyed the way his character developed throughout the story. He's very much the protagonist (well, co-protagonist), and he has very strong moral code that sometimes gets him in trouble when he is confronted with injustice.
- Temeraire. Seriously. Can I please have a Temeraire? I love everything about his character and the way he develops. I love his intelligence and the way he's so child-like. I won't say more for fear of spoilers, but Temeraire is wonderful.
- Laurence and Temeraire together. While each of them does develop individually, so much of the story is dependent on this bond that has to form between the dragon and his or her rider. Therefore, so much of what happens to both Laurence and Temeraire is dependent on their relationship. It's a story of a friendship more than anything else.
- Levitas. He's so cute and loyal and...and you have to read it to find out more about this sweet little dragon.
- Granby. He was the character I was most surprised by and I love being surprised in a good way. I was really impressed with the way his part of the story played out.
- The Varieties of Dragons. I really liked the way that there were specific breeds of dragons, each with specific abilities. There was just enough discussion of how some of the dragons were bred in order to bring out certain aptitudes without getting too technical or dragging down the story.
- Lily and Catherine. It was a lot of fun having a certain breed that would only accept female riders and the way Novik deals with that reality in an actual historical period when a female in a military position would not have been well received is quite interesting. I'm curious to see where she takes this in future books.
- The Training and the Battles. Novik does a really good job of showing the training regimen the dragons go through as well as describing the battles the dragons take part of. It isn't easy to do a battle scene well and Novik is one of the best I've encountered among fantasy authors (so far).
- There's a Whole Series! The only reason I haven't tracked the next one down yet is because my TBR pile of books I need to read first is massive. But I really want to know what happens!