Monthly Spotlight: Naomi Novik’s Temeraire

23 May

One day I will get around to the next spotlight on my planned list, I swear. But last week I picked up the first Temeraire novel and he is the most adorable dragon ever and everyone needs to read these books immediately.

Captain Will Laurence is serving in the Navy during the Napoleonic War when his ship defeats and captures a French vessel that has a dragon egg on board. When it hatches the baby dragon will only accept a harness and a name from him, so he has to leave the Navy to join the Aviation Corps as a dragon rider. For some reason he’s initially not very happy about this, but the dragon – who he names Temeraire after a famous ship – wins him over through sheer cuteness, more or less. Temeraire is very intelligent, and he is incredibly curious about everything, very enthusiastic, and sweetly attached to his rider.

All I knew about these books going in was ‘Napoleonic War with dragons’. Nobody told me how goddamn cute said dragons were. Inevitably for a Fantasyland-esque protagonist there’s a degree of Sueishness – Temeraire is not only a rare breed but the rarest of the rare with all the special things ever, and Laurence easily sees and solves all sorts of problems none of the veteran aviators do – but I don’t care, because dragons.

Novik is a great author with a good eye for detail, and she’s managed to balance the addition of dragons to the war. There are still ships and cannon and everything else, and it all makes sense together; not everything is explained but there aren’t any obvious holes. The rider training is handled more sensibly than a lot of books do it and there’s a decent variety of characters, human and dragon. The dragons feel convincing as well; they’re not just big scaly humans, they don’t necessarily share their riders’ views or values, and there are a lot of different breeds with different abilities and levels of intelligence. Most of them don’t breathe fire but have a nice variety of other skills.

The combat is pretty epic too. Hard not to be excited by fighting taking place on dragonback.

I’ve currently binged my way through the first three and a bit books – there are nine in total. It’s going some very interesting places. Laurence and Temeraire haven’t spent all that much time actually dealing with the war; they’ve been travelling, dealing with various diplomatic issues arising from Temeraire being a Chinese dragon, gifted to France, who was never meant to end up in England, and they’ve seen a lot of other cultures and how they treat their dragons. Abolition is being debated in human society at the time and Temeraire’s getting very interested in the question of dragon rights. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes because I don’t think it’s going to be the predictable and unrealistic fairytale solution that most series would throw out.

Why can’t someone adapt awesome stuff like this for TV instead of producing utter garbage? I saw the trailer for the upcoming His Dark Materials show recently. They’ve clearly rushed to do it on a very, very small budget and it looks awful. Given the great source material it’s surprising nobody’s managed to do anything half decent; this may be the worst attempt yet. And we’re not even going to talk about Game of Thrones. Though I can’t complain too much, Good Omens is coming out at the end of this month and looks amazing.


Posted by on May 23, 2019 in loten


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5 responses to “Monthly Spotlight: Naomi Novik’s Temeraire

  1. excessivelyperky

    May 23, 2019 at 5:04 pm

    I enjoyed this series for a while, but then it became clear we were getting the Temeraire World Tour. They finally wound up, and I was happy, but it was more relief than excitement, at least for me.

  2. liminal fruitbat

    May 24, 2019 at 8:34 am

    I love this series so much; especially when geopolitics start going intensely off the historical rails. It turns out colonialism is a little more difficult when nearly every indigenous people has access to an air force of dragons.

  3. CurlyQ

    June 1, 2019 at 7:21 am

    I also loved this series until about book 4 or 5. I was reading them as they were released and they felt a bit like they would never end. I didn’t think any of the subsequent books were anywhere near as good as the first. It was a while ago because I remember reading them as actual paper books, which I just don’t do any more. I just checked and it looks like Victory of Eagles in 2008 was the last one I read. Maybe I’ll go back and start from the beginning since it has a defined end now.

  4. Sam

    June 6, 2019 at 6:51 pm

    Temeraire! I haven’t thought about these in years. Like some of the other commenters, I fell off the train during the later books of this series – somewhere around the Australian book I think.

    I think Will Laurence is a fantastic character, though. I’m a sucker for honorable British military officers who put duty before all else, and pairing that sort of character with an adorable dragon friend was one of the best character-related decisions I think any author has ever made. Book 1 remains a favorite for that reason.

  5. janach

    June 25, 2019 at 8:14 pm

    I am something of a fan of nautical fiction (though not as much as I am of nautical fact, i.e. actual history), so I was quite interested when I came across the first book in this series. Nelson’s Navy combined with dragons! What could be better?

    A lot, actually. I found the book only passable. Our hero got booted out of the navy early on, so the nautical angle disappeared. And then he doesn’t just get a dragon. He somehow happens to get the most amazing, special, overwhelmingly powerful dragon in the entire world! A Mary Sue dragon.

    Since Book One in the series concludes with our Gary Stu hero and his Mary Sue dragon defeating Napoleon’s entire invasion fleet single-handed, I see no point in reading any subsequent books. What could possibly stand up to our over-powered protagonists? Unless someone finds a large supply of kryptonite, subsequent books will be seriously lacking in dramatic tension.


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