Recommended for people who like alternate history and adventure, especially those who like character work more than (or as much as) action. No romance–the focus is very much on the captain and his dragon.
In an alternate history where dragons are an essential component to military force, naval officer Captain Laurence happens upon a rare dragon egg destined for France. He and his crew claim it for England, but there’s a problem. They’re in the middle of the ocean when it hatches, and dragons need to imprint on an aviator immediately to be useful for military purposes. And England needs all the help it can get, as Napoleon’s forces threaten…
I see why this series was such a huge hit. The world-building, the adventurous feel of it all–I loved it.
The two main characters, Laurence and Temeraire, are right at the heart of the story. Temeraire is a newborn dragon with a voracious desire for knowledge. He loves stories of military valor and can’t wait to engage in a real battle. Laurence was never meant to be an aviator, but someone had to take responsibility for Temeraire. He takes propriety very seriously, and is experienced enough to worry about practicality over glory. When they join the air force, they’re both the odd ones out, for different reasons. But they have each other–and when Laurence feels a fierce fatherly pride for Temeraire, I can’t help but feel it a little, too.
Maybe there’s something self-indulgent in how much I like following these two as they learn to fit into a new context while still retaining their individualities. Temeraire is very young, but it’s interesting to Laurence roped into this kind of story, too. He’s old enough to have formulated who he is as a person. And now, at his age, he has to adapt to an entirely different context, and even learn to accept things that would have seemed improper to him before. It’s nice to see him be confronted with his prejudices and change himself accordingly.
Of course, everything that came before doesn’t go to waste, either–experience is experience, after all. And I liked that his lack of expectations translated to a lack of bias, that actually turned out to be helpful for Temeraire sometimes. He goes in knowing enough about life that he doesn’t automatically assume that every procedure in place for other dragons in golden.
The people Laurence is thrown in with aren’t without their own prejudices, either. The aviators are held apart from the rest of society because they need to stay in proximity of their dragons. As such, they form their own community, in a way. They’re generally brought up to this life from a young age. And Lawrence is an outsider, a navy man. One who was handed his own dragon–and quite a prestigious breed of dragon, at that–without jumping through any of the hoops they’ve had to go through. And without having to work and wait for a chance to maybe possibly one day get a dragon.
This book manages to craft an engaging story with minimal reliance on action. It’s more of an adventure drama, and it does a fantastic job with it. I can’t believe it took me so long to get to this series, and I’ll be moving on to the next one.