His Majesty's Dragon
Written by: Naomi Novik
Published By: Del Rey Books
An Excerpt Reviewed by Melissa Minners
This review is a tad different than the usual review here at G-POP in that it is a review of an excerpt of a novel rather than an entire novel. I received this except of His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik at the recent I-CON I attended. After reading the 29-page booklet, I decided that the “special preview” (as it is called on the pamphlet’s cover) deserved its own special review.
The chapter opens during the Napoleonic Wars on a freshly captured French frigate somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. As British Naval Captain Will Laurence discovers, this is no ordinary frigate. Hidden in the hold of the ship is a very precious cargo – a dragon egg. We soon discover that in author Naomi Novik’s version of the Napoleonic Wars, the war between Britain and France is not waged on land and sea alone. Both countries have Aerial Corps waging war above ground via dragons and experienced aerial officer.
To Captain Laurence’s dismay, he discovers that the dragon is nearly ready to hatch. Being nowhere near land, Laurence decides that the dragon handler will be chosen from scraps of paper with the ship’s crew names in a hat. The crewman is chosen with some regret and his training for the hatching ceremony begins. Problem solved, right. Except, it would seem that the hatchling has other ideas. Upon hatching from the egg, the sleek, ebony dragon selects his own handler – Captain Laurence. Dismayed at the prospect of having to abandon his naval career for that of an aerial corpsman, Laurence nevertheless accepts his duty to his country. He names the hatchling Temeraire and the adventure begins.
Coming to the end of the chapter, I was disappointed – I wanted more! Naomi Novik is incredibly descriptive, making the reader feel as though they are actually on this voyage with Captain Laurence and his men, watching the dragon egg hatch. The reader quickly forms a bond with the characters in the story. Even the dragon, who only appears briefly in this chapter is written in such a way as to intrigue the reader.
In the notes about the author that were included with the preview, I was happy to discover that Novik and I share a common affection for The Lord of the Rings, both of us having read the book at a very early age. Perhaps it is this early reading experience that influenced the author’s attention to detail and descriptiveness found in His Majesty’s Dragon. I am utterly intrigued by this tale and love Novik’s twist on what the Napoleonic Wars could have been like had dragons been thrown into the mix. Usually, reading the first chapter of a novel is enough to tell you whether or not you’ll be interested in reading the rest of the book. Believe me, after reading this preview, you’ll be rushing to your local bookstore for the rest!