Customer Review

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly good, 10 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Temeraire (Temeraire 1) [a.k.a. His Majesty's Dragon] (Paperback)
I took Temeraire on holiday as a beach read. I had heard about the series but I was still very sceptical after reading reviews on Amazon and elsewhere and suspected deep down that I would hate it.

In fact I found Temeraire to be much, much better than I had expected. The plot is fairly basic although the details hang together well but I found some of the background regarding the dragons and their riders to be a bit contrived. The idea that the riders are social pariahs is pretty daft - military men have always been in love with exciting novelty and it would be more plausible that young men would be desperate to join the dragon corps rather than regarding it as a disgrace. In the real world you only have to look at the fashionability of hussars and frigate captains to see what servicemen's attitude towards zooming around on a dragon would really have been. I think this mis-step probably comes from the (American) author's view of old world social structures of the time believing them to have been much more rigid and overpowering than they really were. However this is a common error and shouldn't be held against her too much.

Where she gets things right is in the dialogue - there are very few clangers and for the most part it reads authentically and more than anything really helps set the story in the early C19th. Furthermore she avoids the pitfall of so much historical fiction - information dump syndrome. In fact there is very little of that sin and what there is geared around the dragons and therefore necessary explanation to the reader of the story's fantastical elements.

So much historical fiction these days is written by imitators of Bernard Cornwell and is based around blokey violence and swearing. Temeraire profits from having a female author whose interest is in character interaction. Very little of the story is action and she concentrates on the developing relationship between the protagonist and his dragon partner, and how they come to fit into the secretive world of the dragon aviators. The book's great villain isn't Napoleon or his spy who is uncovered by our hero, nor yet the French army and dragons who the British must battle in the climax. It is the British aviator who casually mistreats his dragon causing it both pain and unhappiness despite its adoration of him. It is this attention to character that makes the battle scenes when they come much more involving to read than a macho blood and guts approach would have been.

Temeraire was the best fiction I read this year and one of the few books recently I've found interesting enough to actually finish. I highly recommend it and am now going to order the sequel.
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