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Temeraire (Temeraire series book 1) Paperback – 7 Aug 2006
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'I took a jaundiced view of dragon books until Novik won me over with her first novel. The combination of military history, sympathetic characters, and engaging style makes this series great, intelligent fun.
‘These are beautifully written novels, not only fresh, original and fast-paced, but full of wonderful characters with real heart.’
‘Throne of Jade is even better. Rather than repeat the formula (enjoyable though it was), Novik offers a plot laced with political intrigue and takes her characters to China, where interesting questions are raised amid their exciting adventures.’
"Temeraire” is a terrifically entertaining fantasy novel. Is it hard to imagine a cross between Susanna Clarke, of Norrell and Strange fame, and the late Patrick O'Brian? Not if you've read this wonderful, arresting novel.’ Stephen King
'In the best tradition of fantasy, historical fiction and nautical novels.'
From the Back Cover
Captain Will Laurence has been at sea since he was just twelve years old; finding a warmer berth in Nelson's navy than any he enjoyed as the youngest, least important son of Lord Allendale. Rising on merit to captain his own vessel, Laurence has earned himself a beautiful fiancée, society's esteem and a golden future. But the war is not going well. It seems Britain can only wait as Napoleon plans to overrun her shores.
After a skirmish with a French ship, Laurence finds himself in charge of a rare cargo: a dragon egg bound for the Emperor himself. Dragons are much prized: properly trained, they can mount a fearsome attack from the skies. One of Laurence's men must take the beast in hand and join the aviators' cause, thus relinquishing all hope of a normal life.
But when the newly-hatched dragon ignores the young midshipman Laurence chose as its keeper and decides to imprint itself on the horrified captain instead, Laurence's world falls apart. Gone is his golden future: gone his social standing, and soon his beautiful fiancée, as he is consigned to be the constant companion and trainer of the fighting dragon Temeraire…--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition. See all Product description
Top customer reviews
I really fell in love with this book: from the moment Temeraire hatched, stood up on his hindlegs and spoke to Laurence with his mix of whimsicality and inquisitiveness I was completely hooked. Novik has created a wonderfully solid world, part Jane Austen and Patrick O'Brien (Laurence reminded me particularly of Captain Wentworth in Austen's Persuasion), and part Tolkein. I particularly liked the way she doesn't bother with loads of backstory or explanation, simply drops us into a world in which speaking dragons as war machines are quite normal, and leaves us to find our feet.
Most of all I love the characterisation in the book: the dragons have personality as much as the humans and I was literally laughing out loud at some of Temeraire's remarks, as well as moved to tears (Levitas).
This is the first of a six book series, and so has a leisurely approach to plot. We see Laurence struggle as he abandons his naval career to become a dragon aviator, his and Temeraire's military training and, most of all, the growth of their relationship. That said, there are some gripping action sequences, and the whole thing is lightened by Novik's wonderful prose and immense imagination. I never struggled to believe anything in the novel's world and was utterly absorbed throughout.
I don't read much fantasy (although this is a difficult book to categorise) but I absolutely loved this - I had to buy the next two books in the series before even finishing this, it's that compelling. So, whatever the genre, this is a brilliant feat of storytelling - highly recommended.
It's a bit like Hornblower meets E Nesbit, although it doesn't have quite the class of the former or the humour of the latter. However, it is an original take on the "boy/girl and his dragon" and worth a look.
There is much to enjoy in this book. The concept of using dragons as aeronautical ships (complete with crews and gunmen latched on with harnesses) is well depicted and Novik's aeronautical battles are vivid and exciting. Also well handled is the relationship between Laurence and Temeraire, the latter having a child-like quality without ever falling into tweeness. In fact the only jarring note is Laurence's constant use of "my dear" when addressing Temeraire, a form of address that doesn't quite ring true.
Unfortunately, the other relationships in the book lack the same depth and there is little real story beyond the relationship between master and dragon. For example, a storyline establishing Laurence's romantic understanding with Edith is dispensed with in a cursory fashion, while the arrival of a French rider called Choiseul plays out in too predictable a manner. The only sub-plot that holds any punch involves Rankin, a captain who deprives his dragon Levitas of love and kindness and who comes into conflict with Laurence as a result.
Novik's writing style apes 19th century literary style and her research creates an authentic period feel. However there's some serious semi-colon abuse in the opening half of the book, which frequently threw me out of the text and at times the descriptions of all the types of dragon was confusing.
The book ends with a set-up for the next in the series, and there's enough enjoyment to be derived from the story for me to read on.