Summary (Amazon): Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors rise to Britain’s defense by taking to the skies . . . not aboard aircraft but atop the mighty backs of fighting dragons.
When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes its precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Capt. Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future–and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.
My Review (Spoilers!!)
Executive Summary: slow
I enjoy fantasy novels, however, this was supposed to be our historical fiction for the year. It is not historical fiction. It’s definitely historical fantasy with a focus in war strategy (if that is even a thing).
British Navy Captain Will Lawrence is sailing around, doing his thing, when his ship captures a French frigate. Inside the ship is a dragon egg which is confiscated. The crew essentially draws straws to see who will be in charge of the dragon when it hatches, and to no one’s surprise, the hatched dragon dismisses that person and chooses Lawrence as his handler.
Lawrence names the dragon Temeraire after a similarly captured French ship, and they grow very close. Lawrence reads to Temeraire, who is very intelligent and absorbs all knowledge quickly. The dragon “expert” on the ship is not certain what breed Temeraire is, but they suspect he is a Chinese breed.
Upon arriving to shore, Lawrence meets with a naturalist to determine what breed Temeraire is, and Sir Edward Howe believes that he is an Imperial. He provides the pair with all the literature he has about it, and they head to their training. Typically trainers are assigned at a very young age, and Lawrence is old and inexperienced. The Aerial Corps tries to pair Temeraire with a more experienced trainer, but Temeraire refuses. Lawrence accepts his new fate rather well.
His parents on the other hand, do not. He stops in to see them en route to the training facility in Loch Laggan, and his father basically disowns him. His girlfriend of sorts (they were just expected to marry eventually) is there, and Lawrence basically tells her sorry, but this is my life now.
He and Temeraire go on to Loch Laggan, the training area, where they are to prepare for the dragon fleet for the Napoleonic War that is happening. They do a bunch of tactical training and both sort of bumble around getting offended about stuff. Temeraire though is significantly more likeable than Lawrence. Lawrence is a giant boor of a character. The whole middle of this book gets really boring with a bunch of flying practice and strategy. One key point though is that one of the dragon captains is revealed to be a double agent when he tries to kidnap one of the female captains (the Longwing breed of dragon only will have female captains). The traitor reveals that he was sent to steal Temeraire who was a gift from the Chinese to Napoleon to be his own personal dragon.
Finally, the end of the book, there’s a battle. The British have figured out that Napoleon is using dragons to ferry ships of soldiers across the sky to evade the Navy. Temeraire and the other dragons depart and there is a battle in the sky during which Temeraire realizes that he has a special skill–some sort of shockwave–which tips the scales of the battle in British favor.
At the end of the book, Sir Edward tells Lawrence that this new skill means that Temeraire is actually a Celestial dragon, reserved only for royalty.
Verdict: 3 stars
I liked the book just fine for about the first half. Then it got really monotonous with dragon training. Books about dragons are supposed to be FUN! Lawrence never became likeable, and the story just lagged. I will not be reading the rest of the series.