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Thoughts on “His Majesty’s Dragon” by Naomi Novik (Audiobook)

One of my former coworkers was forever recommending Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series to customers. When I found out that Simon Vance, whose narrating prowess I had heard about but never experienced, read the entire series, I knew what my next audiobook would be.

About the Book:

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik (audiobook cover)Captain Will Laurence of the British Navy has no reason to suspect the French ship he has captured is carrying precious cargo. War with France is in full swing, and Laurence is merely doing his duty. But when a rare dragon’s egg is discovered on board — and, worse, about to hatch — Laurence knows he must act fast. The hatching ceremony, though known only vaguely to Laurence and his crew, is crucial, for it is during these first moments of a dragon’s life outside its shell that it chooses its handler for life. If no such handler is provided, the dragon may go feral, an unacceptable loss during wartime especially. With no experienced airmen on board to guide the process, Laurence and his men must make do and hope for the best.

It is no surprise how the hatching goes. The little dragon chooses Laurence, who christens the dragon Temeraire after a British ship. Laurence steps down from his post immediately, which gives him plenty of time to ponder his unwanted career change as the ship nears port. The life of a Navy captain is solitary and unpredictable enough, and life in the Aerial Corps is even more so. But Laurence is a man of duty, and Temeraire is a charming creature, and so the two embark on a new life through wholly unknown territory to do their part for Britain’s cause.

My Thoughts:

I don’t read a lot of fantasy, but His Majesty’s Dragon is exactly the sort of fantasy I enjoy. It reads like historical fiction, for the most part, except for some changes — in this case, the Napoleonic wars include aerial warfare fought with dragons. Around this alternate version of history, Naomi Novik has crafted a splendid world, skilfully combining the familiar with the unfamiliar. She has created a watertight world inhabited by her Aerial Corps and wedged it into British society seamlessly. I loved learning the dragon lore, habits, history, and fighting techniques woven throughout the tale.

The relationship between Temeraire and Laurence makes the book. Temeraire is clever, curious, and fiercely loyal, and Laurence, for his part, is strong but kind, good-humored, and just as loyal as his dragon. The two are an affectionate team, which adds an emotional depth to the novel I hadn’t expected. The other dragons encountered in the story have personalities as distinct as their handlers and are just as memorable.

His Majesty’s Dragon lacks the spunky female lead I often love to see, yet — and I rarely say this — I didn’t find myself missing her. Indeed, there are hardly any women in the first installment of the series, since warfare during that time was primarily the domain of men, but I hardly noticed. Novik does work a few women in, with a plausible explanation, though none have stepped forward as central characters thus far.

I don’t think I even have to say that Simon Vance is incredible, but I will. It’s my first experience with one of his audiobooks, and I know I will pick up many more. His pacing, his inflection, his character voices are perfect. He reads with flair, yet does not overdo the drama to the point of being annoying. He reads the rest of the series (five more books, so far), for which I am very excited!

If you enjoy fantasy or alternate history, even if what you usually read is along the lines of Harry Potter and Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series, Temeraire might be a series for you. And if you like audiobooks, well, definitely give Simon Vance’s readings a try!

Those are my thoughts. Check out His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik on Goodreads or LibraryThing, read other bloggers’ reviews, or listen to an Audible sample!

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  • http://www.ragingbibliomania.net/ zibilee

    I haven’t read many dragon books, but my daughter is addicted to them, and will read anything about dragons that she can find. I think I need to get her this book a.s.a.p. and let her check it out for herself. I do also admit that historical fiction leanings do make it a candidate for me as well!

    • Erin

      I’m listening to the second book now (almost done!) and LOVING it. I hope your daughter and maybe even you love the series, too!

  • http://breadcrumbreads.blogspot.com/ Risa

    This sounds like something I would love to read. I find it interesting that young Christopher Paolini has set a trend in fantasy with dragons and a single rider they connect to. I say this because this is the second book I’ve come across in the last five days that is based on such a connection. The whole historical setting sounds intriguing as well. I’d love to see how this author works that one out. I’m going to add this to my wishlist!

    • Erin

      I hadn’t even thought of reading Paolini’s series — I’ll add it to my list! I’m on the second book of this series now and am still loving it. I’m so glad there are plenty more books. I hope you love it, too!

  • http://tangledcharm.wordpress.com/ Alison

    Temeraire was also my first encounter with Simon Vance (and hence audiobooks in general) and I can’t ever thank Naomi Novik enough for facilitating the introduction. 😀 I’d been a Temeraire fan for years when I found the audio at the library and I haven’t stopped listening to books since. Simon Vance. I’m not a fangirl for anybody “normal” like Brad Pitt or.. you know.. other pop icons I can’t even think of to name as examples.. But I am a total fangirl for Simon Vance! My other favorite of his, if you’re a historical fiction fan, is The Black Tower by Louis Bayard. It deals with French history, post-revolution, which is a nice change from the average book about historical France. Also, the writing is very gorgeous. Yeah, the narrator’s great, but the prose is just spectacular on its own. I liked it enough to read it in print as well. I’m so glad you found Temeraire, though! I’m sure you’ll love the whole rest of the series and will join me in anxiously awaiting the 7th book!

    • Erin

      I’m not much of a fangirl either, but how can you not be with Simon Vance? I’ll definitely check out The Black Tower — I do enjoy historical fiction and am always looking for good audiobooks. Though at the moment, I’m still stuck on Temeraire :-) Thanks for the recommendation!

  • http://herebedragons.posterous.com Hannah

    Must. Read. This. Book.

    • Erin

      I think you’d like it. I’m listening to the second one now and it is also good. And there are more in the series, hooray!

  • http://breadcrumbreads.blogspot.com/ Risa

    Paolini isn’t particularly remarkable. It’s interesting though. And you literally see this young author grow up as a writer as the series progresses. His ideas are good, though. Mostly run along the high fantasy themes, but he has an idea or two that I hadn’t read before his.:)

    • Erin

      Thanks for the heads up! I tend to be more tolerant of less remarkable on audio, as long as the reader is good and the story is decent, so I’ll probably take that route. Kind of cool to watch a writer’s progress through a series! And I don’t read a ton of high fantasy, so perhaps I won’t notice too many common themes :-)

  • http://www.theintrepidreader.com Marg

    I have been a fan of this series for a while now and wait for each new book with great anticipation. I haven’t tried listening to them on audio (or Simon Vance at all) so maybe I should try for the next book!

    • Erin

      Ooh, Marg, I can’t recommend the audiobooks highly enough. They are perfection. Having listened, I don’t think I can read one of the books…Simon Vance is just amazing, in general but with this series as well! If you try the audio, you must let me know if you like it. I’m on book 4 now and know I should ration the books, but I can’t restrain myself! It’s such a good series!

      • http://www.theintrepidreader.com Marg

        It is a good series, although I was a bit disappointed with the last book. I think I may have had unrealistically high expectations though.

        • Erin

          Aww, that’s disappointing. I’m honestly not sure I’d adore the series quite so much if I were reading it instead of listening. Simon Vance is just. so. good! Hopefully that’ll make up for any shortcomings I may find as the series progresses. I do have to say the first book was my favorite, so far at least.