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His Majesty’s Dragon: Book One of the Temeraire Trilogy    by Naomi Novik order for
His Majesty’s Dragon
by Naomi Novik
Order:  USA  Can
Del Rey, 2006 (2006)

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*   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

His Majesty's Dragon, Naomi Novik's first installment in her trilogy about the dragon Temeraire, is a unique foray into the fantasy genre. Combining fantasy with history, Novik creates a world in which dragons are employed as aerial attack units during the Napoleonic wars. But, while the concept is interesting, the story does not live up to it.

Out at sea one day, a British Navy ship captures a French vessel that has aboard it priceless cargo: an exceedingly rare dragon egg. When the egg starts to hatch, the shipmen worry because, if a dragon is not harnessed before it eats, it will become feral; however, whoever harnesses the dragon becomes its rider and must join the Aerial Corps. Even though lots are drawn, the dragon itself ends up choosing the captain of the ship, Will Laurence. Now Laurence must give up all that he has known to become one of the reclusive airmen who will help win victory over Napoleon. Not quite conforming to his new life, Laurence finds that some of his Naval training might come in handy ... and finds a wonderful friend in his dragon, Temeraire.

Novik does a superb job of creating the warm and likable characters of Laurence and Temeraire, but they are simply not enough to carry the book. The story starts off slowly and never really picks up, even during the fighting. Too much description and too much tactical information keep the fantasy reader (rather than the war reader) from becoming immersed in the plot. It is not a fast read (although shorter than many fantasy novels), because His Majesty's Dragon takes time to get back into every time the reader picks it up - and this is detrimental to the enjoyment of the book.

However, if you do find yourself absorbed in the story of Laurence and his dragon, you will be happy to know about another unique aspect of the trilogy – the books are being released only a month apart! I find this a novel concept, as usually readers have to wait a year for the next installment of a favorite series. By that time – especially with fantasies – you have to reacquaint yourself with the characters and their world, which detracts from the initial reading. It think Novik and Del Rey made a smart decision to release the Temeraire Trilogy like this, and only wish this first episode had been more engaging.

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