His Majesty's Dragon (Temeraire Series #1)

His Majesty's Dragon (Temeraire Series #1)

4.1 1263
by Naomi Novik

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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… See more details below

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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.

From the Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Rachel Hartigan Shea
… all hail Naomi Novik for seizing on an entirely different set of literary conventions for her fantasy debut -- the dashing Brits-on-ships genre perfected by Patrick O'Brian. In His Majesty's Dragon , Novik plunks her scaly beasts into the Napoleonic Wars, as members of the Aerial Corps, air cover for the beleaguered Royal Navy as it fends off a French invasion.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In this delightful first novel, the opening salvo of a trilogy, Novik seamlessly blends fantasy into the history of the Napoleonic wars. Here be dragons, beasts that can speak and reason, bred for strength and speed and used for aerial support in battle. Each nation has its own breeds, but none are so jealously guarded as the mysterious dragons of China. Veteran Capt. Will Laurence of the British Navy is therefore taken aback after his crew captures an egg from a French ship and it hatches a Chinese dragon, which Laurence names Temeraire. When Temeraire bonds with the captain, the two leave the navy to sign on with His Majesty's sadly understaffed Aerial Corps, which takes on the French in sprawling, detailed battles that Novik renders with admirable attention to 19th-century military tactics. Though the dragons they encounter are often more fully fleshed-out than the stereotypical human characters, the author's palpable love for her subject and a story rich with international, interpersonal and internal struggles more than compensate. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
During the Napoleonic wars, British Navy captain Will Laurence captures a French frigate with a dragon's egg aboard. When the egg hatches, Laurence's life is forever changed. Teremaire, the dragon, bonds closely with Laurence, forcing the captain to leave his beloved Navy life and join the Aerial Corps-the least respected but perhaps most critical branch of the armed forces. With their intelligence, devotion to their handlers and powerful flight and combat skills, dragons are vital for nations at war. This first novel is full of real, compelling characters about whom one cares. The reader aches with worry, seethes with rage, and sometimes exults. As the story progresses and Laurence and Teremaire train for their first battle, readers discover that Laurence is tough, stoic, smart, and fair, and that Teremaire is loving, intelligent, loyal, and fierce. They meet rogues, hardened fliers, nanve apprentices, wise commanders, and gentle souls encased in rough dragonhide. It is a wonderfully engaging, fast-paced tale similar to Patrick O'Brien or Jane Austen in its formal manners-but these are manners without stuffiness. The battle scenes are thrilling; dragons fly and fight as frigates of the sky, complete with multi-person crews aboard them. Although part of a trilogy, the novel has a satisfying conclusion all its own. Young teens may be put off by the formal language and manners Laurence exhibits, but Novik creates a very eighteenth-century world, and formality is a part of that. It is a great book for Jane Austen fans or strong readers who enjoyed Eragon and want to move to the next level. VOYA CODES: 5Q 4P J S A/YA (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal;Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult-marketed book recommended for Young Adults). 2006, Del Rey, 384p., pb. Ages 12 to Adult.
—Geri Diorio
While serving the British during the Napoleonic Wars, Captain Will Laurence and the crew of the HMS Reliant capture a French ship that holds a treasured prize: a dragon egg that is due to hatch at any moment. Since a harnessed dragon has a great deal of monetary and military value, Captain Laurence recruits one member of his crew to harness the dragon when it hatches. Unfortunately, the hatchling rejects the Reliant crewman, and chooses Captain Laurence to harness him instead. The process is made official when Laurence provides the dragon with a name, Temeraire. At that moment, Laurence loses his position in the Navy, his father's respect, and his chance of marrying the woman he loves. On the other hand, he gains a faithful, compassionate, and intelligent dragon companion for life and begins a series of extraordinary adventures as a member of the Aerial Corps. As Laurence adjusts to life in the Corps, he remains honorable and duty-bound and earns the respect of the Corps dragons and their officers. While practicing maneuvers and formations with Temeraire and the other dragons and their riders, Laurence discovers even more of the creature's special talents. The close relationship between Laurence and Temeraire is quite endearing and the scenes showing human and dragon reading together are especially touching. Temeraire is a delight, and readers who enjoy dragon tales will especially enjoy the details of various dragon breeds, the eccentricities of dragon behavior, the humanity of the dragons, and the excitement of dragon battles. Fans of Christopher Paolini's novels and Anne McCaffrey's Pern series will especially appreciate the meaningful bond between human and dragonevident in the novel. Highly enjoyable and definitely recommended! The series continues with Novik's novels Throne of Jade and Black Powder War. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2006, Random House, Ballantine, 356p., Ages 15 to adult.
—Ginger Armstrong
Library Journal
Imagine that you are a British navy captain in the Napoleonic Wars. The last thing you want is to ruin your career and marital prospects by joining the Aerial Corps, a rather uncouth and secretive branch of the service, but duty calls, and the dragon egg you captured from aboard a French ship is about to hatch. Yes, a dragon egg-in this first of a trilogy, the British sea story is given a new twist: instead of tall ships, we have enormous flying dragons that make up an aerial combat force. Each dragon is paired at hatching with a captain, and the two form a close bond that gives an emotional center to what might otherwise have been just another alternate history. Novik's engaging debut is a perfect blend of the familiar and the fantastical, with both exciting air battles and the natural history of dragons described in what would be well-researched detail if it didn't happen to originate in the author's imagination. Fans of historical fantasies like Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell may enjoy. Highly recommended for all public libraries. [The second volume in this "Temeraire" series, Throne of Jade, will be published on April 25; the third and final, Black Powder War, on May 30.-Ed.]-Jenne Bergstrom, San Diego Cty. Lib. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
“Terrifically entertaining.”
–Stephen King

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Random House Publishing Group
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Temeraire Series , #1
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The deck of the French ship was slippery with blood, heaving in the choppy sea; a stroke might as easily bring down the man making it as the intended target. Laurence did not have time in the heat of the battle to be surprised at the degree of resistance, but even through the numbing haze of battle-fever and the confusion of swords and pistol-smoke, he marked the extreme look of anguish on the French captain’s face as the man shouted encouragement to his men.

It was still there shortly thereafter, when they met on the deck, and the man surrendered his sword, very reluctantly: at the last moment his hand half-closed about the blade, as if he meant to draw it back. Laurence looked up to make certain the colors had been struck, then accepted the sword with a mute bow; he did not speak French himself, and a more formal exchange would have to wait for the presence of his third lieutenant, that young man being presently engaged belowdecks in securing the French guns. With the cessation of hostilities, the remaining Frenchmen were all virtually dropping where they stood; Laurence noticed that there were fewer of them than he would have expected for a frigate of thirty-six guns, and that they looked ill and hollow-cheeked.

Many of them lay dead or dying upon the deck; he shook his head at the waste and eyed the French captain with disapproval: the man should never have offered battle. Aside from the plain fact that the Reliant would have had the Amitié slightly outgunned and outmanned under the best of circumstances, the crew had obviously been reduced by disease or hunger. To boot, the sails above them were in a sad tangle, and that no result of the battle, but of the storm which had passed but this morning; they had barely managed to bring off a single broadside before the Reliant had closed and boarded. The captain was obviously deeply overset by the defeat, but he was not a young man to be carried away by his spirits: he ought to have done better by his men than to bring them into so hopeless an action.

“Mr. Riley,” Laurence said, catching his second lieutenant’s attention, “have our men carry the wounded below.” He hooked the captain’s sword on his belt; he did not think the man deserved the compliment of having it returned to him, though ordinarily he would have done so. “And pass the word for Mr. Wells.”

“Very good, sir,” Riley said, turning to issue the necessary orders. Laurence stepped to the railing to look down and see what damage the hull had taken. She looked reasonably intact, and he had ordered his own men to avoid shots below the waterline; he thought with satisfaction that there would be no difficulty in bringing her into port.

His hair had slipped out of his short queue, and now fell into his eyes as he looked over. He impatiently pushed it out of the way as he turned back, leaving streaks of blood upon his forehead and the sun-bleached hair; this, with his broad shoulders and his severe look, gave him an unconsciously savage appearance as he surveyed his prize, very unlike his usual thoughtful expression.

Wells climbed up from below in response to the summons and came to his side. “Sir,” he said, without waiting to be addressed, “begging your pardon, but Lieutenant Gibbs says there is something queer in the hold.”

“Oh? I will go and look,” Laurence said. “Pray tell this gentleman,” he indicated the French captain, “that he must give me his parole, for himself and his men, or they must be confined.”

The French captain did not immediately respond; he looked at his men with a miserable expression. They would of course do much better if they could be kept spread out through the lower deck, and any recapture was a practical impossibility under the circumstances; still he hesitated, drooped, and finally husked, “Je me rends,” with a look still more wretched.

Laurence gave a short nod. “He may go to his cabin,” he told Wells, and turned to step down into the hold. “Tom, will you come along? Very good.”

He descended with Riley on his heels, and found his first lieutenant waiting for him. Gibbs’s round face was still shining with sweat and emotion; he would be taking the prize into port, and as she was a frigate, he almost certainly would be made post, a captain himself. Laurence was only mildly pleased; though Gibbs had done his duty reasonably, the man had been imposed on him by the Admiralty and they had not become intimates. He had wanted Riley in the first lieutenant’s place, and if he had been given his way, Riley would now be the one getting his step. That was the nature of the service, and he did not begrudge Gibbs the good fortune; still, he did not rejoice quite so wholeheartedly as he would have to see Tom get his own ship.

“Very well; what’s all this, then?” Laurence said now; the hands were clustered about an oddly placed bulkhead towards the stern area of the hold, neglecting the work of cataloguing the captured ship’s stores.

“Sir, if you will step this way,” Gibbs said. “Make way there,” he ordered, and the hands backed away from what Laurence now saw was a doorway set inside a wall that had been built across the back of the hold; recently, for the lumber was markedly lighter than the surrounding planks.

Ducking through the low door, he found himself in a small chamber with a strange appearance. The walls had been reinforced with actual metal, which must have added a great deal of unnecessary weight to the ship, and the floor was padded with old sailcloth; in addition, there was a small coal-stove in the corner, though this was not presently in use. The only object stored within the room was a large crate, roughly the height of a man’s waist and as wide, and this was made fast to the floor and walls by means of thick hawsers attached to metal rings.

Laurence could not help feeling the liveliest curiosity, and after a moment’s struggle he yielded to it. “Mr. Gibbs, I think we shall have a look inside,” he said, stepping out of the way. The top of the crate was thoroughly nailed down, but eventually yielded to the many willing hands; they pried it off and lifted out the top layer of packing, and many heads craned forward at the same time to see.

No one spoke, and in silence Laurence stared at the shining curve of eggshell rising out of the heaped straw; it was scarcely possible to believe. “Pass the word for Mr. Pollitt,” he said at last; his voice sounded only a little strained. “Mr. Riley, pray be sure those lashings are quite secure.”

Riley did not immediately answer, too busy staring; then he jerked to attention and said, hastily, “Yes, sir,” and bent to check the bindings.

Laurence stepped closer and gazed down at the egg. There could hardly be any doubt as to its nature, though he could not say for sure from his own experience. The first amazement passing, he tentatively reached out and touched the surface, very cautiously: it was smooth and hard to the touch. He withdrew almost at once, not wanting to risk doing it some harm.

Mr. Pollitt came down into the hold in his awkward way, clinging to the ladder edges with both hands and leaving bloody prints upon it; he was no kind of a sailor, having become a naval surgeon only at the late age of thirty, after some unspecified disappointments on land. He was nevertheless a genial man, well liked by the crew, even if his hand was not always the steadiest at the operating table. “Yes, sir?” he said, then saw the egg. “Good Lord above.”

“It is a dragon egg, then?” Laurence said. It required an effort to restrain the triumph in his voice.

“Oh, yes indeed, Captain, the size alone shows that.” Mr. Pollitt had wiped his hands on his apron and was already brushing more straw away from the top, trying to see the extent. “My, it is quite hardened already; I wonder what they can have been thinking, so far from land.”

This did not sound very promising. “Hardened?” Laurence said sharply. “What does that mean?”

“Why, that it will hatch soon. I will have to consult my books to be certain, but I believe that Badke’s Bestiary states with authority that when the shell has fully hardened, hatching will occur within a week. What a splendid specimen, I must get my measuring cords.”

He bustled away, and Laurence exchanged a glance with Gibbs and Riley, moving closer so they might speak without being overheard by the lingering gawkers. “At least three weeks from Madeira with a fair wind, would you say?” Laurence said quietly.

“At best, sir,” Gibbs said, nodding.

“I cannot imagine how they came to be here with it,” Riley said. “What do you mean to do, sir?”

His initial satisfaction turning gradually into dismay as he realized the very difficult situation, Laurence stared at the egg blankly. Even in the dim lantern light, it shone with the warm luster of marble. “Oh, I am damned if I know, Tom. But I suppose I will go and return the French captain his sword; it is no wonder he fought so furiously after all.”

Except of course he did know; there was only one possible solution, unpleasant as it might be to contemplate. Laurence watched broodingly while the egg was transferred, still in its crate, over to the Reliant: the only grim man, except for the French officers. He had granted them the liberty of the quarterdeck, and they watched the slow process glumly from the rail. All around them, smiles wreathed every sailor’s face, private, gloating smiles, and there was a great deal of jostling among the idle hands, with many unnecessary cautions and pieces of advice called out to the sweating group of men engaged in the actual business of the transfer.

The egg being safely deposited on the deck of the Reliant, Laurence took his own leave of Gibbs. “I will leave the prisoners with you; there is no sense in giving them a motive for some desperate attempt to recapture the egg,” he said. “Keep in company, as well as you can. However, if we are separated, we will rendezvous at Madeira. You have my most hearty congratulations, Captain,” he added, shaking Gibbs’s hand.

“Thank you, sir, and may I say, I am most sensible—very grateful—” But here Gibbs’s eloquence, never in great supply, failed him; he gave up and merely stood beaming widely on Laurence and all the world, full of great goodwill.

The ships had been brought abreast for the transfer of the crate; Laurence did not have to take a boat, but only sprang across on the up-roll of the swell. Riley and the rest of his officers had already crossed back. He gave the order to make sail, and went directly below, to wrestle with the problem in privacy.

From the Paperback edition.

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