How is it I think of myself as "not a dragon person?" It's not like I've read a million books about them to reject, and Tooth and Claw was marvelous. True, that Mercedes Lackey romance whose name I can't remember was awful, but I can't really blame the dragons for that. Although...yeah, well, it was a dragon fail. But also a fail on so many other levels!
But now, here, Naomi Novik's His Majesty's Dragon has appeared before me, and I've read it. And thank God she's already written five of them, because I intend to read them all by tomorrow morning, if possible. I'm hooked, seduced, bewitched--I am at the mercy of Ms. Novik and Temeraire.
Temeraire is the name of the dragon, and Laurence is his handler/partner/captain. It's the Napoleanic war, and besides a navy, each nation has a fleet of dragon-mounted aviators. The huge creatures carry crews, bombs, and occasionally natural weapons. Laurence is effectively drafted into this force when the naval ship he captains captures and hatches a valuable dragon's egg.
The research in this book is impeccable, to the point where I can't even imagine writing something that is so successful in historical accuracy, creative worldbuilding, and compelling characters.
And make no mistake, the characters carry the day. Laurence is a good navy man out of place among the libertine aviators. He's strong and likeable and everything you want in a hero. And he just adores Temeraire, his clever dragon partner.
The warm, affectionate relationship between Laurence and Temeraire is at the heart of the book as the dragon grows up and learns about the world and they figure out together what it means to belong to each other. To see a guy in uniform so undone by what is essentially a smart, funny kid is just disarming.
That's Brenda's word for the book--charming. And I am charmed off my feet.
Oh, and by the way, speaking of Mercedes Lackey? This partnership is a very much more realistic, comprehensible, well-constructed version of all the emotional bonds that her characters magically have with sentient animals. It's not psychic, though--it's just about affection, loyalty, and partnership. You know, real world stuff.