Re-read, October 2022: I cannot fully explain why I had the need to re-read this novel, the start of a promising but eventually disappointing series of alt-history books that asked the question, what if Napoleonic wars but also dragons? A decent part was this intense desire to re-read the part of the novel where Laurence realizes that a number of dragons that the UK relies upon for its aerial might insist on having female captains, and is forced to reconcile that fact with his posh old school sexist views.
Nonetheless, I think there are plenty of interesting ideas that Novik, one of my favorite authors today, explores throughout these books. It’s interesting to see the set up as well—first, you get to see how the UK treats their dragons, which is okay? And then slowly, the world starts to open up. Without clear military might concentrated in the western world, colonialism is less of a driving force than dragon power, which means that we’ll eventually get to see centers of excellence throughout the world. It’s just a pity that Novik couldn’t fully land the plane (dragon?) so to speak towards the end.
Original read, December 2018:I feel like I need to sit on this review for a bit…not sure what exactly I think. One thing is for sure–keep expecting Horatio Hornblower to show up. The shadow of Forester is long upon all military-tinged novels set during the Napoleonic wars.
The relationship between Temeraire and Laurence is sort of like daemon and person, so it’s enjoyable to read. Novik takes great pains to set up the situation as palatable to dragons–they desire companionship, they’re naturally bloodthirsty and into war, they want to fly people around–so that you don’t have to wonder about the ethics of breeding intelligent animals to be war machines.
Will probably read the rest over time, but I definitely didn’t finish this with a MUST READ THE NEXT RIGHT NOW mentality.
re-re-read October 2022: well, I suppose I felt like it had been over a year (and I think I was on a plane) so it was okay to re-re-read this one again. What do I say except that this is one of my REFUSE TO BE GUILTY pleasures?
It takes a real amount of skill to weave together multiple plot lines within a single novel successfully. Usually, there’s an A plot, B plot, C plot, etc, and by definition the latter letters are side plots that you end up skipping over or skimming, either in the first read or subsequent ones. This just isn’t the case for me and for this novel—I find every plot equally engaging, and there are multiple. It might not be the most sophisticated battle of wits ever committed to the written page, but not everything can be His Girl Friday. Although I might even say that this deserves to be in the same pantheon given the vaguely slapstick nature of it all?
There’s nothing I would change. The length is another great element—slightly longer than most, which gives all the aforementioned plot lines time to breathe. I look forward to this time next year (year end re-readextravaganza) when I can turn to this once more and enjoy myself just as much.