Genre: alternate history fantasy
Target audience: older YA and adults
The beginning of 19th century. Imagine Napoleon Buonaparte fighting Admiral Nelson in quite unusual way - both sides use dragons of various kind and size as their air force support. Dragons are creatures which think and talk, can spit acid or fire, acting as bombers or means of transport. They are great weapons but they must be treated with utmost care and attention, even love, plus a lot of fresh meat. ;)
An egg ready to be hatched is transported on a French man-of-war. The ship is taken by the British Navy and soon enough the sailors are having a lot of fun, watching a dragonet to emerge from its shell. However a newly-hatched dragon is a great responsibility - it must be named, tethered and harnessed immediately, right before its first feeding; if not it turns wild and there is more trouble than gain from it – it will hunt people and won’t obey anybody. Dragons, intelligent, sentient beings, can choose their handler at their will. The dragonet from the French frigate chooses captain William Lawrence and he names it Temeraire, after a famous dreadnought.Nothing will be the same again for those two. They are joined forever and they must face many life-changing experiences, learn to trust each other and undergo a training. So their adventure begins!
What I liked:
I loved the dragons, I really loved them or rather the great imagination of Ms Novik which supplied them with colourful hides, intelligence and power of speech. Temeraire is my most favourite dragon in fantasy fiction, I am not joking! He is sweet, loyal, he knows French, Latin and English, he loves mathematics, jewelry and reading! He can’t read on his own but his faithful handler and friend, Lawrence is always happy to oblige!
My other source of joy: some dragons tolerate only women handlers! Yes, just imagine it: a lady straight from the salon of Jane Austen riding a dragon, EVEN being made an officer in the army! It was a dare but it paid off – the notion was great in practice but I do regret the women weren’t given a more pronounced role in that installment. Still I hope there will be more of them in the next ones and the author deserves kudos for the mere idea! It was as if equal rights for women were imposed on the English society some 200 years earlier, imagine that!
What I didn't like:
I admit the narration was predictable - you could see plot twists coming a mile away - but that doesn't make the story any less satisfying. Have I mentioned all those pretty dragons? And yes, the book is rather one big adventure than something character-driven but...the dragons!!!