Wow! I just, just finished reading the third book of the series and that's pretty much all I can say, wow. Actually, no, I have plenty to say :P First, I'd like to thank Mailyn, for the recommendation, and also Ames, for her review which gave me the little push I needed to start the series. I have to admit I've seen the books many times at the bookstore and I've picked up one many times, but aviation has never truly been my forte and I've always put them back on the shelve. So when Mailyn gave me a list of rec, I didn't realize that do the link between the title and the book till I was at the bookstore :P Anyway, for all those that luv fantasy and still haven't read it, find and read it!!!
Temeraire series by Naomi Novik: 4.5/5
The series is set during the Napoleon Bonaparte war era between France and well, the rest of Europe. Although planes do not exist, these countries possess an air force composed of dragons and valiant aviators. However, in Britain, being an aviator is not very glorious as these soldiers are taken away from their family at 7 y.o. and trained. In addition, Britain's aviation force is quite small as the country is not big and the resources to feed these dragons, limited. Thus, the chances to become a captain, i.e. aviator, are slim and opportunities, rare, especially as some of the dragons are inherited (they outlived humans) and aviators for eggs are pre-selected.
Dragons existed all over the world, but the best breeders are the Chinese, as they were able to tame the dragons first, long before the Romans. Many different breeds exist; they can be small, big, fast, have particular offensive abilities (spit fire or acid), etc. The rarest breed are the Celestials, a Chinese breed usually reserved to royalty, with the unique abililty, the "divine wind."
His Majesty's Dragon: 4.75/5
published in March 2006 by Del Rey
Will Laurence is the captain of the Reliant and part of the Britain's Navy. During his journey, his crew was able to overtake a French ship with an egg aboard. All were very happy, figuring out the prize money it would bring them, till the ship doctor announced that the egg would hatch in less than a week. According to European's customs, dragons have to be harnessed as soon as they are hatched from the egg and before they eat or else, they will fly away and become feral (rogue). However, usually, the person who harnesses the hatchling becomes the aviator and thus, in this case, it would mean a change in career completely. Thus, one person was drawn from the crew. However, the dragonet had a mind of its own and chose Laurence as his aviator. Laurence then names him Temeraire and together, both, start their training in order to join force to Britain's Corps and defend against France. Along the way, Laurence and Temeraire will forge a very strong friendship as well as discover that Temeraire is one of the precious and very rare Chinese Celestial dragon.
Review: I really love this book and I have to admit this is my favorite among the three books so far. I love it because of Laurence and Temeraire's friendship; how it started and how it grew. In addition, I enjoyed the whole training and Temeraire's friendship and interaction with the other dragons as well. I like how Laurence had to adjust to his new position and how much he has come to care about Temeraire, very touching. Basically, a very good first book that set the bar very high.
Book Two - Throne of Jade: 4.25/5
published in April 2006 by Del Rey
By the end of His Majesty's Dragon, Laurence and Temeraire discover that Temeraire is a Celestial dragon (he was previously mistaken for an Imperial - a very rare Chinese breed, but not as precious as a Celestial), and his egg was intended to be a gift to Napoleon Bonaparte. Now, China has sent a delegation to demand Temeraire's return; however, the dragon is unwilling to be separated from his aviator, as Laurence is to be separated from him. Seeing no other solution, the delegation accepts that Laurence accompanies Temeraire to China, since it is only under this condition that Temeraire would go. However, the journey to China is going to be long and anything can happen...
Review: Basically, I like every scene between Temeraire and Laurence, as well as Temeraire and his crew and dragon friends and scene of Temeraire's growth. What made me enjoyed this book less than the previous one is that there is a lot of politics involved and in addition, many wanted to separate Temeraire and Laurence. In my head, I know that of course, both will remain together since there's more books in this series and so on... My problem is the doubts that both are having, their fear of being separated - it makes me uncomfortable. To see such a friendship in danger, just makes my heart aches. It helps that both were willing to do some sacrifices in the end for the other to be happy, but at the same time, I can't help it to wonder if both are content now.
Black Powder War: 4.5/5
published in May 2006 by Del Rey
In order for Laurence to remain Temeraire's aviator, he had become the Emperor's adopted son. Now, both of them along with their crew are preparing to go back to Britain, their home. After seeing how dragons were treated in China compared to in Britain, Temeraire has great plans in his mind to improve dragons' living-style in Britain and cannot wait to get home. However, their departure is delayed by a fire which destroyed the dragon transporter and at the same time, Laurence receives order to fetch 3 eggs purchased by Britain from Istanbul, Turkey. Debating the situation, Laurence decides in the end that they must reach the eggs as soon as possible, as one of them will soon hatch and they cannot risk to lose the dragonet. Thus, Laurence, Temeraire and their crew engage on a long journey through land (as opposed as sea - the way they came)... However, very little goes as planned.
Review: This was a very interesting story, a bit more action-based I'd say, than the others. Lots of battles and you can feel that the situation is becoming very critical - Bonaparte is gaining a lot of territories, many are surrending, etc. There is a lot less of politics, which I thank the author and adding to the storyline is revenge - while in China, a prince tried to kill Laurence and instead was killed. His dragon, an albino Celestial named Lien, blames Laurence and Temeraire for the death of her aviator and thus, sets out to help Bonaparte to see Laurence and Temeraire lose everything - their country, their friends, etc. Really, I enjoyed it a lot, especially the new dragonet's birth and how Temeraire acts - jealous big brother. The only thing which I felt sad about is Temeraire's ideals for a new living style for the dragons. It is very noble and ideal of Temeraire, but practically, it will be very hard to implement. Of course, Laurence tries to warn Temeraire, but at the same time, he doesn't want to shatter all of the dragon's hope... so I think this part of the storyline puts a bit of strain in their relationship. Oh, and I miss Temeraire's dragon friends T_T
Characters - Laurence is issued from nobility; however, he is only the third son and not heir. His relationship with his father is quite strained, as his father would have preferred Laurence to become man of Church instead of a soldier, and now, becoming an aviator is like a demotion in his eyes. Laurence is, how to say, a very proper man - good manners, judicious choices, long thinking, very conscious of his position and his surroundings, etc. He is not a stuffy shirt, but a 30-something years old man with a very level head on his shoulders. I like his character a lot as he is quite new and refreshing. We're not talking about a rake or an alpha male, and so he is very different than most main characters. However, I have to say, it's bit hard to connect with him, as his thinking and his ways are from another era. Nonetheless, a very interesting and well-developed main character.
Our second main character, critical to this story, is Temeraire! My description of Temeraire would be a very intelligent/genius little boy - okay, with frightening weight and ability to fly :P By the end of the third book, he might be 2 -2.5 years old. He is so very innocent and with so much to learn. Temeraire is a Celestial dragon, the only one in Europe - he is very intelligent, able to learn stuff and languages, interested in everything, curious about everything. He's also very protective of the persons he loves... He's also very wise at times... Overall, a very complex character, but you can't help but love him and find him cute. He's also the comic relief in the series which you need, because after all, the stories take place during war time.
These two are really the main characters and they carry the story on their own :P There's a myriad of other characters tho: Granby- the first lieutnant, Keynes - the doctor, Maximus and Lily - Temeraire's dragon friends, etc. They all play a role in the series, but they're not the focus.
Story & Writing - Well, what can I say about the writing style? Can't complain for sure. What I'm impressed the most at is how Ms. Novik was able to bridge the action or more important scenes together. Time flows quite rapidly, the story is not dragging at all. This is tricky, especially on long journey like the ones on which Temeraire and Laurence embark on. So really... the only thing I'd had like is a bit more description of the different breeds of dragons - it's also very difficult to keep tracks of all of them, but luckily, there's now a wiki page to help.
As for the story, I really enjoyed them. All three stories are very different from each other and continuous. What I mean is that, they don't only just fight, fight, fight. They have a mission to achieve, a goal and it is not the same in each of the book and so it adds novelty to each book. However, don't be mistaken - this is war time, and Ms. Novik is not shy about killing characters - crewman, dragon, etc. which does cause me a lot of heartache T_T
The Covers - They're all very nice :) I like them a lot, especially the dragons the image inside the , I don't know, compass, watch?
Am I keeping this book? Hell yes! Need to ask?
Anything else? Lots :D 1. Here is Ms. Novik website, livejournal, as well as the wiki page.
2. Ms. Novik has signed another contract with Del Rey for 3 other books (Yay!). The 4th one is name Empire Ivory and is coming out sometimes this Fall (it's too far away!). The 5th book will come out in 2008 in hardcover. Still no news of the 6th book.
3. Apparently, Peter Jackson has optionned the Temeraire books :)
4. For those who have read the 3rd book and the excerpt that is at the end of the book, please read (Spoilers ahead): I'm going to die, if I have to wait till Fall arrives. I need to know which dragons are dead and which ones are alive. Please, please, please, Maximus and Lily must be alive! And Excidium too, please, please, please. T_T
5. Ames, Mailyn, if we beg Ms. Novik, do you think she'll send us an ARC?