review: his majesty’s dragon | Napoleonic war + dragons

his majesty's dragonTitle: His Majesty’s Dragon
Series: Temeraire #1
Author: Naomi Novik
Genre: historical fantasy (adult)
Published in 2006 by Del Rey
Rating: ★★★★ – really liked it

Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors ride mighty fighting dragons, bred for size or speed. When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes the precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Captain 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.

my thoughts on - review black (1)

His Majesty’s Dragon is the story of Laurence, a captain in the marines, and Temeraire, his dragon. Laurence’s crew captures a French ship and discover that it has an unhatched dragon egg on board. They’re months away from reaching land, however, and the egg might hatch at any moment. It’s crucial that the dragon bonds with someone as soon as it hatches so they can strengthen the British Aerial Corps. Some unexpected things happen, and Laurence ends up bonding with the dragon, Temeraire.

This book is set during the Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800s. I like how Naomi Novik managed to fully immerse the reader in the time period itself, through different tactics.

First is the writing. As I was reading this book, it occurred to me that the writing style reminded me of Jane Eyre. It has that same sentence structure and feeling to it. After looking it up, I realized that Jane Eyre was published in 1847. I don’t think I’ve ever read a fantasy novel in which I could tell the era it’s set in from the writing itself.

There’s also the obvious difference placed between men and women. It shows in little things, like how surprised Laurence was when a woman wore pants, or in the “proper” way he felt like he needed to interact with them, or in the way he would not give a female trainee the same privileges as the male ones because he needed to “protect” her. Is it annoying that this happens? Yes. However, Naomi Novik managed to show both history and present here. She added those things to the novel for historical reference, but challenges them as well. Either it’s someone else pointing his discrimination out to Laurence, or it’s him realizing how unfair it is.

I will say that my knowledge on the Napoleonic Wars is very limited, and it showed. I was quite confused at times, because you’re thrown in the middle of the war and have to figure out what’s happening by yourself. The sheer amount of places mentioned as well as the tactics and strategy behind the battles went over my head at times.

The story itself is a good mix between battle, training, and character exploration. The pacing never felt off, and it made for a pretty quick read even though the writing is not as easy to digest as most contemporary writing is.

First, Laurence and Temeraire have to get to know one another after the hatching. While I love both the main characters, my heart goes to Temeraire. I love that dragon! He made me laugh out loud multiple times, and I wish to protect him from all evil. As their bond deepens, their affection towards another is so sweet.

I do have a question though. The dragons all talk out loud in this book. In most books I’ve read, it’s more of a telepathy thing. How odd must it look when a dragon talks out loud? How do their mouths form the necessary shapes?

Laurence was an interesting character for me because I usually read about thieves, assassins, mercenaries, etc. when it comes to fantasy novels. Here, we follow a guy who is devoted to his country and duty, and prides himself on being a gentleman. It is so fascinating to read about someone focused on doing his duty and being a good citizen, even if it makes you want to push him into some mischief at times.

The one downside to this book, I would say, is that it’s clearly a set-up for a long series. You have the main characters meet, get to know one another, and train together, so that they can become a well-oiled machine for the battles to come.


I’m glad I finally picked this book up. It sat on my shelf, unread, for years… A few days after finishing it, I went to a used bookstore I love and discovered the next 3 books in the series there! I can’t wait to discover more of Laurence and Temeraire’s adventures. I would highly recommend this series, if the premise sounds at all appealing to you. 

Top (Not Quite) Ten Tuesday: Favorite Historical Settings

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week I will make a list of 10 books, authors or other bookish things surrounding a certain topic. Today, I’m talking about the historical settings I love. Sometimes I may have read books in said times, other times I’m desperately wishing for more of them and recommendations. Let’s get started!

roman empire

The Roman Empire is one of my all-time favorite times in history. Whether it is fictional or reality, I’m always interested. 

I didn’t include Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus as they take place in modern times, even though they include the Roman gods.

I READ

The Gates of Rome (Emperor #1) by Conn Iggulden // I read this book such a long time ago! I want to read this again soon, and continue on with the series. Even though it’s been years since I read this, I remember really enjoying it. The author’s name has stuck with me, even after all this time.

I WANT TO READ

Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran // I know this mentions Cleopatra in the title, but it really is about the Roman Empire. Actually, it’s about a woman, Selene, surviving in Rome and wanting to return to Egypt. 

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard // This is actually a non-fiction novel I really want to read! I’m especially interested in the audio-book here. I’ve been wanting to polish my knowledge of Ancient Rome again and I feel like this book will be perfect for that. 

ancient greece

The same goes for Ancient Greece. Ancient Greece/Classical Greece and Ancient Rome go hand in hand in my mind. I’m equally interested in both. 

I did read mythology books such as Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus and Percy Jackson series, but I’m not counting those here as they take place in current times, but with the Greek myths.

READ

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller // My love for this book is endless. Just endless. And it started a fierce love for Patroclus. 

I WANT TO READ

Sons of Zeus (Warrior trilogy #1) by Noble Smith // The title of this book already intrigues me. So does the description. I definitely want to pick up a copy of this!

The Iliad by Homer // I have never read Homer’s works completely. As I did do a year of Greek and 4 years of Latin in high school, I saw some parts and translations. But never the full works. As this is one of my favorite stories of all time, I must read the actual work soon.

The Odyssey by Homer // Same story as above. I’ve never read the full work. 

ancient egypt

Ancient Egypt never stops fascinating me. The pyramids. The pharaohs. There is just so much to learn from this civilization, and so much we will never learn, knowledge lost forever through time. 

Again, I did read Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles, but they take place in current times with the addition of Egyptian mythology…

nefertiti

I READ

I’m ashamed to say that the only books related to Ancient Egypt I’ve read are Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles and Kiersten White’s The Chaos of Stars. Both are set in contemporary times though, with the inclusion of Egyptian gods and myths. This is so shameful!

I WANT TO READ

Nefertiti by Michelle Moran // Hey, another Michelle Moran book! Seems like an author I really need to check out, no? This is from the description: “Fast-paced and historically accurate, it is the dramatic story of two unforgettable women living through a remarkable period in history”.

tsardom of russia

I don’t really know much about Russian history, I will admit. Not like I know European history (and I’m not an expert on that either, but I do know my basic facts). However, the Tsars have always fascinated me. I admit the fascination could have started with my love for the animated movie ‘Anastasia’. 

I READ

Tsarina by J. Nelle Patrick/Jackson Pearce // This is definitely fiction, and has a paranormal/fantasy element at that. But I really liked this story centered around the February and October revolutions.

I WANT TO READ

The Gathering Storm (Katerina #1) by Robin Bridges // Again, fantasy, as this is about a girl who can raise the dead. But it is set in the time of the Tsars. 

The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport // This is a non-fiction novel about the last line of Tsars, the Romanovs as you could probably deduct from the title. I know Anastasia, but know very little about her 3 sisters. So I want to read this soon!

The Crown’s Game (Crown’s Game #1) by Evelyn Skye // This is a novel I’m really excited to read! It’s also a fantasy novel set in the Russian tsar time. 

crusades

Completely different time and setting, yet the crusades intrigue me. Especially the whole crusade/Templar thing.

brethren

I READ

Brethren (Brethren #1) by Robyn Young // Like Conn Iggulden’s book I previously mentioned, I read this one years ago. I really liked it, but can’t remember much. So I want to read the entire trilogy again. I also have two of her other books, from her Insurrection series I want to read.

golden age of piracy

PIRATES. They never bore. A pirate story is always a fascinating and thrilling one (I hope). And no, I didn’t make up the term “Golden Age of Piracy”. It actually exists.

I genuinely can’t think of a single pirate book, other than a Narnia novel and a duology by Cassandra Rose Clarke, I have read. I’m so ashamed of this! WHY. If you have any recommendations for pirate books, please let me know!

World war II

Far more recent than the others, but lately I’ve been reading more WWII historical fiction. In high school, I never really enjoyed learning about WWII. I loved the Ancient Romans, Greeks and Egyptians far more. I do know quite a bit about WWII, because you can’t be raised in Belgium and not learn so reading those historical fiction books is very interesting to me. It’s intriguing to read and compare to what I know happened.

I READ

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr // I did enjoy this very much. Not as much as everyone else seemed to, maybe because I read it quite soon after finishing The Nightingale which I adore.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak // One of my all-time favorite books. Honestly. This story is told through the eyes of Death. In more recent history, I can’t think of a time that cost more lives here than WWII. 

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah // This book is incredible. I loved it so much. I spent hours reading because I didn’t want to put it back down. It’s about two sisters in France, during the war. Both sisters have such different lives that you get unique perspectives from both, and it highlights the importance of family, especially in times of war.

I WANT TO READ

Wolf by Wolf (Wolf by Wolf #) by Ryan Graudin // I have heard so much about this alternate WWII story! I definitely want to pick it up soon.

archaeological mystery

A few years ago, I went through a phase of reading only archaeological mysteries. These are SO MUCH FUN. The basic story is always: an ancient artifact is found/dug up, people start dying, it gets stolen and the truth around the object needs to be uncovered. I love these stories. It’s been such a long time since I’ve read.  

I READ

The Grail Conspiracy (Cotton Stone #1) by Lynn Sholes & Joe Moore // In this book, you guessed it: someone discovered the Holy Grail. Chaos and mystery ensue.

I WANT TO READ

Labyrinth (Languedoc #1) by Kate Mosse // It’s about a dig, and takes place in France so I want to read it. I love it when books are set in Europe, especially in this genre. There is such a long and rich history in Europe, it deserves a mention too in novels. I actually own the first two books of this series, so I want to get on these soon.


So those are the historical settings I absolutely LOVE! As you can see, I’m severely lacking books in some of these. If you have any recommendations for these time periods or settings, please let me know!