Author: Naomi Novik (naominovik)
Details: (c) Naomi Novik 2006; Pub Harper Voyager 2006; ISBN 0-00-721911-3
Verdict: Temeraire is lovely!
Reasons for reading it: I've been reading interesting discussions about it on LJ, and wanted to join in. buymeaclue, was it you who proposed a theory about an allegory between the relationship of men to dragons in the Temeraire books, and the relationship of men to women in the real world?
How it came into my hands: cartesiandaemon very kindly brought it to Holland to lend to me. It was just the thing to occupy the really boring journey back to Sweden.
Temeraire is sheer beautiful fun. I could try to say something intelligent about it, but I was just so caught up in the story that I don't have much analysis. I love the way it handles jeopardy, both on the personal level of Laurence's life and career, and on the national level of fighting the French. And the relationship between Laurence and Temeraire is just gorgeous. It's magical bonding with a dragon but without any of the creepiness or soppiness of Pern. Reading this was one of the best experiences of pleasantly vicarious emotion I've ever had from storytelling. I was moved by the sad bits, and excited by the dramatic bits (Novik has the very rare talent of being able to make battle scenes exciting and enjoyable!), and the lovey-dovey bits made me go "aww!", and just generally yay.
*bounce* I can quite see why this is the one of the few books other than Harry Potter with an actual fandom. The world building is fairly lightly sketched alternate history, but the combination of the obviously romantic Napoleonic period with DRAGONS makes it quite irresistable to play in. In some ways it feels like a YA book, in the most positive sense that the story is paramount, and it's full of imagination rather than any attempt at sophistication.
The dragons are rather lovely; you get a strong sense of their physicality, and the pseudoscience about dragon biology is kept to an appropriate minimum. There were a couple of things that annoyed me, primarily the way the dragons are fully mature, except in size, from the moment they hatch. I suppose it's a fairly standard fairytale trope to have magical creatures born able to speak at an adult level, but it jarred me somehow in a world which has no real sense of numinous to support that kind of magic.
While I'm quibbling, it's perhaps a bit too obvious the way that all the high-class people turn out to be cads while the women and lower-class characters turn out to be surprisingly noble. It's generally annoying to insert 21st century values that blatantly; it comes across as preachy, and spoils the effect of having a viewpoint character who is likeable in spite of his very unprogressive values.
But yay, reading that has just made me grin excessively.