Friday, February 6, 2009

His Majesty's Dragon

This was a really excellent book. I've known about them for a while, even had this book in my car for a month or more, but never got around to reading it. But once I started I was hooked. I stayed up two nights in a row to finish both books that are currently at our house. This was okay with David because he was staying up reading book one, while I read book two.
The simple description doesn't do them justice. The book is set in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars. A British ship captures a French one and on it is a dragon egg. The life of the dragon and his keeper/associate/friend are what follows. I'm not much into alternative history, which is why I never got around to reading it. Napoleon and Nelson with dragons sounded kind of corny.
The writing is what gets you though. The prose is clear, descriptive without being overbearing and the story moves along at a perfect pace, not so fast you feel rushed, nor so slowly you get bored and want them to hurry up already.
The setting is approximately the same one as Jane Austen and the writer does a wonderful job of conveying that same type of social setting amid the military and warfare. The main character is the third son of a noble, so while he has little money, he has the manners and expectations of the British upper class. How that comes in conflict with the men and organizations of the dragon corps is a a rich part of the tale. In another writer's hands this type of thing would have bogged down the story. There would be dinners and discussions of protocol. Here it is inserted naturally into the story, and blends with everything else. The characterization is also done wonderfully smoothly. In some books you can almost see the little yellow caution sign, WARNING: CHARACTER EXPOSITION AHEAD-- SLOW. You know the characters, especially the dragon and the action never slows down.
My only regret is that David is a much slower reader than I am, he will be reading these books for the next couple of days and I am already done. But one of us has to be useful and I was the one who suggested he read them.

His Majesty's Dragon & The Throne of Jade. Naomi Novik. Del Ray. 2006

1 comment:

jendoop said...

Pacing is one of my pet peeves with authors and you said this one dealt with it well- " the story moves along at a perfect pace, not so fast you feel rushed, nor so slowly you get bored and want them to hurry up already." Often books that are "classics" are horridly slowly paced. And mysteries push you along so quickly that you have absolutely no time to think about what is happening. Which is what authors intend because the plot is so full of holes that if you take time to think about it you'll be laughing. I don't read mysteries often, I think for that reason.

I read the Great Gatsby last week. The pacing in that one was nice, bit slow at the beginning. It's a short little story, I hadn't read since high school. It was a pleasant surprise to find I still like it.