2022 Reading Review: “Temeraire”

Who doesn’t love dragons? Who wouldn’t want to have their own dragon? Don’t tell me you’ve never dreamed about that!

What if you were living in a world where dragons, not only existed, but were smart and communicative? Where people could become bonded to their dragons and live out their lives with them, as they battled against others?

Well, Temeraire is kind of about that. Okay, it’s about one dragon specifically: Temeraire. A friend of mine and I started a 2-person book club this year, and we’re basically just reading fantasy novels. The second book of the year was Temeraire. And that is how this book fell into my lap. I had never heard of the book or the author before, so it was a fun adventure to fall into.

As always, potential spoilers ahead, but I do think I’ve kept them very light in this review—even in the Opinions section!

Story

Okay, so I’ll level with you: the book is also about this lad named Will Laurence. Laurence—as he’s usually referred to in the book—is a captain in the navy, and his crew has just captured a French vessel that has a dragon egg aboard that is about to hatch.

Dragons, as we come to find out, are very special creatures. For one thing, they imprint on a person and stick to that person for life. Despite not being chosen for the duty, Laurence is chosen by the dragon. It is then expected that he will give up his life in the navy to become an aviator for Britain. At at time when England and France are constantly at war, this dragon—an unknown breed in Europe—will become a vital key, if he and Laurence can make it through training.

Obviously, I’m simplifying things here, so as not to give away too much, but a lot of the book involves watching these dragons train to be part of the British army. But with Napoleon itching to make moves and with a plethora of dragons of his own, our main characters know it’s only a matter of time before real battles reach them.

Characters

There are a handful of fun characters throughout this book, but I’m just going to talk about the two main ones.

Captain Will Laurence. A one-time captain at sea turned aviator, as he is chosen by a dragon. Laurence is a very by-the-books individual. Obviously, having been a naval officer, he’s used to strict rules, regulations, and codes of conduct. These are things that begin to shift quite a bit as he is thrown into the world of dragon-training. He must find a balance between his strict and firm ways and the ability to work with a new type of hierarchy within the aviators.

And we cannot discuss the book Temeraire without discussing Temeraire himself. From the moment of his hatching, Temeraire is a fine beast, immediately taking a liking to Laurence. Being a dragon, Temeraire grows swiftly—both in size and in intelligence. He speaks to Laurence about a wide variety of subjects and enjoys being read to as well. He has distinct conversations with others and understands the differences among people and dragons.

As I said, there are far too many other characters to talk about here, and they are all unique in their own ways. But Laurence and Temeraire’s relationship is the heart of the book—and to see the two of them bond is a fun part of the journey.

Writing

The writing is easy-to-read and connect with. The language is simple and I didn’t find it to be a difficult read at all. This is an occasional worry when I sit down with a new fantasy novel. I love digging into new worlds, but the writing, language, and tone can start to feel draining.

That was never an issue with Temeraire. I never felt drained and I was always ready to jump back into reading.

It’s set in Britain, so there is no need to get used to a new world setting. This may make readers feel a little more at home.

Will You Like This?

Do you like dragons?
Do you enjoy reading fantasy that’s set in the real world?
Are you looking for a fantasy novel that isn’t a challenging read?

Then Temeraire might be worth giving a try!

Though, be warned: it is the first in a series, so once you’re in, you might be in for a long while. This is the one book in the series that I’ve ventured into, so I can’t speak to the other books. But if they’re anything like the first book, they’re bound to be engaging.

Opinion (Spoilers)

I wasn’t sure I was going to like this going in, but I’m glad I stuck with it. I really liked Novik’s writing. It flowed well, and it was easy to visualize the scenes as they played out. As I wrote above, the prose was not overly complex. I love the fantasy genre, and I do genuinely love getting lost in new worlds in high fantasy, but it can be exhausting. Trying to understand the new world, its rules, connect to the characters, fall into the story, make sure you’re remembering details… if the prose is overly-complicated, I can be ready for a nap before the first chapter’s over! (That doesn’t mean I give up reading, mind you; I just take some breaks, and once I get the world figured out a bit more, it’s a little less exhausting and more fun). Temeraire never felt that way.

I did occasionally find some issues that I questioned if they were errors or continuity issues. Early in the book, Laurence mentioned someone named Bowen, and then next page refers to someone as Bowden, but the text reads as though we should know this person. I had wondered if it was an error in names, as they were so close, but I moved on. Little things like this might hit me the wrong way. Even when the dragons began talking or behaved in a way that felt too much like a house pet, I felt my brow raise.

But overall I enjoyed the book. I liked the characters and connected with them in different ways. I liked the writing and I liked the story. It’s definitely a recommend.

And who knows where my 2022 reading will take me? Perhaps the next book will pop up on my reading list soon!

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