Sunday, June 7, 2009

His Majesty's Dragon

His Majesty's Dragon
Naomi Novik

Time magazing said, "Enthralling reading--like Jane Austen playing Dungeons & Dragons with Eragon's Christopher Paolini." I think the Jane Austin connection is very true to the mark. Austin's books were always about duty and one's place in society, and this book definitely fits that picture.

Did I finish the book? I had no trouble getting through the first two-thirds. Things dragged a bit from there, but picked up again quickly. In all, I had no trouble keeping with it. One star.

Will I read the sequel? Half-star. I do enjoy character-driven stories, but I also like the plot to have a strong focus. I want the hero to have a problem to work on. The story felt like all the action was happening elsewhere, and every now and again would involve the main character. My wife pointed out that this is how most of Austin's stories are. They focus more on the people and the period in history than they do on some cosmic struggle or epic quest. Also, this story had no real villain, unless you count Napoleon--unless you're French, in which case Napoleon is a national hero.

Was the writing good? Some books are satisfying to read even in their mundane parts, while other books bore me and I find myself scanning large sections and skipping page after page. Wish I knew what the difference was. I really like the rythm and the voice that Novik uses. It is very similar to what I try and do, and now that I have an example to follow I probably ought to pick up the sequel--if for no other reason than that alone. Yeah. The writing's good.

Was the story idea interesting? I'm mixed on this. Novik has a thorough knowledge of the British navy and the people of the early 1800's and what the cultured society was like--enough to create a very immersive milleu. That part was very well done. For me as an aspiring writer it really sets the bar. Novik even has names for all the dragon breeds, including names in French for the French breeds. Very imaginative. However, I wasn't convinced about dragons that can talk from the moment they hatch, or that something as large as a passenger jet can only fly at 35 miles per hour (a Cesna will stall at 55 MPH and in a dive tops out at well over 200 MPH). Still, there were never any parts where I found myself thinking that something was totally lame. Half-star.

Was the ending satisfying? Yes. The plot did slowly build up to a major battle, and the resolution was fairly interesting. Full marks on that.

Final verdict: 4 stars.

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