Horatio Hornblower, With Dragons: Naomi Novik’s Temeraire Series
I just reread Victory of Eagles, one of my favorite books in Naomi Novik’s excellent nine-book Temeraire series, and thought I’d briefly blog again about how much I like them. The books are set in about 1800, in our own world, with one exception: There are dragons; they’re sapient (and indeed some are highly intelligent); and, if raised by a human from hatching, they bond closely to the human—which of course means that the world’s militaries have air forces full of human-crewed dragons. The hero, William Laurence, is a naval captain who by accident becomes the captain of a dragon whom he names Temeraire (after the ship).
To make the concept work of course requires good world-building (to use the standard SF/fantasy label), but the heart of the series are the relationships among the characters: foremost, of course, between Laurence and Temeraire, but also among others, human and dragon. It helps the richness of the relationships that one element of the world-building is that one military significant breed of dragons will only accept women as captains (why not?); imagine how circa 1800 England would try to deal with that.
I suppose part of why I liked the books is that their politics strike me as appealing: One might label it loosely libertarian and egalitarian yet coupled with a sense of patriotic duty, in a way one sees in much English a
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