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A new dragon takes flight
The next piece of good news is the rapid-fire publication schedule of Naomi Novik's engrossing Napoleonic-era fantasy series, Temeraire. The first novel in the series, His Majesty's Dragon, came out in April, the second, Throne of Jade, is being released this month, and the third, Black Powder War, comes out in June. From his earliest years, Capt. William Laurence, third son of Lord Allendale, has been a navy man. After heavy fighting in the Atlantic, his ship captures a small French ship that is carrying a Chinese dragon's egg in its hold. When the egg hatches, the dragon, Temeraire, ignores everyone and picks a horrified Laurence to be his rider for life. In Throne of Jade the Chinese emperor sends his brother to investigate the British government's treatment of Temeraire. The Chinese are shocked to discover Laurence and Temeraire have been in the forefront of Britain's defense against Napoleon. They insist Temeraire be taken back to China and Temeraire agrees, but only if Laurence accompanies him. On the seven-month sea journey they face sea serpents, murderous attempts on Laurence's life and ploys by the Chinese embassy to persuade Temeraire that his life will be unutterably richer in China. Novik's style varies from richly descriptive passages to a terse command of the language of warfare. She has managed to combine the naval epics of Patrick O'Brian (to whose fans the series is strongly recommended) with the favorite fantasy subject of dragons, creating something new and quite wonderful. The Temeraire trilogy could well be this year's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.
Gavin J. Grant runs Small Beer Press in Northampton, Massachusetts.