fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews Naomi Novik In His Majesty's ServiceIn His Majesty’s Service by Naomi Novik

In His Majesty’s Service is an omnibus edition containing the first three novels in Naomi Novik‘s TEMERAIRE series. (These 3 novels were also released in a Science Fiction Book Club omnibus edition called Temeraire: In the Service of the King.) Aside from these three books, Naomi Novik has written two more novels in the series, Empire of Ivory and Victory of Eagles, with Tongues of Serpents being the working title of the forthcoming sixth book. There’s also a short story entitled “Feast or Famine,” which is available on Naomi Novik‘s website, as well as two “outtakes” or deleted scenes from other books in the series.

The first book in this omnibus edition, His Majesty’s Dragon (the title is an obvious reference to the term His Majesty’s Ship or HMS), is an enjoyable alternate history fantasy in which the Napoleonic Wars are changed by the addition of an air force consisting of domesticated dragons. His Majesty’s Dragon is an enjoyable and tightly written book, well researched and written in (what appears to my layman’s eye) a historically accurate style. I enjoyed the story of Laurence, a naval captain who accidentally captures a rare dragon egg and involuntarily becomes Temeraire’s (the dragon’s) captain and companion.

However, in book 2, Throne of Jade, the story loses much of its tight pace, turning into a loose and sometimes dragging travel narrative. The novel gives a very interesting look at life aboard a large ocean-faring ship as Laurence and Temeraire travel to China, but completely falls apart at the end with an improbable and downright silly ending.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsBook 3, Black Powder War, unfortunately combines most of the flaws of the second book with very little of what I enjoyed in the first book. In this novel, Temeraire and Laurence are summoned from the Chinese court to Istanbul. The result is another meandering travel narrative. Most of the last third of Black Powder War consists of long and overly-detailed battle descriptions, some of which I ended up skimming over. Improbably, Naomi Novik comes up with a deus-ex-machina ending that is even sillier than the second book’s. There are some bright points in this novel, but it’s nowhere near as good as the first book.

I enjoyed meeting Temeraire and Laurence, but in retrospect I wish that I’d stopped reading at the end of His Majesty’s Dragon, and I am not planning to read any further books in this series. Still, I would recommend His Majesty’s Dragon to any fantasy fans who have an interest in the Napoleonic era, dragons, or (ideally) both.

Published in 2009. Together in one volume, here are the first three novels in Naomi Novik’s New York Times bestselling Temeraire series, combining the gripping history of the Napoleonic era, the thrill of Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern books, and the excitement of Patrick O’Brian’s seafaring adventures. In His Majesty’s Service also includes an exclusive original Temeraire short story. Capt. Will Laurence is serving with honor in the British Navy when his ship captures a French frigate harboring most a unusual cargo–an incalculably valuable dragon egg. When the egg hatches, Laurence unexpectedly becomes the master of the young dragon Temeraire and finds himself on an extraordinary journey that will shatter his orderly, respectable life and alter the course of his nation’s history. Thrust into England’s Aerial Corps, Laurence and Temeraire undergo rigorous training while staving off French forces intent on breaching British soil. But the pair has more than France to contend with when China learns that an imperial dragon intended for Napoleon–Temeraire himself– has fallen into British hands. The emperor summons the new pilot and his dragon to the Far East, a long voyage fraught with peril and intrigue. From England’s shores to China’s palaces, from the Silk Road’s outer limits to the embattled borders of Prussia and Poland, Laurence and Temeraire must defend their partnership and their country from powerful adversaries around the globe. But can they succeed against the massed forces of Bonaparte’s implacable army?


  • Stefan Raets

    STEFAN RAETS (on FanLit's staff August 2009 — February 2012) reads and reviews science fiction and fantasy whenever he isn’t distracted by less important things like eating and sleeping.

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