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Fenika
09-02-2010, 07:04 AM
Hello, and welcome to the F/SF Book Study. This thread is for discussion of His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik.

***Spoilers*** will be streaking naked through this thread unpredictably. You have been warned.

If anyone wants to see the previous book studies:

2008:
Ender's Game (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=111104) (August)
Lies of Locke Lamora (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=115169) (September)
A Deepness in the Sky (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=117667) (October)
A Fire in the Deep (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=119947) (November)
Storm Front (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=123159) (December)

2009:
I Am Legend (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=126343) (January)
The Onion Girl (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=129735) (February)
Lord of Light (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=133248) (March)
Small Gods (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=137014) (April)
Beggars in Spain (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=140552) (May)
The Once and Future King (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=143570) (June)
Foundation (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=147167) (July)
The Graveyard Book (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=150278) (August)
Neuromancer (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=153635) (September)
The Last Wish (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=157171) (October)
The Knife of Never Letting Go (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=160784) (November)
One Hundred Years of Solitude (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=164002) (December)

2010:
Battle Royale (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=166930) (January)
Jhereg (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=170305) (February)
Cyberabad Days (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=173093) (March)
Tigana (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=176257) (April)
Next (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=179027) (May)
Perdido Street Station (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=181919) (June/July)
Boneshaker (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=187620) (August)

Thank you to Broken Fingers for starting the book study!

Sai
09-03-2010, 07:43 AM
I just started this today and am about third of the way through. It's a pretty easy, fun read. I keep thinking of 'How to Train Your Dragon' as I read it though, especially since Temerarie looks a lot like Toothless (at least, he does in my head).

Fenika
09-03-2010, 05:06 PM
Temerarie is far more regal than Toothless! ;)

I read this recently and agree that it is easy and fun. I think some things could have used a bit more development, and the ending comes too quick, but all in all I enjoyed it.

Etola
09-03-2010, 07:58 PM
Oh, I also made the Temeraire/Toothless connection in my head :) Despite the obvious difference in the dragons' personalities, it was a story of a person who never expected to be riding a dragon, who forms a special bond with a black dragon who is particularly special and whose unique breath weapon/aerial skills saves the day.

But yes, other than that the stories and worlds are very different, and I really liked Laurence and Temeraire. So many times I just wanted to rush into the scene and hug Laurence, poor guy. It was a fun & quick read (which was exactly what I needed right now), but despite it being a comparatively 'easy' read, it still had a lot of good detail and world-building. I think Novik did an excellent job creating a plausible aerial corps and making things like Napoleonic-era military tactics accessible to those of us who aren't that familiar with it. I'd never have thought of putting a crew of several dozen on a single dragon, but it makes a lot of sense.

In short, this story really sucked me in and I enjoyed all the time I spent in this world. I'd definitely continue reading the series.

The only question I had, and which I set forth for discussion, is: Is Temeraire a Marty Stu character?

Fenika
09-03-2010, 09:02 PM
Actually, without mentioning spoilers for the sequel, I will sum it up as: Captain Stu sails around the world and ponders his problems. But he does it with a dragon. (Said dragon needing far more development and air time).

Needless to say, I was a bit frustrated. I'm hoping the third will be better, but I'm not in any hurry to find out.

Liosse de Velishaf
09-04-2010, 12:17 PM
The third is a bit better, and the others, too. But the series as a whole is very good, even with the few problems it has. Temeraire also gets a lot more page-time.

DarthFormal
09-06-2010, 04:23 AM
Temerarie is far more regal than Toothless!

As much as I love toothless, I have to agree with this.

I thought the world building was well done and the book was generally well paced. I don't want to spoil, but the thing that bothered me most was Lawrence and Roland. The pacing of that was way too quick for me.

Temeraire a gary stu? I'm going to have to ponder on that. Good question, though.

Etola
09-06-2010, 09:14 PM
Actually, without mentioning spoilers for the sequel, I will sum it up as: Captain Stu sails around the world and ponders his problems. But he does it with a dragon. (Said dragon needing far more development and air time).


Hmm, I thought Temeraire might be a Marty Stu, but never thought Laurence himself might be one. A bit too easily flustered and at the mercy of his higher commanders to be a true Stu. But then, I haven't read the second book.

DarthFormal
09-07-2010, 06:24 AM
Hmm, I thought Temeraire might be a Marty Stu, but never thought Laurence himself might be one. A bit too easily flustered and at the mercy of his higher commanders to be a true Stu. But then, I haven't read the second book.

Does anyone think Laurence gets too easily flustered? No character is perfect and it can be funny, cute even, but it seems a bit much over time. Thoughts?

Also, Novik's use of semicolons. Did anyone else start counting them? Is her use of semicolons appropriate?

CheG
09-09-2010, 10:20 PM
I like these books but I don't LOVE them. I've read the first two and in each one nothing much happens. The books are very character driven so it seems like if you don't enjoy the characters then they are entirley tedious.

I think Laurence is boardering on too perfect. I can't beleive that a captain- noble or not- has never been to a whore! WTH? I think it's actually stated in text somewhere that he never takes full advantage of shore leave. Temeraire is well done and very likeable. The conversations between Temeraire and Laurence are the highlight of the book and luckily there are plenty because NOTHING MUCH HAPPENS. Did I mention that? I hear that Peter Jackon has optioned this as a movie and I'm hoping he makes the movie 90 minutes long because honestly I'm not sure I can sit through 4 hours of converation and training manuevers to reach the final 20 minutes of battle.

The 'romance' with Roland is the worst I've ever read. It isn't given the time to be an actual subplot or steamy enough to add ome actual sex to the book. It amounts to "Hi, want to have sex?" "ure, why not, ince I'm too honorable and cheap to pay for a whore."

Whores aside, the world building is good, but much better in book two where we get to see the state of dragons in China.

Weirdly enough I till like the books. I will get around to book three soon and I'm looking forward to the book where they go to Africa. I it cool? Can anyone tell me without spoilers?

Etola
09-09-2010, 11:05 PM
I think I remember seeing somewhere that Jackson's plan was to turn it into a TV miniseries or something, because he didn't feel the first book would translate well to a movie?

And the romance with Roland, I was actually kind of stumped as to whether they actually had sex or not because it was so vague and barely touched upon. Unless staying up and playing cards and having conversations is some weird Regency-era euphemism?

I tend to be wary about stories with a premise that goes like this:

1) Stuffy, somewhat oppressive society
2) MC bonds with magical animal and gets sent to live/work with others who are similarly bonded to magical animals
3) This new group of characters lives on the outskirts of "proper" society, and are treated with a mixture of reverence and disdain by the general populace
4) This group of characters is notable for having a much looser & more progressive code of conduct, including (but not limited to) the author's idea of sexual liberation, which (for whatever reason) is remarkably consequence-free.

The frustration I have with this sort of premise (which I've seen a lot in fantasy) is that it's hard to do in such a way that I find convincing. You often end up with a lot of people sleeping with each other and nobody actually developing real or convincing relationships, or suffering jealousy or worrying about paternity, etc. etc. Granted it's touched on in this book, but does Emily really not worry that she doesn't know who her father is, or that he doesn't even know she exists?

YMMV on this, and HMD wasn't nearly as bad as some other series I've read that are based on that premise. But it did seem to ride that fine line.

Liosse de Velishaf
09-10-2010, 12:33 AM
It reminds me a lot of Mercedes lackey's Herald series, which have a very similar premise. I felt the execution was more mature, but still lacking in forethought.

Etola
09-10-2010, 02:00 AM
It reminds me a lot of Mercedes lackey's Herald series, which have a very similar premise. I felt the execution was more mature, but still lacking in forethought.

Exactly one of the series that sprang to mind for me! And when you say you felt the execution was more mature, do you mean in Novik or Lackey?

Sai
09-10-2010, 07:22 AM
Finished the book. I really liked the relationship between Temeraire and Laurence. I don't think I'll continue with the series though. It's a little slow-paced for me, and I found the description a little lacking in parts.

I also didn't like the reveal in the epilogue concerning Temeraire's breed. For the whole book everyone had been going on and on about how great Temeraire is, but the very last chapter just pushed it over the top for me. A character (who only only pops up twice, both times to give convenient exposition and then disappear) basically tells Temeraire "I'm sorry, I made a mistake: it turns out that you're not just super-duper, you are the best dragon ever." I prefer it when the characters find out information like this for themselves, rather than have Basil Exposition lay it out for them. And plus, wasn't Temeraire cool enough already without this extra boast?

CheG
09-10-2010, 07:36 AM
OK- it may be book 2 where Laurence and Roland finally for sure have sex, but my complaint is there is NO sex scene and that is the only reason the relationship should be there. It doesn't further the plot and it's the opposite of romantic so we should at least get some hot dragon captain pron. But no...

I also wonder if that the fact that there are other talking-sentient-self aware beings has thrown a monkey wrench into religion. I wish Novik would expound more on the world at large. I find myself wihing the characters weren't stuck in the Napoleanic war so we could go out and see the world.

TV Miniseries= a MUCH better choice. I could stand one hour chunks. But I want more battles. I like the descriptions of the French dragons, particularly the nocturnal breeds.

Krysondra
09-10-2010, 02:32 PM
I have to say that this book was a really quick read, and I enjoyed the conversations between Temeraire and Laurence. At the same time, it really bothered me in a lot of ways. I put the book down feeling like I had been cheated out of a whole story.

The books are very character driven so it seems like if you don't enjoy the characters then they are entirley tedious.

There was some description of the life that went on around them, but from all of the places that they stayed, I think that Novik could have done a lot more with the setting and action. I realize this is book one of a trilogy, but it didn't have enough action to hook me into wanting to read any of the other books in the trilogy. Also, it left me feeling like I didn't know the world that well. I didn't have a feel for the importance of all dragons - just Temeraire. I was also only entertained by him because of his "seditious" thinking.

Whores aside, the world building is good, but much better in book two where we get to see the state of dragons in China.

I disagree that the world building is well done. We hear about how the dragon riders are treated, and we see it in isolated incidents, but mostly, we are cushioned from the populace by the seclusion that the dragon riders stay in. We don't see how the general populace reacts to the riders - only the nobility. Also, we only have Laurence's reasoning as to why those prejudices exist. We never see any reason to give them any basis. In fact, by the end of the book, the lady who scorned Laurence at his house is now vying for his attention at the party because he is a hero. So, the world changes to quickly in my mind to be solidly built.

I also wonder if that the fact that there are other talking-sentient-self aware beings has thrown a monkey wrench into religion. I wish Novik would expound more on the world at large. I find myself wihing the characters weren't stuck in the Napoleanic war so we could go out and see the world.

I agree with this sentiment entirely. I would like to see more of the world around them. Laurence goes into town. Laurence goes places to which the reader is denied which doesn't seem fair to me. I know a book must be limited in scope, but it would be nice to see more of the world and more of the war than just inside the Dragon Compound.

Etola
09-10-2010, 08:35 PM
I also wonder if that the fact that there are other talking-sentient-self aware beings has thrown a monkey wrench into religion.

I get the feeling, at least through Laurence's reactions, that the actual level of dragon sentience is not known by the general populace. (Note that his superiors went out of their way not to discuss openly the fact that their training master is a dragon.) Most of the dragons that an ordinary person might run into are the courier dragons, for whom intelligence was the dump stat of choice.

I also didn't like the reveal in the epilogue concerning Temeraire's breed. For the whole book everyone had been going on and on about how great Temeraire is, but the very last chapter just pushed it over the top for me. A character (who only only pops up twice, both times to give convenient exposition and then disappear) basically tells Temeraire "I'm sorry, I made a mistake: it turns out that you're not just super-duper, you are the best dragon ever." I prefer it when the characters find out information like this for themselves, rather than have Basil Exposition lay it out for them. And plus, wasn't Temeraire cool enough already without this extra boast?

This is exactly why I suspected that Temeraire might be a Marty Stu.

Liosse de Velishaf
09-10-2010, 09:12 PM
Exactly one of the series that sprang to mind for me! And when you say you felt the execution was more mature, do you mean in Novik or Lackey?


Novik, mostly.




For the record and hopefully without spoliers, you get to see quite a few exotic places in the rest of the series, where the dragons have slightly more effect on society.

ELMontague
09-25-2010, 10:42 AM
Very short post. I really liked this book, and since I loved the Aubrey/Maturin series this made a delightful twist. Now I have to read them all.

eyeblink
09-29-2010, 12:19 AM
This novel was published as Temeraire in the UK.

They say that readers pick up novels in shops by reading the opening sentences to see if it grabs them. I've rarely done that, and have had bad results when I've tried it. Case in point, this novel. This was a convention freebie at Fantasycon a few years back. The opening paragraph is so badly written that it's barely comprehensible - I had to read it two or three times before I could work out what it was on about. (I don't have that copy anymore as I gave it away, so can't quote anything here.) No-one there could understand how it had got past an editor. I haven't read the rest of the novel.

But then, the novel was nominated for a Hugo, so clearly I'm in the minority!

CScottMorris
09-29-2010, 01:08 AM
I enjoyed the series, and absolutely love the world she set up.
I only had two problems with the books.
The first, is that I felt that the author dwelt too much on the lovey feelings between Lawrence and Temeraire. I dont mind romance, and I dont like writers that ignore affection shown by male characters. My problem, was to me it felt like the strong male character of Lawrence was behaving like a woman. And certainly in those times, such feelings were frowned upon. let me also state I have no problem with men showing feelings. This is not my problem. It felt to me, and this is only my opinion, that it was a male character written by a female writer who only knew how to write female characters. Again, only my impression from the books.
My second complaint, was that while I loved who she integrated the dragons into the armed forces, the actual writing of flight and battle scenes was terrible. At one point, a dragon sneezed and moved backwards in the air. Dragons could not hover, that was unique to Temeraire. They had to move forward, but in this instance, the dragon sneeze(from a black-pepper round-an idea I loved, btw), and its forward flight was not only arrested, but it moved backward from the force of the sneeze, and then immediately began forward flight, with no loss of altitude. Also, she had men sword-fighting on the wings, which to me was unbelievable.
Aside from those two complaints, I quite enjoyed the books. The world building, especially. I loved the names of the breeds, I loved how she dealt with adding dragons to history, especially the Romans and Incas.
Great world-building, but poor execution when it came to writing.

Fenika
09-29-2010, 05:34 AM
There were men sword fighting on the wings? Wow, the battle scenes WERE badly written!

Alas. I think it is interesting that for all the flaws, lots of us enjoyed the book and want to read on in the series. There's a special magic to that.

I want that magic :D

CScottMorris
09-29-2010, 09:09 PM
Again, the world-building was incredible, the actual story was compelling, there were just some issues with execution.

Etola
09-29-2010, 09:58 PM
This novel was published as Temeraire in the UK.

They say that readers pick up novels in shops by reading the opening sentences to see if it grabs them. I've rarely done that, and have had bad results when I've tried it. Case in point, this novel. This was a convention freebie at Fantasycon a few years back. The opening paragraph is so badly written that it's barely comprehensible - I had to read it two or three times before I could work out what it was on about. (I don't have that copy anymore as I gave it away, so can't quote anything here.) No-one there could understand how it had got past an editor. I haven't read the rest of the novel.


Eyeblink, after reading this post I went back and read that first paragraph. You're right, that first sentence was a doozie. I think I must've just given up on trying to parse it and powered past it instead. That said, the rest of the book was much better in terms of clarity and editing.

Novik's no master stylist, I think we can all agree. She does not write like an 1800's writer (which is the voice I think she was going for), but like a 21st century writer imitating an 1800s style. That said, the style was still good enough for me to really enjoy the experience and fall into the world. But YMMV!