A fast, light, young adult adventure that I would have consumed with relish had I read it in my teens.
Sadly, I’m now too old and jaded fully to immerse myself in this book. I can admire its intent and execution but I can’t give myself to it with the abandon it deserves.
“Temeraire” sets up a series of books in a “Captain and Commander”-with-Dragons style, set in alternative history of the Napoleonic war in which dragons have been around forever and the British and the French have a military service of dragon riders.
The hero is Captain Will Laurence of the Royal Navy, who, through a set of unexpected circumstances, finds himself bonded with a dragon, straight from its shell and transferred from the Royal Navy to the much less prestigious Aviator Core.
A lot of the fun of the book comes from discovering this alternative world and understanding the closed community of aviators and dragons.
The pace is not rapid and, apart from during the combat scenes, there is little tension in the story.
The dragons, especially Temeraire, are likeable and better drawn than most of the people. The relationship between dragons and aviators and between each other is credible and engaging. The military impact of dragons in an alternative Napoleonic war is well thought out.
The plot is not very surprising but it’s cleverly done, easy to absorb and there was nothing that had me grinding my teeth and somethings that were quite emotionally engaging, in a repressed, English upper-class emotionally crippled sort of way.
I couldn’t really take to Captain Will Laurence. He is brave, honourable, fundamentally decent and totally dull. He names his dragon Temeraire, an anglicisation of the French for reckless, but it’s a trait that neither he nor his dragon exhibit. He was quite believable but not very engaging.
It probably didn’t help that the audiobook was narrated by one of my least favourite narrators, Simon Vance. His dry, dull, upper-class voice was probably a good fit for Captain Laurence but it served to keep me at a distance from the character. Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear Simon Vance for yourself.