Review: Temeraire (or His Majesty’s Dragon)

Temeraire. Also published as His Majesty’s Dragon.

Temeraire by Naomi Novik is the first book in an ongoing series of seven books so far. The eighth book is on its way and the author has planned to end the story after nine books. It is set in a world very like our own; the only great difference is that dragons are a natural part of that world. The story takes place during the Napoleonic wars and begins at sea where the captain Will Laurence boards a French ship. On board he finds a dragon egg and the dragon within becomes the cause of many problems and much happiness. The story is 332 pages. The appendix is another 8 pages.

This dragon has absolutely nothing to do with the dragons in the series, I just drew it for fun a couple of days ago and wanted more pictures in my post 🙂

The book is written in a simple style which flows naturally and is easy to read. There are also no long inner monologues or philosophical reflections and this allows the plot to move forwards smoothly at a brisk walk.

The story has a good mix of calm and action. In the calm scenes the world and characters are shown in more detail and greater empathy is established with the reader. In the action scenes, great turns of the plot take place often with grand battles in the sky between the raging dragons.

The appendix, although not part of the story, is interesting to read. It explains in some measure how dragons came to be as they are in this world and also gives a small discussion of dragons’ weight.

The best thing about the book is the relationship between the captain, Will Laurence, and the dragon, Temeraire, which is both touching and interesting. It develops into a very strong bond that sometimes resembles the bond between a child and its parent, and it is not easy to tell if Laurance is the parent or the child.

All in all, Temeraire is both an entertaining and enjoyable read which is fast paced enough to keep most readers hooked throughout the story.

Throne of Jade. Number two in the series.

Tags: Friendship, dragons, war, social norms

This would be a good read for: Children and parents, people who like dragons, people who like a quick paced plot, people interested in altered history

This would not be a good read for: People who prefer long descriptions and lots of detail, people who prefer realistic novels, people who do not like series

Suggested further reading: The rest of the series. Number two is called Throne of Jade.

Review: Our Tragic Universe

Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas is about a 38 year old woman who is an author. The whole novel revolves around her life both in the present and in the past. The book can be read as a realistic novel, but there are elements in it that can be read as either supernatural, surrealistic or even psychological. It is 425 pages.

As in her books Popco and The End of Mr. Y numerous theories and ideas are woven into the book often through the dialogue. That is, in many of the dialogues the characters are explaining to each other various theories usually on a very basic and easy-to-follow level. In Our tragic universe most of the theories are about writing and stories, therefore people who find such theories interesting, such as writers, will probably also find the book interesting. Unless of course they have already heard or read all the theories and do not like repetitions.

There is not much action in the plot. Most of the plot takes place in a small town in Devonshire, and there are no murder mysteries or detectives included. There are also plenty of reflections from the first person narrator which give the story a rather slow pace. It is the kind of book I would describe as ‘interesting’ rather than ‘exciting’ and ‘curious’ rather than ‘funny’.

There are some good instances of typical daily life that can make the reader smile in recognition. But again, this is only if the reader has some sort of connection to writing, friends with distinctive theories or dogs.

The best thing about the book is all the small quirky ideas and stories that pop up from time to time.

The most disappointing thing about the book is the ending. Do not worry to read on, there will not be any spoilers. Although it is slow, there is throughout the story a steady build up. It is released near the end of the story but more like the puncturing of a balloon than the breaking of a dam. In itself this is very aligned with the rest of the novel. The disappointing part is that the story then trails off. It is as if it tries to make a knot on itself and fails. It is as if something is missing and this leaves the reader unsatisfied.

Our Tragic Universe is an interesting book that will keep the reader entertained throughout the first 418,5 pages, but it does not leave much material for contemplation afterwards.

Tag words for this book: Writing, stories, supernatural, relationship problems

This would be a good read for: Writers, people who like to read about everyday experiences, people who like theories for their own sake, people who like small stories for their own sake

This would not be a good read for: People who want action, people who want overwhelming supernatural or mysterious events, people who do not want to hear about writing

Suggested further reading: Popco and The End of Mr. Y.

While the theories in Our Tragic Universe are mostly about stories and writing, the theories in Popco are mostly about codes and mathematics and the theories in The End of Mr. Y are mostly about language, quantum physics and reality. The End of Mr. Y is definitely the most action packed of the three.

End note, some personal experiences concerning the book

I came to a bad start with Our Tragic Universe because I did not like the title. It sounded too much like an answer instead of a question or something leading up to other questions. But I was surprised in a good way after only a couple of pages.

When I saw Our Tragic Universe in a book shop I first contemplated buying it, because I had read two other books by Scarlett Thomas. Then I thought I should much rather buy a book by an author whom I did not know. I ended up buying it anyway, together with the book Temeraire by Naomi Novik (whom I had not read before) which will probably also be the next book I review.

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