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Jim’s Current Reads: Temeraire

I don’t read a whole lot of fantasy literature, and in particular, I don’t have much use for warmed over Tolkien, such as the works of Terry Brooks. Having said that, I am currently getting a kick out of reading the Temeraire series, by Naomi Novik.

The books, which reimagine the Napoleonic wars with an airforce of dragons and their aviators, are best described as “Patrick O’Brian plus Dragons.” Novik is clearly a fan of O’Brian, and there is no better role model for an author writing about this period. Imagine taking the characters of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin from the Master and Commander series, and then replacing both Dr. Maturin and the H.M.S. Surprise with a very intelligent yet naive dragon, and you have the basic gist.

The success of the books (currently up to three: His Majesty’s Dragon, Throne of Jade, and Black Powder War, lies in Novik’s strict adherence to historic realism, with one rather large exception: The Airforce. Thus, the reader avoids a lot of nonsense about elves, dwarves, and an annoying lexicon of made up gibberish which tends to plague the novels in this genre.

Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson has bought the rights to these books for movies, and it is easy to see why. The battle scenes, involving 100 gun ships of the line and squadrons of dragons are exciting and highly visual. At the same time, like O’Brian, the more intimate scenes involving the social mores of this time evoke Jane Austen.

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