Temeraire is a set of nine fantasy novels in a series that is set during the English/French Napoleonic Wars, with each side in the war mustering aerial forces made up of dragons and their navigational teams. The saga in particular centers around the naval captain Will Laurence who unexpectedly becomes an aerial captain of a dragon. His ship captured a French vessel that happened to be carrying a rare dragon egg destined for the Emperor Napoleon. When the egg hatched, the young dragon gravitated toward Laurence. Laurence immediately understood that his previous life was basically over; the dragon had chosen him and thus the bond was inviolable. As a member of the air services, Laurence’s life from thenceforth would be one of devotion to his dragon, whom Laurence named Temeraire (pronounced, according to the author, as Tem-uh-rare).
Temeraire is of the Celestial breed, of which there are only eight others in the world. At eighteen tons, he is extremely intelligent, versed in several languages, fond of mathematics, sensitive, and very attached to Laurence.
As for Laurence, he has a deep respect for naval tradition, but as he gets to know Temeraire and the other dragons of the aerial corps, his loyalty changes.
The bond between Laurence and Temeraire is echoed by that between other captains and their dragons, and among the Corps – crew and dragons – by loyalty to the group as a whole.
I read the first four of these books: His Majesty’s Dragon, Throne of Jade, Black Powder War, and Empire of Ivory. Throughout the story, the lives and concerns of the dragons take precedence, although we also become close to the human crews of the various dragons. It is a richly imagined world in which there are many different breeds of dragons, each having a particular skill much appreciated by the military, and each having a growing social and political awareness, thanks to the influence of the rather leftward-leaning Temeraire.
Readers will learn a number of naval terms and some seafaring mechanics, particularly in the first book, as well as – more so in later books – the basics of the Napoleonic Wars. And while the historical period is different and the manners and mannerisms different than our own today, what is made eminently clear from these books is that the nature of one’s relationships, as well as one’s moral convictions and sense of integrity, are timeless elements that most define each person’s particular life.
Evaluation: I thought the first book to be superior to the others, but it’s hard not to keep reading, because the characters are so likable.
Published in the U.S. by Del Rey Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, 2006, 2006, 2006, 2007