15 December 2011

Post 458: His Majesty's Dragon

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik. ISBN: 9780345490728 (eBook).

This book reminded me of Anne McCaffrey's work for several reasons, although the prominent one is probably the notification for it arrived in my inbox hours after hearing about her death (thank you, Twitter). The book was extremely enjoyable and brought me right back to my first encounter with dragons as characters. While McCaffrey's dragons usually don't talk to people other than their riders, and do so only telepathically, Novik's dragons are full fledged characters, and seem much more independent from their riders.

But there are still striking similarities, almost to the point where Novik's work is borderline fan-fiction. I do not intend this statement as a disservice to Novik's writing, which has merits of its own, but to express the reflections I had while reading her work. It really brought back the excitement of reading about dragons and their interactions with humans. The fact that Novik's world is set in the past, rather than the future and another planet makes it all the more interesting to see how she explains the development of history with dragons (this is possibly my favorite aspect of altered histories).

Furthermore, while McCaffrey seemed to focus mainly on female characters as protagonists, it seems she sometimes did so to the exclusion of other characters. Instead, Novik's protagonist (and his dragon) are male, but her female characters are also extraordinarily well-rounded and vibrant without the whole cookie-cutter of being tough... cookies. The women of the Aerial Corps may share some similarities in character, but they are usually the same similarities that the men share, making them characteristics, not of tough women, but of military culture and training. Furthermore, these women are not emotionless (or emotionally conflicted) ice queens, they are passionate about their work and play, and her inclusion of an age range of these women is particularly enjoyable. In fact, this is one of the few books I've read that has been feminist without actually having a female protagonist within recent memory. I think that's something McCaffrey would approve of, and I know her readers will likely enjoy these books with heartfelt nostalgia and hope that McCaffrey's legacy will be continued by other writers, even outside of Pern.

PS: Anyone who wants to buy me the series gets to be my best friend for life. Bonus points if you want to read it with me and have a discussion about it.

I first heard of this title through things mean a lot, and generally agree with her sentiments (at least regarding the first book). Also, Queen of the Nerds Felicia Day liked it. So there.
LibsNote: Library copy.


  1. This is a great series. I picked it up on a whim, but I love the historical connection with the fantasy elements.

    I haven't read any of McCaffrey's work in years, so my memory is hazy, but I remember thinking that her dragons had less personality than Novik's. Both are still wonderful!

    I actually haven't read beyond the fourth book, but I have the other two on my shelf. one day...

  2. I might have to break down and buy copies of the next books because they don't have them in the library and only the first online. I really loved Temeraire though, he's so much spunkier than most of McCaffrey's dragons. I am curious if Novik covers moral issues with the dragon breeding program. Does this happen in subsequent books?

  3. do you have a half price books in alabama?

  4. Dayna,
    Apparently nowhere in Alabama is there a Half Priced Books. :-/


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