Thursday, September 21, 2006

Temeraire and Hedwig

I've been on a frantic reading binge, finishing On Basilisk Station by David Weber and then leaping headlong into His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik. The Weber book was the first in the Honor Harrington series, and it was generally okay, although as a first novel, it had some pretty clunky prose and wooden characters. Also, being a science fictional retelling of the Horatio Hornblower story, Weber has to jump through some expositional hoops to set up his spaceships so that they have to battle like 17th century warships, maneuvering in two dimensions to fire broadsides at each other. But for all that, by the time I finished, I wanted to read the second book in the series.

But since I'd had the Novik book for a month, and had put off buying it for months before that, I decided to go ahead and read it next. I finished it last night, and it was really good. It' a fantasy about the English using a dragon-based air force against the French during the Napoleonic wars. Excellent work, with a really appealing character in Temeraire, the dragon. I must say, I got a little choked up a couple of times, and I plan to buy the next book in the series very soon.

However, while I was reading it, I couldn't help but be struck by the similarities to Harry Potter.

Captain William Laurence, the main character, is an Englishman who is drawn into what amounts to a separate culture existing alongside his own (the Air Corps, devoted to the care and training of dragons, like the wizarding world of the Potter books). He is an outsider who has to learn his way among strangers, who all seem to know about him, because he is famous (for having retrieved a rare dragon's egg from a French warship). Although he is a newcomer to this society, he progresses very quickly, thanks to grit and loyalty and the fact that, though inexperienced, he's badass powerful. His strength makes him the target of a powerful enemy, who is both the source of his power and jealous of it. But his goodness and loyalty bring him allies, foremost among them two fellow trainees, male and female, one each. His adjustment to his new position is made easier by the fact that he is suddenly and unexpectedly wealthy. Over the course of his training, several seemingly unrelated clues come together to reveal a secret plot that only he can foil in the end, by discovering the true nature of his own power.

Some of these things are common tropes, of course, but others, like his newfound wealth (which also featured in the Honor Harrington book, strangely enough - that may have been what made it stand out so strongly) aren't so much.

I'm going to spend the weekend not going to FenCon and trying to bang out a couple of short stories that have impending deadlines. Depending on my success with those endeavors, I may then reward myself with the second Temeraire book, Throne of Jade.

1 comment:

Barbara said...

I'm glad you liked the first book. I've been pushing them at everyone I can. *g*

Did you see that Peter Jackson optioned all her books for movies? Wow.