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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #176: Temeraire

Updated: Jan 28, 2022

Believe it or not, he's trained.

Temeraire is a dragon. Lots of dragons in fantasy, of course, from Smaug to Toothless to Puff. What makes Temeraire different is that he exists smack in the middle of one of my favorite literary sub-genres, nautical fiction set during the Age of Sail. Author Naomi Novik has created an alternate history in which wooden naval ships fought alongside an air force consisting of dragons, a bewildering array of species and variants. These dragons are sentient, intelligent, and work in partnership with aviators with whom they bond, often for life.

There are two lead characters in the cycle. One is William Laurence, a naval captain in the mold of Jack Aubrey and Horatio Hornblower (who I can only ever picture as Russell Crowe), whose career is sidetracked when he mistakenly finds himself bonded to a young dragon when the egg he captures from a French vessel hatches. Laurence becomes a flyer instead of a sailor, forming a friendship with Temeraire that will lead the two across the globe, in conflict with other dragons, Napoleon, and at times even the British Crown itself. There's high adventure and engaging exploration of the effect of dragons on other cultures. The narrative drags at times, though there are also stretches when the magic of the first novel, His Majesty's Dragon, is recaptured, and those are worth it.

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