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Book Review: His Majesty’s Dragon

Naomi Novik

Reviewed by:
On September 6, 2014
Last modified:September 6, 2014


A lighthearted meld of Patrick O'Brian and Christopher Paolini. Creative in combination, but clearly imitative.

hismajestysdragonHis Majesty’s Dragon is reasonably well-written and offers a unique spin on the period.  Novik incorporates dragons into the story!  I suspect I would have been more able to enjoy this book had I not read so many of the books that she quite obviously borrows from.

Were I totally ignorant of Patrick O’Brian, C.S. Forrestor, and Christopher Paolini, I think I might have been able to approach the book from a less critical viewpoint. Don’t get me wrong, this book is fun to read.  The story line is solid and even original. I might even read others in the series, maybe.

However, in the course of reading the book, I was constantly reminded, that unlike O’Brian, this author probably did no original research for her novel.  Instead she borrowed heavily from his Aubrey and Maturin and from Forrestor’s Horatio Hornblower.  Somehow it is just too obvious, and she falls short of carrying off the gravitas of actually knowing what she is talking about, other than what she gleaned from her reading of these authors.  Nowhere does this become more clear than in her depiction of the battle of Trafalgar.  Now I will grant you, that all bets are off with respect to historical accuracy when you consider that she adds dragons to the mix, nonetheless, it is clear from her treatment of the subject, that she really knows nothing about it, other than what she has gleaned from indirect sources.  In her version of history Nelson doesn’t die at Trafalgar.  I haven’t read any subsequent books in the series, so I don’t know if she has plans for the admiral as a meaningful character later in the story.  I doubt it, he is only mentioned incidentally in the story and does not participate in any meaningful way.  I suspect, that the author just made a mistake.

It wasn’t just history that comes up a bit weak in the story, but also her obvious borrowing from Christopher Paolini’s Eragon dragon series.  Here also, originality seems to desert the author.   She does manage to add some creative elements with respect to dragon breeds and capabilities, but her explanation of dragon-to-rider relationships felt almost like wholesale theft.

if you haven’t read O’Brian, Forrestor, or  Paolini, you will probably enjoy this book as something entertaining and original.  If you have, however, you may find the near plagiaristic use of language and theme irritate you as they did me.


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