Temeraire/The King's Dragon by Naomi Novik (Book Club)

Culhwch

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A thread for discussion of June's bookclub pick, The King's Dragon/Temeraire, by Naomi Novik. I have it, and I've started reading it, but unfortunately I'm about to start renos at home which will see me unable to log on here for maybe as long as a week. But I will be back! In the meantime, feel free to talk amongst yourselves...
 

GOLLUM

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Well what can I say?

I really liked the way Naomi interweaved historical fact with fiction and the relationship between the dragon and his master seemed very natrual rather than forced. All in all a very refreshing appproach to fantasy. Reminded me a little of Susanna Clarke's writing actually, which is to say almost whimiscal with a dry sense of humour. I have the other 2 books and plan to read them in the no too distant future.
 

Culhwch

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I can't say I agree with you on the Clarke comparison, Gollum. I should probably add that I've only read around thirty pages so far (and jumped ship at page ninety-nine of JS&MN), but I found that Clarke's style was far more graceful then Novik's. In truth I am having a hard time getting into this one, and Novik's style isn't helping - it's very dry and distant, to my mind, a little removed. Though far easier going than JS&MN. Plus it just isn't engaging me on a story level so far. One thing that particularly jarred was Temeraire's hatching, and his immediate ability to speak English... huh? Were he hatched aboard the Amitie would he be a native French-speaker? Hoping that's somehow going to be explained later on. And I can see potential in the few snippets of aviating so far mentioned, so I have my fingers crossed that it will turn for the better.
 

dwndrgn

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I enjoyed this story a great deal, in fact I went to read the subsequent two books.

I don't know that I had any difficulty with her actual style but some of the characterization needed a bit more filling in. These weren't flat characters but they needed just a bit more oomph if you know what I mean.

I loved the personalities of the different dragons, each one different but still dragon-like. Just like I percieve us humans to be. Additionally, they had a different, animal type of self that was apparent so that they weren't just 'humans in dragon suits'.

While I enjoyed the aerial battles, there seemed to be a disconnect, to some extent with regards to actual physics. Generally something like this would bug me enough to make me put down the book, but somehow they weren't egregious enough errors to turn me away. Rather, I felt it was something that she'd catch on to somewhere along the way and it wasn't detracting from the story itself.

I adored Temeraire (and hated his name!), but really, who wouldn't expect that? I'm a dragon fanatic. It is rare that I don't enjoy a dragon story, though some are much better than others.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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I liked it, but not as much as I hoped, considering the setting. But the setting itself was a minor problem, in that it didn't come vividly to life -- which, because the era is very familiar to me, could have been accomplished with a few well-placed words. The language overall wasn't a problem, but it was ... undistinguished. For a book placed in an era where educated people were very well-spoken indeed, that was a little disappointing.

Because I'm somewhat dyslexic, I don't follow descriptions of complicated actions or movements of characters very easily -- particularly not when they occur in three dimensions -- so I tend to zone out in scenes like the air battles. The presence of so many were a minus for me, but considering the premise of the book that's not a criticism, just a reason for me, personally, to lose interest at important moments.

And I know people who love, love, love the relationship between Laurence and Temeraire, but I found Temeraire a little saccharine. I like sweet and sentimental, but for me this character and this relationship had more than a hint of an artificial after-taste, which I don't like.

I actually was not, at any point, reminded of Clarke -- the two books, as Napoleonic era fantasies, could hardly be more unlike. But the borrowings from McCaffery were very obvious. On the plus side, some things that might otherwise have needed explaining (like Culhwch's language question) didn't bother me, because they had become part of my mental furniture long years ago via the Pern books. Of course Temeraire is born speaking Will's language -- dragons just do that on impression.

On the dragon's personalities, I agree with dwndrgn that they all had different personalities, and I liked that. It would have been easy to make them carbon copies of each other and explain that away by saying those are the qualities that make them dragonish. But I don't know if I would say they all had different animal personalities; they reminded me more of different sorts of human children at different stages of maturity.

So I enjoyed it, but not enough to buy the other books, even though I've passed them a dozen times during trips to the bookstore. Undoubtedly enough that if my husband started reading and buying them and I found one of the books lying around the house I would pick it up and read it in an idle hour.
 

that old guy

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I read all three books and liked them, and also plan to continue on with this seires. Having said that, I thought the characters (including the dragons) were downright two-dimensional, especially in the first two books. I find myself reading this series for the same reason I sometimes pick up Tom Clancy: there's enough action and enough interest on my part to see how things to turn out to make me overlook a great many weaknesses. Hopefully she'll get to the Peninsular Campaign at some point, I don't think it will be in the next book.

Odd that Peter Jackson has apparently purchased the film rights to this, since I see no way it could be made into a credible movie. Then again, I said the same thing about Lord of the Rings, so Jackson doubtless knows a great deal I do not. ;)
 

dwndrgn

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And I know people who love, love, love the relationship between Laurence and Temeraire, but I found Temeraire a little saccharine. I like sweet and sentimental, but for me this character and this relationship had more than a hint of an artificial after-taste, which I don't like.
You know I can understand why you would consider their relationship to be overly sweet, as I had a glimmering of that thought while reading too. However, in trying to understand the dragons as actual animals and not humans in costume, I related their relationship to that of a human and his dog. Imagine if your dog could talk. Just imagine how much that dog loves you and is completely loyal to you, no matter what you do to him. Once I considered that angle it wasn't too sweet.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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Imagine if your dog could talk. Just imagine how much that dog loves you and is completely loyal to you, no matter what you do to him.
Obviously, you don't know either of my dogs. I'll try to imagine my son's dog instead. Yes, that works.
 

Culhwch

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Well, I'm now about two-thirds of the way through and I have to admit I am warming to this book. I'm still not loving the style, but the story is certainly intriguing. The idea of the dragons as analagous to ships with extensive crews and such is certainly, in my experience, a unique one. It wasn't what I expected when I started this book, that's for sure. I'm interested to see how she goes about describing a large aerial battle - so far there's not been a lot of that.

For the longest time I disliked Laurence, mostly because he was so prickly and proud and quick to take offence, but I guess he had to be a little unlikeable for the change that he is undergoing to have its full effect. I agree with Teresa, though, his relationship with Temeraire is a bit too sweet.

Hoping I finish before the month i s out, and notch up my first success in this, the last book club....
 

Culhwch

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Done, and I must say I enjoyed it despite myself. I never fully embraced Novik's style, but the narrative kept me reading till the end. In fact when I saw the sequel at the Library today I couldn't help but pick it up. Probably to sit unread on my massive stack of unread library books, but oh well.

And so passes the Book Club. Again.
 

GOLLUM

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Well I still maintain it reminded me a little of Clarke's work but I agree that her book is superior in quality to Naomi's debut effort. Interestingly enough this book is up for a Hugo award this year and as I'm currently reading the other nominations in the Novel category it will be interesting to see if she gets the gong at the Awards night.
 

areader

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I loved this book. SO I read the other two. It was hard to get into at first but so worth reading. This is a trailblazing book...a cross genre with a napoleonic setting and a battle of Briton by air flavour and a vague thread on colonialisation/empire building. It has that different flavour. I give it five stars and bet on it for awards. But er yes, a clunky beginning...hoping she writes more. But if you're not obsessed by flight and aerial battle, perhaps not you're cup of tea...liked this aspect to dragons.
 

Siberian

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It was an entertaining read if not ground breaking or particularly original. Temeraire and other dragons were adorable, and some of his conversations with Laurence were really amusing.

It's interesting to note that it's really not a fantasy, because there's no magic in it, and dragons are not magical creatures but just another species that cohabit Earth with humans.
 

Overread

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Well this book feels like it was partly based on the world created by Patrick O'Brian in his Aubry/Maturian series (Master and Commander) and this is a good thing. Laurence feels more like a character from the times than a modern man in a past setting and for a first book I consider it a major achivment. A like the book and the style of writing, it does feel a little unpolished in some places, but I have gone out and read the rest of the series and am keen to see it continued

As a side note Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings Jackson) is supposed to be interested in producing a film of the first book. from what I understand this project is likly to occur before he works on The Hobbit (no legal problems here)
 
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