The historical ‘what if?’ has long been one of the more fascinating questions : Victor Milan look at what if dinosaurs were still around in the 14th century, Marie Brennan looks at what if dragons were a part of nature, Eric Flint looks at what if a 21st century West Virginia mining town was dropped it into 1632 Germany. These types of fiction let the writer mix their imaginations with (hopefully) well researched fact.
Naomi Novik looks at the Napoleonic wars if dragons were not only used, but were intelligent, speaking creatures. We follow Captain William Laurence of the HMS Reliant as he is forced from the Navy due to circumstances. While capturing a French frigate, he finds himself bound for life to Temeraire, an exceptionally intelligent dragon, and thus committed to a lifetime service in the Aviator’s Corps. The story follows the intrepid duo through battles, politicking, storms, revolts, and plague all throughout the world as they try to thwart the forces of Napoleon.
Naturally, this is primarily an adventure series, but it is obvious that Novik's imagination is only equaled by her research into the time period. Little details really bring the world together and provide and excellent backdrop for the story. Also, while it would be easy to simply write a long string of battles with dragons, the Temeraire series also brings in politics, cultural differences, class differences, philosophy, and many other fascinating elements that serve to add depth to both the characters and the story.
The audio versions of the Temeraire series are read by Simon Vance and are most excellent to listen to during the day. Vance does an admirable job giving life to so many characters from so many different countries.
I would highly recommend both the audio and the print version for anyone that is a fan of ‘what ifs’, dragons, Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander, and Horatio Hornblower.