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[Reading Group] March 2014: His Majesty's Dragon Discussion

Discussion in 'Novels & Stories' started by Philip Overby, Feb 22, 2014.

  1. Roan Davidson

    Roan Davidson Scribe

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    Just finished. I'll give it a three-star review on Goodreads. Great concept, a decent story--but I've no interest in reading the rest of the series. I enjoyed it, but it didn't draw me in enough to keep going.
     
  2. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I'll try to get some points up for discussion for the first block by this weekend (Ch. 1-3). We still have three more weeks to go and I hope to get more detailed discussion of certain elements if possible.
     
  3. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    So here are some points for discussion for our first block (Ch. 1-3). Please feel free to add any other questions if you so choose.

    1. What are your feelings about the relationship between Laurence and Temeraire?

    2. What do you think of Novik's style?

    3. Do you like Laurence as a main character? Why or why not?

    4. Do you like the way Temeraire acts (kind of blunt and curious is my interpretation)?

    5. What do you think about the different breeds of dragons? Does this make you more interested to see what other kind of dragons might be in the novel?

    6. What are some good points you've found about the novel so far?

    7. What some complaints or concerns you have about it so far?
     
  4. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

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    1. What are your feelings about the relationship between Laurence and Temeraire?

    I really like the relationship between these two, just the way they affectionately interact already starts to show the deep bond that can only develop further over time.

    2. What do you think of Novik's style?

    I don't have any major problems with the style. It is rather wordy sometimes, but I was just like "meh" and carried on. It takes a lot to actually turn me off reading something, I'm really not picky at all.

    3. Do you like Laurence as a main character? Why or why not?

    Well, he isn't exactly the most interesting of protagonists, but I wouldn't say I didn't like him. He has a clear sense of duty and, while rigid at first (as you would be in the navy), I can see the likelihood of Temeraire's influence loosening him up later on.

    4. Do you like the way Temeraire acts (kind of blunt and curious is my interpretation)?

    He is blunt and curious and that's what I like. The way I see it is he's basically still a child that doesn't quite understand the world, so he asks all these questions and doesn't see when he's being blunt about something. But obviously he is also apparently very intelligent, being a Chinese breed, at least lot more intelligent than Volatilus.

    5. What do you think about the different breeds of dragons? Does this make you more interested to see what other kind of dragons might be in the novel?

    I'm very interested in the different breeds and the possibilities. They've already talked about how Chinese dragons are basically the best. And also the idea that dragons vary in ability, whether it be fire breathing or poison spitting. It'll be interesting to see the various types in action.

    6. What are some good points you've found about the novel so far?

    I've very much enjoyed the world building and integration of dragons into a real historical setting. It's just the subtle things that make me smile. For example, out of curiosity I researched the Battle of the Nile and read about how the French ship, Orient, caught fire mysteriously and exploded. And in the novel Laurence talks about remembering seeing a fire-breathing dragon set fire to the Orient. I appreciate that kind of detail.

    7. What some complaints or concerns you have about it so far?

    One thing that's already been discussed is the whole Temeraire speaking english right out of the shell thing. Apparently it's addressed later on, but it really should have been sooner.
     
  5. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    It's my favorite part of the story. I like the curiosity and the father/teacher/friend role works.

    Way too wordy for my taste. It distracts from the story in my opinion. I don't eschew wordiness in reading, but it must add something. It reads as if Novik missed the mark for what she was trying to do & I think others were right. She's trying to pull off a sense of British propriety with the language. It just doesn't work for me.

    I'm not sure yet. Outside of his relationship with Temeraire, I really don't know much about him, at least not enough to care yet.

    Yes. I like his character the best. It's the natural curiosity of a child within the mature mind of a dragon. This level of curiosity is what makes Temeraire the most interesting character. How does he view a world others take for granted?

    Yes. I like the mystery of Temeraire's breed too. There's some uncertainty with his capabilities and how he'll stack up to other dragons.

    As mentioned above, the relationship. Outside of that I like the concept as a whole. I'm looking forward to seeing the full conflict. However, I'm hoping the writing style doesn't make me quit before I get there. I don't find myself eager to read the next chapter.

    Just the overbearing wordiness really. I suppose I'd like to be a bit closer to the POV too. He feels too distant for me to care what happens to him.
     
  6. Roan Davidson

    Roan Davidson Scribe

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    For me, the relationship was Laurence's saving grace. The guy was stiff, priggish and overly-concerned with making sure people showed him the proper respect--and, ok, he's a military man, so that makes sense--but at least he couldn't resist Tremeraire's instant and steadfast devotion.

    Both too wordy and too distant. I feel like she never went deep enough into Laurence's POV.

    He grew on me. But it would have helped if I hadn't felt that the author was keeping me distant from him, letting me know his thoughts but never really letting me into his head.

    Yes. I'm with T. Allen Smith on this one: "It's the natural curiosity of a child within the mature mind of a dragon."

    The differing capabilities make for interesting strategies in battle, but I'd be more intrigued if the dragons had cultural differences. Maybe they would have if they'd been raised in their native lands, but here they seem, with just a couple of exceptions, culturally monolithic.

    (They have distinct personalities, though, which don't seem based on breed. I think that's a good thing.)

    The concept is brilliant. I like the way the author integrated dragons into the Napoleanic War and the way she gave the aerial corps a subculture that was at odds not only with the rest of the military, but with the mores and manners of the day. (This becomes increasingly clear as we meet more female characters.)

    I had trouble suspending my disbelief at times: Tremeraire's perfect English out of the egg (even if it was explained) and the idea of a whole crew riding a dragon into battle. And I while I liked various characters, I was never hooked on any of them. I'm glad I read this book, but I won't continue with the series.
     
  7. SM-Dreamer

    SM-Dreamer Troubadour

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    1. I find it an interesting relationship, Laurence’s fascination, dread, and appreciation for Temeraire, and Temeraire’s matter-of-fact bond with Laurence
    2. The style is ok, a bit dry, but that could just be the character. It kept me tuned in, at least, and I’m a fan of detail and whatnot, so it worked.
    3. He’s… an ok main character? I hear his voice fairly well and imagine him pretty good, and I get him. I think I like him? But it’s hard to tell, haha
    4. I love the way Temeraire acts! It is very… matter of fact. Curious about the world, but he doesn’t hide anything or say more than he needs to. He just is.
    5. I am definitely interested in seeing more dragons, and I am curious about the breeds. I guessed at the possibility of inbreeding problems when I read about Britain having limited breeding stock.
    6. Good points — I do like how the dragons have been integrated into the world, its really seamless. Love the relationship so far.
    7. That Temeraire spoke so early and so clearly, though from the discussion I think I get why, but I wish the author had mentioned at least the possibility of it sooner, rather than leaving me with that jarring moment that threw me out of the book briefly. Um, not thrilled with loading the crew and everything onto that big red dragon (can't remember the name) I ended up skimming ahead because I got lost on what was going where and how big and what I was suppose to envision.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  8. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Auror

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    How far along is everyone? I just finished re-reading the second part.
     
  9. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I'm way behind. Every time I sit down with it I only read about three or four pages. I hope to get caught up to speed by this weekend if possible.

    I'd love it if someone else could pose some questions for the second block or keep the discussion going. Hopefully when I get caught back up, I'll be in a better position to do so.
     
  10. SM-Dreamer

    SM-Dreamer Troubadour

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    I'm very behind; I've been sick for over a week, barely got my schoolwork done. :( Will give it another try this weekend when I have more time
     
  11. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    I'm 75% through with the book before I'm able to put a finger on what has thrown my mind for a loop. Novik's bad character representation, especially concerning males.

    The relationship between Laurence and Temereraire is too much. I'm trying to find a better way of describing it, so bear with me.

    Temereraire is a dragon, and a massive one at that. His intelligence far exceeds Laurence, his ferocity could eliminate a legion of soldiers, and his size grants him immediate dominance. But Novik flips the relationship on it's head simply by having the dragon born in front of Laurence, and choosing him to be a handler. Suddenly, all that ferocity is set aside for curious infatuation. And Laurence becomes a mother figure. Sacrificial, tender, nourishing, and concerned. Every thought, every resource, is devoted to a dragon that has chosen him to be caretaker.

    Further, every rider appears to be of extreme self control. They forgo physical companionship for long stretches of time. That such a thing happens can be understood. That it doesn't grate on Laurence after so long (I'm estimating close to a year if you factor his time on the ship, and his time with Temeraire), is mind-boggling. Especially for someone as young as he is.

    And none of he other riders seem in the least bit affected by this. Sure, they take part in sexual activity, but it seems as an afterthought. Something done because they ran out of port, or they've played enough hands of whatever card game they play. I'm not calling for this book to be graphic, but I am calling attention to the glaring dislike I have with it. The book is too clean.

    I'm wondering if Laurence's character wasn't crafted to mitigate most of these concerns. He's a second son of a lord. Initially, he's unofficially betrothed to a lady. These two make the audience expect such chivalry.

    But the engagement is unofficial. So when he sends word to Emily (the betrothed) expecting the end of the relationship, and in essence, abandoning it, the audience doesn't put that as a mark against him. They weren't a real thing yet, right? She'll find someone else. She shouldn't have waited in the first place!

    Nothing is gritty! In a world that is nothing but grit (war), all the dirt has been swept underneath the carpet.

    Then you have conflict. Fight scenes are pushed back to the background. They are told only to anchor the emotional fallout that follows. Every battle/conflict inevitably leads to a scene asking the reader to feel sympathy, or sorrow. Even later, when an event normally dealt with harsh judgment, is discolored with a consequence that takes the stage over the event itself (I'm being vague because I don't want to spoil anything.). This consequence invites heartache, rather than the anger one normally would feel.

    Other issues:

    What did dragons do before humans? They are capable of thought, of communication, and of reason. Yet they have subjected themselves to humans because...

    The whole "dragons going feral if they don't accept a rider" doesn't sit with me well. They learn communication through the shell. Does that mean they forget it, and their self-awareness, if they don't choose a human? Why isn't there a dragon language? Why don't they have an identity all to themselves, instead of adopting their rider's?

    Going back to the feral dragon gripe. A dragon outlives a human. When the human dies, the dragon adapts, by free will, another rider. You see the dragons have free will when Temereraire chose Laurence. Free will. The ability to act for yourself. Yet, if they don't chose a human, suddenly they are little more than wild dogs kept for mating? Why won't they just fly away?

    And why would they kill each other to further the agenda of their riders? Because, when the egg cracked, the first thing they saw was a human face? And that eliminates all sense of identity? I have a hard time believing that, especially at discovering just how intelligent Temeraire is.

    And for anyone who is an evolutionist, what about the fittest ruling the resources? Dragons are the most dominating species in this world. Why did they just let the pesky humans crawl on their backs and tell them what to do? Why didn't they just keep them fore livestock, breed them, and eat them?
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2014
  12. Roan Davidson

    Roan Davidson Scribe

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    Good point. The book never tells us why dragons allow themselves to be subjugated to humans.

    As for feral dragons--I think that was a popular misconception, wasn't it? Doesn't Laurence discover (slight spoiler here) that these feral, handler-less dragons may well have positions of command?
     
  13. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    No. The dragon you're referring to had a rider.
     
  14. Roan Davidson

    Roan Davidson Scribe

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    I didn't remember that, but even so--again, minor spoiler--when Laurence meets Celeritas for the first time, there is a paragraph about how everything he knew about dragons being useless without handlers, or only good for breeding unharnessed, was wrong. And a few paragraphs later, he thinks about that government fiasco, back in the day, of trying to destroy unharnessed dragons. I think unharnessed is the same as feral, which would mean the popular conception of feral dragons was wrong from the start.That's my impression, anyway.
     
  15. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I just finished Chapter 3 (I said I'm moving slowly on this one...) and am into Chapter 4 now. I have to say, I was starting to like the relationship between Laurence and Temeraire more, but the end of Chapter 3 just made me feel...I don't know the right word for it.

    Perhaps Ankari summed it up above:

    I'm not sure I can put my finger on what it is as of yet. Is it more like a friend relationship? Or is it like a master-pet relationship? I guess the best way to describe it is a mixture of both, which makes me just have to go along with it for the sake of the story. For some reason it kind of reminds me of like ET or something, if that makes sense?

    I guess it works in that it makes their relationship more than just a rider-dragon kind of deal.

    I did like the introduction of Volly, who shows that not all dragons have the same personality, a detail I'm sure I'm going to appreciate as the book goes on.

    One thing that I'm finding a bit difficult is the long chapters. I guess I'm used to using chapters as a stopping point, but I can't really do that with this one. It's not a major problem, but I do find it making it easier to put down.
     
  16. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    One other small question I'd like to bring up:

    1. What do you think about the supporting cast?
     
  17. Roan Davidson

    Roan Davidson Scribe

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    Re the relationship between Laurence and Temeraire: To me, it seems like an intense, interspecies bromance. And I imagine it remains a bromance throughout the series and doesn't turn into anything else, because logistics. (Although I'm sure some fanfic author somewhere has overcome that problem.)

    I didn't find it a master-pet relationship--unless each party considers himself the master. I don't think Temeraire is ever wholly under Laurence's control.
     
  18. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Auror

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    I love some of the minor characters we meet in Part II, Celeritas in particular.

    The main developments for a potential discussion introduced this past week:

    1. What do you think of the worldbuilding with regards to this as an alternate history?

    2. What are your thoughts on the combat style? Compared to more standard dragon rider combat?

    3. How are you feeling about the relationship between Laurence and Temeraire now that we're over half way through?

    4. How awkward was that 'Temeraire has reached maturity' scene, seriously?

    And as a bonus: Am I the only one whose edition of the book doesn't have a Table of Contents? I went back to see where Part II began and ended for the sake of making a few questions and just had to flip pages until I found the dividers. What's up there, Del Rey?
     
  19. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I'm way behind and going to try to get caught up this week. My main issue with the book is probably what a reader (or writer) should dread most - abject apathy. If I turned the next page to find the rest of the pages were all blank and the story never continued, I'd just shrug and grab the next book on my list.

    I should be further along than I am, but I picked up Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman, for another book club, and I was pulled along right through that one. Coincidentally, it is also about dragons. It's a very interesting take on the topic, with an engaging story and characters I cared about.

    I'm done with that one as of yesterday, and I'm going to try to get back to Novik this evening.
     
  20. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I'll get to your other questions once I get to that point, but the Kindle version has a table of contents. In regards to minor characters, I can't think of any that have stood out to me so far. It's kind of like the Laurence and Temeraire show, which I guess is good if you want more focus on your major characters. I haven't gotten to Celeritas yet though.

    I can comment on this, I think. So far, I guess I'm not as into the world building as I hoped to be. The idea of an alternate history with dragons involved sounded awesome to me. As far as the dragons go, they're the main selling point. I'm looking forward to seeing more and more dragons because the different breeds and such are interesting to me. When it comes to the historical aspects, I suppose I don't know as much about the Napoleonic Wars as I thought I did. That always tends to be the case with me anyway. I think I know more about a time period than I actually do.

    That said, Novik does a great job with the dragons, which I believe are the key reason people pick up these books anyway. However, I do kind of wish Laurence and Temeraire didn't love each other so much. As was pointed out before, it feels like the ultimate bromance. I have some good guy friends myself, but I've had falling outs with them. The relationship just seems too perfect. Maybe there are some rocky roads later, but for now I'll agree with the criticism that it all feels really clean.
     
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