Hugo Review: Temeraire

March 31st, 2007

The Hugo Award nominations for 2007 were just announced this week. I’m going to be reading all of them over the next few weeks, starting with Temeraire by Naomi Novik.

The novel is set in 1795, and Captain William Laurence has just captured a French frigate carrying precious cargo – a dragons egg, about to hatch. Weeks out to sea, someone has to harness the freshly hatched dragon and begin a new life.

This is obviously not a novel for everyone. It’s solidly aimed at that valuable crossover Napoleonic War/Dragon market. Which I think, at last count, had about 12 people in it. I know a lot of people prefer fantasy to be nicely ahistorical. Actually, tone-wise I thought that this book was actually a lot closer to steampunk than most modern fantasy.

Naomi Novik is a first time author (and also nominated for the John W. Campbell award for best new writer), and this is a very impressive book. The writing is strong, the characterisation good, and the plot fast moving. It’s a very enjoyable read, but I did come away with a slight feeling of a little bit of shallowness overall. There’s also just a little bit too much of the cliches of period English drama – the aloof father, the gruff but kind commander, the strong woman in a man’s world, and so on.

I think this is a good book, very enjoyable. But I’ll be surprised (not having read the other books yet) if it does win the Hugo this year – there’s just not enough to it to win.