Monday, December 25, 2006

His Majesty's Dragon

Author: Naomi Novik
Published: March 28, 2006 (Del Rey)
Category: Fantasy/Historical Fiction
Series: Temeraire #1
Quote of Choice: I was hatched! From an egg!

I saw this book a few months ago at Barnes and Noble while shopping for books with Jennie and Julie. Jennie told me she had heard excellent things about this book; combine that with dragons, and I'm sold. I am a big fan of dragon books, starting with Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles, followed immediately by Laurence Yep's Dragons of the Lost Sea, and then Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern when I got to high school.

Novik has cleverly set her series during the Napoleonic Wars, where William Laurence, captain of the Reliant has just captured a French ship. This ship happens to have some very valuable cargo aboard, namely a dragon egg. In this version of the Napoleonic Wars, dragons exist and some have even been domesticated (sort of) by humans. For France and England, the dragons are their air corps, since airplanes haven't been invented yet. Dragons are manned by crews of aviators, on its back and in a contraption hanging beneath its belly. The crew will throw bombs and some dragons even have the ability to spit acid or breathe fire.

Unfortunately, England's air corps is not as large as France's, and therefore, this egg is extremely valuable. However, it's about to hatch, and there are no members of the air corps around. Without a candidate for the hatchling, the dragon could become feral, but none aboard the Reliant have been trained for the air corps. Apparently, it's not the most reputable of His Majesty's forces, due to the society the riders keep. Dragons scare the living daylights out of the ordinary citizens, so riders must live apart from society, and those ordinary citizens wind up making up horrible stories about the riders. Anyways, Laurence randomly selects a member of his crew to be the dragon's candidate, but when this elegant black hatchling emerges, he wants nothing to do with the chosen one. He makes a beeline for Laurence instead, and changes his life forever.

To a certain extent, it's very much like the "impression" ceremony in Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern. Instead of speaking telepathically, dragons have a speaking voice. The dragon bonds with his/her rider, but unlike McCaffrey, dragons can be convinced to accept a new rider should their current rider die. In Pern, dragons would commit suicide if their rider died.

Temeraire's (what Laurence named the dragon) bond to Laurence isn't some flimsy thing. When the air corps gets wind that this untrained boob of a navy man is in possession of a rare Chinese dragon, they try to replace Laurence by lying to Temeraire. Of course, it doesn't work out, and Temeraire and Laurence become a formidable team.

The book covers their training period and their trials as the odd team out. Laurence is treated differently because he used to be in another division of the king's forces. Temeraire feels different because he doesn't know what his breed is really capable of, and he looks so different from all the other dragons.

I loved this book so much that I even cried on the subway when I got to a sad part. When I finished, I had that urge to obtain the next book in the series as soon as possible, just to find out how Temeraire and Laurence are doing. Unfortunately, finishing a book on Christmas evening doesn't make it very easy to go book shopping.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Kitchen Witch

Author: Annette Blair
Published: October 5, 2004 (Berkley)
Category: Contemporary Romance
Quote of Choice: "Being nice to that woman is like feeding a baby shark so it can grow big enough to eat you."

I picked this book because I thought it was about a witch. I was disappointed though, as Melody Seabright is no witch. She just pretends to be one on her cooking show.

Anyways, a new neighbor moves into the apartment above Melody's. He's really hot and has a very young son from a previous relationship. Apparently, there have been rumors that Melody is a witch and Logan Kilgarven wants to avoid her because he doesn't want to get involved with those people. I started to dislike him, wondering if he was going to burn Melody at the stake. After all, the book takes place in Salem. Soon after moving in, Logan gets called into an emergency at the TV station (he's a producer), and doesn't have a babysitter for his son. Desperate, he asks Melody to watch the kid in exchange for a job at the TV station.

Somehow, she connives him into getting her an interview for a cooking show. Of course, she can't cook, but she wears revealing outfits and has a penchant for always wearing stilettos. Melody is hired and capitalizes on her rumored witchiness by making her show about her as a "Kitchen Witch." I shuddered when they chose "Do You Believe in Magic" for the theme song. I thought it'd be cooler if they'd gone with the "Bewitched" theme song.

Logan and Melody are super attracted to each other, but they are trying to deny it. He thinks that Melody is too flaky and sexy to be a good mother figure. Melody thinks that Logan is too much of a suit. Logan even dates Tiffany, the station owner's daughter. He thinks that this woman is better suited to be a mother because she's got a degree in early childhood education. However, Melody and Logan's friends see through the Tiffany's scheme. Her degree is just bait for a man, thinking that she'll be a great mom. I thought that Logan was a moron for being so incredibly blind to Tiffany's childish behavior in comparison to Melody's concern and caring for his son.

Dang, with the way I complain about the characters, it's not surprising that I didn't really care if they wound up together. At least there was snappy dialogue, but not enough to make me keep this book on my shelf.