The Temeraire series novels by Naomi Novik is composed of His Majesty's Dragon (released as Temeraire in the United Kingdom), Throne of Jade, Black Powder war, Empire of Ivory,Victory of Eagles and Tongues of Serpents, Crucible of Gold, and Blood of a Tyrant . The novels are works of both fantasy and alternate history: they are "an imagining of the epic events of the Napoleonic Wars with an air force — an air force of dragons, manned by crews of aviators".
The series of books revolves around the primary characters Temeraire and Captain William Laurence. Captain Laurence is a member of the British Royal Navy, serving in combat against Napoleon's navy when he recovers a dragon egg unlike any other known to the British. The egg soon hatches, and Temeraire, a Chinese dragon, is born. Under the impression that an "unharnessed" dragon will become feral and unmanageable, Laurence becomes Temeraire's companion. Despite the difficulties this causes, Laurence begins to think of the dragon as his dearest friend. This forces a change in the sailor's life, drawing him from the prestigious Royal Navy to the less desirable Royal Aerial Corps. The subsequent novels in the original trilogy follow the adventures of Laurence and Temeraire as they do battle with the forces of Napoleon Bonaparte and the diplomatic fallout caused by Captain Laurence's adoption by the Chinese Emperor. The fourth novel deals with Laurence and Temeraire seeking a cure for a draconic illness, introduced by a North American dragon, which spreads throughout the British dragons while Napoleon seeks to press his advantage. The fifth novel is the account of Napoleon's invasion of England, forcing a British retreat to Scotland, while Laurence faces with the consequences of his treason in taking the cure for the illness to the French. The sixth novel begins within the penal colony of Australia (Laurence's death sentence for treason commuted to transport to the colony), and a chase across the continent to a discovery that has far reaching consequences for the global war.
Dragons in this world are similar to dragons in many mythologies, although they are divided into different "breeds," with differences in coloration, size, skeletal structure, etc. All (with the exception of sea serpents, which are probably a separate species) have wings and the ability to fly, even those that can mass up to fifty tons (this is partly due to their bodies' compartments of lighter-than-air gas; "weight" figures represent overall mass, although a fifty-ton dragon might show a mere ten tons on a scale).
Dragons are intelligent and sapient, although the degree of their intelligence varies from sufficient to understand a few words, to sufficient to compose epic poetry. Dragons are typically born with the ability to speak - they learn languages while still in their eggs, and can speak any language they are sufficiently exposed to during that time fluently from birth. Particularly intelligent dragons can continue to acquire languages quickly throughout their entire lives. In the wild, dragons usually have their own languages.Domesticated dragons "bond" with a human on hatching. The dragon and human bond when the human presents the dragon with their first meal, usually meat, and the dragon accepts it. The Chinese, who are renowned for their dragons, have a different method, however. They have another dragon take care of the hatchling and educate it until it is knowledgeable enough to choose its own companion. Both methods form a strong bond similar to filial imprinting seen in species of birds; in some cases this is reminiscent of an owner-pet relationship, and in others, a friend-friend relationship. Dragons will do anything to prevent their companions from coming to harm — in battle, dragons can be "captured," forced into compliance, if their aviators are held at gunpoint or in some other way threatened. Dragons are commonly jealous of the attentions of their human companions.
Because of their great longevity, dragons frequently outlive their human partners. When this happens they may take another companion (often a relative of their lost partner), or fall into depression. If they do not care to take new companions they are often sent to live in breeding grounds, providing a comfortable, albeit mundane existence.
Some dragon breeds can breathe fire, or "spit" acidic venom, traits that are prized in countries where dragons are primarily thought of as military tools. The Chinese Celestial breed has a unique trait called the Divine Wind, a roar that can shatter wood, crack stone and cause hemorrhages at a short range. Other breeds have a variety of unique traits such as the ability to make sharp turns (British Anglewing), the ability to ingest and spew large quantities of water (Japanese Siu Riu), or the ability to see clearly at night (French Fleur-de-Nuit).
Dragon classification by sizeEdit
Dragons in this category are enormous, although size varies greatly between heavyweights of different breeds (20–50 ton weight range). The largest British heavyweight, the Regal Copper, weighs a maximum of 50 tons, can be up to 120 feet long (40 m) and have a wingspan of 180 feet (60 m). There are also unidentified breeds of dragons and cross-breds known to be even larger that their size can only be described as "immense". A typical middling heavyweight Chinese Celestial/Imperials and the French Chanson-de-Guerre, both of which weigh in around 20-25 tons at a minimum. The Turkish Kazilik is the only known fire-breathing heavyweight. Heavyweight eggs are extremely valuable, often said to be more valuable than gold per pound (a Regal Copper egg is said to be worth 56,000 pounds, an enormous amount of money in the early 19th century). Kazilik eggs command incredible value, with the British paying the Ottoman Empire half a million pounds for three eggs (most of which was allocated for the Kazilik).
Much more common than heavyweights, these dragons make up the bulk of any country's aerial forces. Middleweights range in weight from 10 tons to 20 tons. Yellow Reapers can weigh as little as 10 tons (with a maximum weight of 17 tons), making them one of the smallest middleweights. British Parnassians are said to be large middleweights, weighing around 18 tons on average, very close to the minimum weight of a heavyweight dragon. Middleweights are much more likely to show special offensive capabilities, such as spitting acidic venom (Longwings), or breathing fire (Flamme-de-Gloire) than heavyweights. Middleweights tend to be faster and more agile than heavyweights, although if lacking special abilities, they are unlikely to be able to match any heavyweight in a fight.
This group is divided between courier and light-combat dragons. Couriers are the lightest of dragons, and usually carry mail, important military messages, and royalty/VIPs. They range in weight from a mere 2 tons (Winchester), to around 5 tons (Greyling). Couriers also do work as scout dragons doing reconnaissance over enemy territory. Light-combat dragons are little larger, and act as skirmishers and flank attackers against enemy formations. They range in weight from around 6 to 9 tons, with the French Pascal's Blue being a prime example of such a breed. Lightweights exhibit more excitable behavior than do other dragons of heavier weights. The Spanish possess a fire-breathing lightweight, the Flecha-del-Fuego ("Fire Arrow"), which is the rare lightweight breed that is a prime combat dragon.
Dragons in societyEdit
The societies of this world tend to view dragons differently. So far only two cultures have been described in depth, but some clues have been given about the state of dragon–human relations in the rest of the world.
The treatment of dragons in Britain seems to be indicative of the treatment they have received in the rest of Europe and the Middle East, although this may not be the case. Draconic domestication in Britain began with the arrival of the Romans, continued in a disorderly manner with the influx of Anglo-Saxons and Vikings, and continued to the present of the series. In Britain, it was held that dragons could very easily turn feral and therefore useless (to humans). To prevent this, properly trained aviator candidates needed to be present at the hatching of every egg. A newly hatched dragon would speak to the nearest person suitable for bonding. The human would then give it a name (in Britain, the names are typically chosen by school boys fond of grandiose Greek and Latin names). Newborn dragons would be very hungry, but it was said they would fly away immediately after feeding unless they willingly accepted a harness. If the aviator could not convince the dragon to accept the harness, it would never be "useful" to people, except possibly as broodstock. The ceremony of bestowing a name and harnessing a dragon seems to be more of a superstitious ritual than rooted in necessity. Some dragons have been known to name themselves and still accept harness, while "feral" dragons can be induced to help humans. The elaborate naming ritual probably stems from an innate European fear of dragons. In Britain, dragons are housed in "coverts," secluded spots away from most human habitation. The general populace is terrified of dragons, whether they are feral, friendly, or part of a foreign military. In fact, many people in Britain can live their entire lives without meeting a dragon close up. Because of the exclusion of the covert, aviators are looked upon as being inferior to the other branches of the military (especially because the special relation between aviator and dragon may preclude raising a family). Dragons deemed not useful under harness (i.e. feral, depressed from death of partner, captured from another nation, etc.) are forcibly detained in secluded breeding grounds and used for broodstock.
In China, Tian-long (sky dragons) are treated very differently than their European counterparts. Instead of being treated as intelligent animals, they are venerated as beings of generally equal or occasionally higher standing than humans. Chinese dragons are not harnessed at birth. Instead, they are raised by other dragons and are treated similarly to the children of noble families. They attend school and can take the Confuncian exams that may lead to positions in the civil service. After completing their schooling, they are considered able to choose a companion for themselves. They can then enter the military, messenger services, bureaucracy, etc. depending on their personal abilities and the tendencies of their breed. These dragons are then paid from the Imperial treasury, can own property, and employ servants. At large, the citizens of China seem used to the large population of dragons that inhabit their land. Dragons are used as a kind of mass transit; streets and other infrastructure are built large enough to accommodate them, and many vendors cater to their needs. While some dragons, like humans, may live in relative poverty, the majority enjoy a higher degree of autonomy and self-determination to those in Europe.
While not as fully covered as Chinese and British society in draconic relations, from observations made by Laurence and Temeraire, the dragons were originally treated similarly to the way they are treated in Britain. In the fourth book, it is mentioned that French society, especially in terms of the military, is beginning to treat dragons along the pattern of Chinese society, with many Parisian streets being widened for dragon use under Napoleon's orders.
Until the fourth novel, it was presented that dragons living in Africa were believed to be primarily feral (at least by European standards). Many European courier dragons disappeared just from trying to find shelter on African shores. In Empire of Ivory, it is revealed that some sub-saharan tribes such as the Sotho and Tswana practice a form of ancestor-worship wherein notable ancestors may be "reincarnated" in draconic form. The practice in Africa consists of ritual and song praising the ancestor's deeds and life. Performing these rituals around an incubating egg imprints these traits on the dragon, identifying the dragon's personality with that of the ancestor. The Tswana Empire is led by one such dragon-king. Dragons also protect and work with the tribe members (their "children"), performing military actions and tasks that would often be associated with technology in other cultures, such as deep mining.
In South AmericaEdit
Societal relations with dragons in South America are based around a modified ayllu wherein the chief and "owner" of the community is a dragon. Crucible of Gold reveals that the Incan society of South America used to be more equal between dragons and men. It was a great honour for men to persuade a dragon to join one's ayllu. Few dragons were chiefs then. The status, social standing of the unit was all decided by the dragon's health, size and strength, but the diseases brought from Europeans devastated the human population while leaving the dragons untouched. The plagues reversed man's dominance. As a result, there are more dragons than men in the Incan empire, and dragons occupy most positions of political significance. Dragons serve as chiefs of their ayllu, managing and taking care of their people. The dragons are extremely possessive of their people, but the shortage of humans has resulted in a practice where dragons of small ayllus steal people from larger ones. It is not possible for a man for travel alone and unaccompanied along the roads without being abducted by a dragon eager to adopt them into their social unit. A dragon's status in Incan society is determined by not only how many people they manage, but how well they care for them as well. Humans who feel they are not well looked after may complain to the provincial governor to transfer them to another ayllu. However the same governors, being dragons, will not seriously take onboard any grievance from humans wanting to be reunited with their original ayllu they were stolen from. Governors are also tasked with managing patrols to prevent thievery of men while ending disputes between dragons over ownership of people. Any dragon caught stealing would be forced to return the person to their original owner and compensate the aggrieved party, usually by giving one from their own ayllu too. If they refused they would have to accept a challenge, a fight with a heavyweight dragon, acting as a representative of the state. The Incan dragons have also developed a welfare system of sorts as well. If any dragon were to lose their entire ayllu to disease or other, the wealthiest in society would be forced by law to give up a few humans to help the destitute beast rebuild their family group.
In other parts of the worldEdit
So far, only a few clues have been released about this topic. These tidbits are included below.
- North America: Little is revealed about North American dragons. The natives of the North American Great Plains have dragons that are always accompanied by a single rider rather than a whole crew as in Europe. In Australia the characters receive intelligence that there are more dragons in the United States than can be crewed, and that any man may apply to partner one.
- Japan: It is stated that Dragons in Japan tend to be bred for traits useful in combat, such as breathing fire.
- Europe: Seems to have followed lines of development very close to those in Britain. Recently, France has begun to adopt the Chinese norm.
- Ottoman Empire: As in Europe, dragons are used primarily for military purposes, although in the lax nature of the late Ottoman Empire they did not see much action other than guarding city gates, acting as border patrols, and the common courier duty. Dragons do seem to be more in evidence in the city of Istanbul, and guard the palace of the Sultan.
- Russia: It is implied that Dragons are treated much worse in Russia than in other European nations though specifics are not gone into.
- Australia: It is stated that there are no Dragons in New South Wales (i.e., Australia). However in the sixth book, Tongues of Serpents, a new species referred to by the natives as Bunyips are observed. They are about the size of a courier dragon and burrow beneath the sand to capture their prey through means of a sort of "trap door". They also show signs of significant intelligence. There is heavy implication that the bunyips are small, flightless dragons, indicated by stumps on their shoulders.
Feral dragon societyEdit
Although many human authors in this world seem unaware of the fact, dragons in the wild seem to have their own unique society. They have languages unique to their species; one such language, spoken in Central Asia, is called Durzagh. Feral dragons may band together in small groups or live in a solitary manner depending on their inclination. They also may have their own oral tradition, consisting of story telling accompanied by elaborate pantomime.