Book Discussion: His Majesty's Dragon Chapters 7 - The End!

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Book Discussion: His Majesty's Dragon Chapters 7 - The End!

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maig 24, 2007, 12:45pm

I can't jabber on at any length right now, but I really did enjoy this book. I shall definitely be reading the next two at some point.

maig 24, 2007, 12:50pm

I'm curious, is anyone familiar enough with the Napoleonic wars to know if events that are touched on actually happened, sans dragons of course? From my mother's reading of Patrick O'Brien and C.S. Forrester I do seem to recall hearing about Nelson and some pretty impressive naval victories. Did Napoleon ever try and storm England by coming across the channel?

maig 24, 2007, 1:04pm

I do believe Nelson was the reason Napoleon didn't cross the channel.

I bought the Trilogy (3 in 1) and I am already well into the 2nd book! Won't spoil it for those who are going to continue but the end of book one WAS a foreshadowing...

I'm not even sure where to begin discussing this book. Hiding the female officers from the public? The light and sometimes not so light animosity between the military branches? Dragons treated as property/beasts of burden/soldiers/friends/cognizant beings? How society can affect us when we stand out from the crowd?

All kinds of cool things to discuss. I'll definitely be back...

maig 24, 2007, 4:42pm

I liked this book but the one thing that bothered me was that the plot seemed to come second to character development (which was great by the way). But during a battle scene I'd find myself yawning and have to wait until Laurence has a heart-to-heart conversation with Temeraire until I enjoyed reading it again. I'm hoping the plot picks up with the 2nd book.
Did anyone else cry when (can't remember the names-sorry!) that officer was executed? The poor dragon! I felt so bad for him. That and when Levitas died...awww....

maig 24, 2007, 6:10pm

I enjoyed the book, and read it rather quickly. A couple of points/observations, though...

I kept noticing that there was an affection between Temeraire and Laurence, one almost bordering on a crush, and that there seemed to be sections where the gender of Temeraire might have been different in one of the drafts (prior to publication)... Did anyone else detect that?

When do we learn about dragons' courtship rituals? :) It seems like the discussion of "passing a dragon down from father to son and mother to daughter" almost begs for some elaboration of the dragons' psychology and sociology along that line.

How did Temeraire know to use his "great shout" on the flying barges? And how did the barge-hauler dragons manage to fight off other dragons AND maintain the kind of level flight that a barge full of armed men might require?

maig 24, 2007, 6:19pm

Laurence does consistently refer to Temeraire as "dear" which for a while I found confusing. However Naomi sticks with that convention throughout the three books (wrapping up Black Powder War now), odd though it may sound to me to refer to a male dragon as "dear".

I didn't cry for the execution of Choiseul, though it was upsetting to see how Temeraire, Lily and Maximus took it. I did get sniffly for Levitas. He was my next favorite dragon after T. I kept hoping something horrible would happen to Rankin so that Levitas could get a new captain that would better appreciate and care for him.

maig 24, 2007, 6:42pm

I got a big old lump in my throat when poor little Levitas passed. :o( I hadn't realized how emotionally involved I was getting until that point. Man, I wanted Rankin to get eaten by a random dragon. Actually, I don't think Rankin's behavior towards his dragon would have been tolerated, to be honest. They would have some way of dealing with him. I guess the only comparison I can make might be how members of the cavalry who mistreated their horses were dealt with during that era. Any of our equestrians know? There must have been some code of conduct about such things.

I was also a bit confused by the 'my dear' thing, until I figured that Laurence was speaking to Temeraire in the same way he might possibly speak to a son or daughter.

maig 25, 2007, 1:05am

#3 Dragons treated as property/beasts of burden/soldiers/friends/cognizant beings?

Good point, readafew. Given our history, we humans probably would press into service sentient beings, such as these dragons seem to be. We would use them for our purposes, we would breed them, and when they weren't of service any more, we probably wouldn't be seeking coexistence or understanding. Rather, we would put them in circuses, schedule fights for our entertainment, banish them to reserves, extinguish them (as proposed in the book for feral dragons)?

maig 25, 2007, 2:32am

#5 - in answer to at least one of your questions, I thought that Temeraire probably knew to use his great shout by instinct. I can't find in the book where it happened, though, so I can't back myself up. I don't know how the dragons holding up the barges managed to fight - didn't they have other dragons flying defense around them though?

I felt so strongly for Levitas. I just wanted him to have a kind, friendly captain, and I wanted Rankin to drop dead. Literally, I would have been quite pleased. Instead Levitas died, and that made me very unhappy. =( I also couldn't understand why they let Rankin treat him that way; I thought dragons were extremely valuable, so I don't understand why they'd allow a captain to mistreat his or her dragon.

I suspected Choiseul from the beginning and wasn't surprised he turned out to be working for the French. I can't explain why, I just knew he wasn't a good person. I felt sorry for his dragon though.

Editat: maig 25, 2007, 3:11am

I read the book in Dutch (couldn''t get it in English in time) and it was a pretty good translation (in terms of readability). I liked the style and the content, but I have to admit that the plot could be stronger. The characters are very well worked out though.
The stories about battles and such also seem to fit in the era as those the formal speech (at least for the 'higher' classes).

#9 and others

As for why they would let Rankin mistreat his dragon, could it be politics? Rankin is from some kind of important family. To have one of those send a son to the Corps and still treat him as a son can bring in a lot of support for the corps. Money and (political) support would be very important during the wars, but even more important in between wars. There was a reference to the fact that parliament wanted to kill all feral breeding dragons to save 10 million pounds.

maig 25, 2007, 8:40am

As far as Rankin's treatment of his dragon goes, even as poor as he treated him Levitas was still treated better than many of the poor in England at that time.

T.'s 'Divine Wind' I believe was instinctual, he had accepted the fact he and his crew were most likely to die that day and just reacted. I would guess he was just trying to spook a reaction out of the transport carriers with a mighty defiant roar. He was just as shocked as everyone else of the actual affect. Though he got over that pretty quickly.

FIY -- Levitas is Latin for 'Lightness', kind of fitting for a messenger dragon.

maig 25, 2007, 2:07pm

In regards to Rankin's treatment of Levitas (not that I condone it), it seemed to me that Levitas got the bare minimum and that was considered at least acceptable. After all it wasn't until Tememraire came that the dragons were bathed and I seem to recall that the handlers previously didn't ask the dragon's opinion on the harness fitting. I agree that Rankin's familial rank probably had a lot to do with how he was treated within the corp.

maig 25, 2007, 3:00pm

I finished it over my lunch break and rushed right out to buy the next one. Very good stuff; I definitely found it quieter, in terms of plot, but the character development was good and the world was just fascinating. I especially loved how they had the dragons rigged out almost like ships. I found it a little difficult to imagine the dragons' size, though; they'd have to be gigantic to fit so many people on them, (and accomodate tents, in the case of the larger breeds!), and I had some trouble getting a visual image. I think the picture of the Yellow Reaper and Crew that appeared in the back of the book kind of hurt my perceptions, since that little dragon didn't look nearly large enough to comfortably carry everyone!

I cried when poor little Levitas died. It just killed me that Rankin had to be forced even to speak kindly to him. I'd really hoped that Rankin would be thrown out of the Corps, (or, preferably, killed), and Levitas would be assigned to someone more worthy. I think he got away with treating his dragon so poorly partially because of his family and partially because, as domeloki says, he at least stuck to the bare minimum in most cases.

Otherwise, I'm still kind of reeling. As readafew says, there are so many discussion-worthy things in this book. Where to start?

maig 26, 2007, 2:27pm

Definitely got teary when Levitas died and idiot Rankin didn't care one iota. And teary when the traitor was executed too -- it really made the danger to the other handlers seem more imminent. How torn up his dragon was made me start to picture what Maximus or Temeraire would do if their handlers were killed and that made me even more sad.

The book mentions that Rankin only got a dragon to begin with because of family connections. I would assume this kept him his dragon. Plus Levitas didn't seem willing to accept another handler even if that had been an option. Levitas was completely loyal to jerk Rankin. :( He was getting bare minimum treatment, though, so I think the others here are right -- it was enough to keep him well enough to perform.

Were reasons given for keeping the female handlers sort of quiet? I forget. Or just the image of females negated their being accepted socially as aerial officers?

I liked the "stiff" speech. I rather with we still spoke more like that.

maig 26, 2007, 3:12pm

There was some mention of it being illegal for women to wear mens' clothing. I think the aviators had enough trouble getting respect from the rest of the army without the others looking down on them for admitting the "lesser sex," too, so they thought it best not to flash it around.

maig 27, 2007, 8:36am

There was a large division of labor between the sexes and serving in the military was exclusively male and doing things not set for your sex was morally wrong. Also the 'higher' breed the women the 'less' they should do so a woman working as hard as the dragon riders would equate to like washer women or something...

maig 27, 2007, 2:20pm

Sounds like I'm going to get blasted for this, but I'm disappointed. The characters are one-dimensional and the plot very obvious. (Gee, the French guy was a traitor, who could possibly see that coming.) I won't be bothering with the rest of the series.

I had a lot of trouble with the logistics of it all. I just can't see how they would be able to communicate by shouting, especially with the bombers down below. (In real life bombers, the need radio to communicate with the guy next to them.) Also, the firepower of the day would not have worked. The best rifles they had at the time were woefully difficult to load; Napolean didn't even use them because of it. I kept imagining the men strapped on to the dragons with two little carabiners while the dragon is swooping and diving and rearing up to fight with other dragons. They wouldn't last 5 minutes without broken bones and concussions, let alone be able to load a period rifle.

And when they were rescuing the injured dragon, how were they supposed to be "supporting" him? I was imagining they would have some kind of rig hooked up to carry the injured dragon below the two rescuers, but somehow the injured dragon was resting on top? How would they flap their wings? How would the people not get crushed? Maybe I didn't understand it, but it just didn't make any sense.

I'll bow out of further discussion since the rest of you seemed to have enjoyed it so much. Ta!

maig 27, 2007, 6:23pm

I'm not dissapointed but I felt the book was .....anticlimatic and incomplete. I realise its a trilogy but still I was reading and then boom it was done. there was no true ending

maig 28, 2007, 7:46am

I enjoyed the book, and I look on it as the first outing in what was/is obviously a multi-part work. So there are some growing pains to be experienced. *gosh this sounds condescening & judgemental* I couldn't not invent/imagine, much less write something on this level.

But, I do expect the "logisitcs" to get a little more ironed out as the author puts mre time & thought into it. By the way, the "logistics" of his world, and the chronology of travel by the dispersed Fellowship, were details that Tolkien agonized and sweated over, and researched. Another area where The Professor (JRR) excelled.

I will be hoping and expecting the characters and plot to grow and deepen in HMD 2 & 3.

Editat: maig 28, 2007, 7:59am

My ideas on Rankin/Levitas, compared to Laurence/Temeraire: analogy to cavalry troops:
There would always be some men, er soldiers, who would look upon horses as nothing but beasts of burden, a form of transport. Others would take an actve interest in the animals and their welfare for the horses' sake, not just to keep their "gear" or mode of transport functioning.

The stakes are a little higher if you can talk to your horse (dragon), but there are always some asses (homo sapiens assus) who would never seem beyond themselves, to connect with someone or something else.

The other captains/pilots did not think highly of Rankin at all, but were part & parcel of the caste/hide-bound manners social mentality, and were not about to "interfere" in the personal affairs of Rankin. To call it "Victorian" is anachronistic, but that's the attitude. Same kind of , it's not right, but not my affair mentality that put up with:
(1) looking the other way when a master mistreated slaves, even if you didn't treat your slaves harshly
(2) looking the other way when someone abused/mistreated his wife, even if you didn't treat yours such.
And it's not like the human race has overcome all these things, yet.

Into this, alongs comes Laurence, completely unaccustomed to the corps/dragons, and is in the company of an exceptional dragon, and discovers the "beast" is almost his intellectual & emotional equal. Social mores are gonna be strained & put to the test.

maig 29, 2007, 12:10pm

Intellectual/emotional equal, or perhaps superior?

maig 29, 2007, 9:38pm

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will probably read the others at some point. It was interesting to see fantasy interwoven with history in such a manner.

One thing did disturb me in the book, however. I can't remember where it is, but Jane Roland tells Laurence that he might be considered for mating purposes to create more handlers. The whole book seemed to ring true historically, until I read this. I can see women as handlers; many women have been forced to assume "masculine" roles throughout history for various reasons. I could not, however, see how anyone at this time would think it was ok to breed people like dragons were bred. I seem to recall that Laurence spent more time considering women's hair cuts and clothes than he spent thinking about selective breeding outside of marriage. That just didn't fit the time period and didn't seem necessary to develop plot or characters.

maig 30, 2007, 6:12am

well she was a little weird wasn't she.

maig 30, 2007, 1:37pm

I took Jane Rolands comments on breeding to be more in the light of, specifically having children as opposed to not having any children, instead of breeding as in trying to get desired characteristics. Since dragons out live their original captains by hundreds of years, and supposedly dragons respond better to a child of their deceased pilot than someon else, it makes a strange sort of sense for captains to consider specifially having children. Of course this does not always work. Rankin is a perfect example of that.

maig 30, 2007, 6:00pm

#24, That's how I took the breeding humans bit too. Just that it'd be better for the captains to have children by whatever means.

The historical aspect of the books is fun though. History books would be more entertaining if we could read about the dragons used in such and such war. :)

juny 17, 2007, 3:01am

littlegeek - I worried about some of those logistics as well, but I put them aside for the fun of the story. When aviation first began, and was used in war, WWI, it was crazy. They didn't have radios to talk to each other, I believe. Also, they had to redesign the plane because at first they mounted the guns in front of the pilot, they found out in a very tragic way that a pilot would shoot his propeller off that way. I don't know, guess I'm just not that particular. If I can stretch myself to believe that dragons existed and carried people, etc., I don't really care about the small stuff. ;) One thing I was glad of, the author didn't try to explain why none of us know about this stuff today, or why it was erased from history. I would rather have an alternative thread of history.

I found the battle scenes very hard to read through, not because I was disengaged, but because it hurt me more somehow to read about the dragons fighting so fiercely and being wounded, than it hurts me to read about men in battles. Makes no sense, but I've always cried for the horses when reading battle histories too. Of course the men are tragic, but somehow the idea of a creature battling just out of loyalty to its owner is moving.

The whole "explaining sex" thing delighted me. Raising dragons reminds me of raising adolescents. There comes a day when you realize they don't necessarily think your thoughts, they may be smarter than you, and you have to explain why some subjects can be spoken of in private, yet are better not discussed in public loudly.

On the referring to dragons as "dear," I noticed some of the other handlers did the same.

Did anyone notice the reference in the Howe notes at the end to the lady longwing handlers? "Though the breed was first considered intractable, and indeed some consideration was given to their destruction, as too dangerous to be left unharnessed, during the reign of Elizabeth I new methods of harnessing were developed which secured the general domestication of the breed..." I liked that it was in Elizabeth I reign that this was discovered, and what with the influence of the church and society of those days, I have no doubts why they kept the "methods" quiet.

As sad as it is, Levitas is similar to abused people, in that they blame themselves and are loyal to their abuser.

All in all, I thought this was rollicking good fun to read. I would like to hear more from others who have read the subsequent books, I heard that Morphidae did not like the second one. Normally, I would rush out and buy them after enjoying the first one so much, but that gives me pause.

juny 17, 2007, 12:58pm

MrsLee, I didn't think Throne of Jade was as good as His Majesty's Dragon, but I still enjoyed it. I found Black Powder War excellent.

juny 17, 2007, 2:56pm

Ok, not really a discussion inducing post here - but I wanted to say that I really enjoyed Temeraire, more than I thought I would, and - like our Clam - I look forward to reading the next two in the future.

juny 17, 2007, 7:21pm

O.K. xicanti, I can muscle through a so so middle book if I know the one after is excellent.

juny 18, 2007, 6:44am

You guys just keep proving that it never is too late to join in the discussions here!


juny 19, 2007, 5:51am

I've been putting off writing this for a while. My book arrived quite late which is part of my excuse but I don't plan to be too complimentary about it and wasn't quite sure how to put it but I've given up trying to write something pretty and am just going to take the plunge.

First off I found the book quite fun to read and had no problems whizzing through it in a few days of occasional reading and superficially enjoyed it quite a lot to the extent that I think that I'll probably read the rest at some point.

When I first read about the suggestion of the book though I was extremely excited. I hadn't heard of it before and thought it one of the best ideas for a novel that I'd heard of. I love sci-fi/fantasy that takes a very normal world and then twists it slightly. HP is the classic example. It's really just a book about a bunch of kids who go to school and have a few adventures, but Magic is real.

My Father-in-law is also very keen on Patrick O'Brian and I've read the whole set over the past few years. I loved the detail in them, so much so that I went out and bought a couple of non-fiction books about navies in the period to understand the books better.

So I thought HMD is MAC with Dragons, a marriage made in heaven. This could even be the book that converted my wife to fantasy books. But it just didn't work and I'm hugely disappointed. There's another thread around about Editing of Fantasy and this book seems to be to be one were a little less editing would have been useful. It seems like there was someone behind the book saying "Keep things moving, keep things moving". I really needed more detail and it could have come at a much more leisurely pace for me. It's the sort of book where I long for the literary version of the "director's cut".

Part of the success of HP is the fact that J.K. Rowling has clearly thought about everything and created a very believable world. Patrick O'Brian always created a whole world in extreme detail and then interspersed only occasional bits of drama and action.

I'm not explaining myself very well so I'll fall back on an example. The concept of aviators as outcasts from society was a very good one (one of many good ideas). Laurence was very concerned about the future life of whoever harnessed Temeraire at the beginning of the book and yet when it turned out to be him and his fiance dumped him and his father effectively disowned him he got over it all in just a few pages. There's really good material for an almightly internal struggle here and it was just frittered away.

One last analogy and I'll leave it. A few years ago I started a new job in the UK. After just a few months my boss came to me and asked if I would move myself and my family to Belgium for just one year to go and close a factory. Not quite a plum assignment I though but I knew that I was ideally qualified for it, I had him over a barrel. For many years I had lusted after an Audi so I negotiated a fine deal for myself including an A4 for the year. And then I was disappointed. Don't get me wrong, it was a fine car, it was just that I had built up something very special in my head and it just didn't come up to the ideal that I had created.

HMD Fine book with a truly great book hidden inside, maybe..

juny 19, 2007, 10:20am

Barry, I too was disappointed that it didn't live up to the Patrick O'Brian comparisons. One of my favourite authors ever. And I disagree that his books are all world building with occasional action. They are character building, within a well-researched real world, with lots of action, romance and comedy throughout.

Editat: jul. 11, 2007, 11:41pm

So I'm always a month or two behind the group reads, but I just finished His Majesty's Dragon and I really liked it. Something about the characters and the way they're written got me much more involved emotionally than I usually get in a book. I smiled and laughed, I talked at the book at several points, I full-out cried at least once (poor Levitas!!)...

Yeah, so. Once again, I don't really have much substantive to add - but I liked it.

Oh, hm. It did bother me a little that dragons had been around - and intelligent - for centuries and yet 1) didn't seem to have their own culture and 2) it wasn't until Laurance came along that it 'occured' to anyone to treat them as more than beasts of burden, to bathe them and remove the harnesses and so on. I mean. Really. People treat actual beasts of burden better than that.