Years ago, I taught English as well as biology, and had the usual trouble getting reluctant readers interested in books. Then I talked the school into buying a class set of Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight, first because it was attractive to girls (pony-owning girls, in particular), second because it was the first in a series (which hopefully would tempt the lassies into reading more), and third, because I loved the book so much myself.
It was an inspired move. The girls loved it. One who had been a very reluctant reader became hooked. She used to buy the latest in the series, read it, tell me about it, and then insist on lending it to me. She went to university and studied for an arts degree, and went in for film-making.
So there was a success story.
For those who don't know the Pern Dragons series, it is based on a planet named Pern, where the dominant life form is a dragon genus, which includes species of small "fire lizards" and proper large dragons. Their talents and qualities are defined by their color. The queen, of course, is golden. The planet is also periodically threatened by a poisonous fungus from the sky, called Thread. Only dragons can fight thread, guided by telepathic contact with their riders. Great, imaginative stuff.
It was probably because of this background that my attention was caught by an item in the local paper reporting that our local film guru, Sir Peter Jackson, had bought the film rights to a book about fighting dragons and their riders, called Temeraire. However, I only got around to reading it this week, and then by accident. I was having trouble with Override, the engine for borrowing eBooks from the Wellington library service, and finally managed to download Temeraire as part of the struggle. It was just part of the experiment, but of course I read it.
As expected, Novik is obviously inspired by McCaffrey. For me, the dragons are very recognisable. They could hop over to Pern any day of the week, and merge into the scenery. Just as with Dragonflight, for the millions of girls reading Novik's books, the dragons are the ultimate flying ponies. Temeraire himself is very attractive, though. A charming character, very easy to love. Heart strings are pulled.
What I didn't expect was that Novik is also obviously inspired by Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander books. Her dragons are His Majesty's dragons, in the service of King George III, helping His Majesty's Navy to fight Napoleon. So, clever, clever, she is linking two hugely popular genres -- fantastical dragons, and the Age of Nelson. And, what's more, the dialogue and social niceties are right out of Jane Austen. And she does it very well indeed.
I'll be reading more.