His Majesty's Dragon, by Naomi Novik is probably a novel that I would not have discovered on my own. I'm not anti-fantasy, but I don't search it out and I don't tend to read much of it without prompting. However, this Pajiba 100 contest has been exposing me to all kinds of books that look interesting and Prisco's review made it sound like I might like it, so I picked it up. His Majesty's Dragon is the first novel of a series. This first book was published in 2006. I was thinking the series was a trilogy, but now that I've done a little googling, it looks like there might eventually be nine books in the series. I guess I'm just going to have to read them all now that I've gotten started.
The two main characters in His Majesty's Dragon include Laurence, a navy captain of a ship who ends up unwittingly "adopting" Temeraire, a rare and talented dragon. The dragon is intelligent and well-spoken and is much more of a companion and comrade than a pet. The reader is introduced to this new world of dragons and aerial combat as Laurence himself is freshly brought into the Aerial Corps. England is at war with Napoleon's France, and the Aerial Corps is under a lot of pressure to successfully defend England against a French invasion.
I found this book to be a creative and fun read, and the relationship between the dragons and their "handlers" is nothing short of sweet. I mean, who wouldn't want their very own dragon, especially one that's strong, powerful, intelligent, and wholly devoted to you? I'm not a huge fan of stories based in war; I find them frustrating because I hate the waste and destruction that war brings, and I find them depressing. However, Novik's story has so much going on with the relationships between the people and dragons and the biases and attitudes of her society, that I did not feel overwhelmed by the war and the fighting. I'm glad I tried something a little different and although I did not find this book as enthralling or moving as, say, Harry Potter or Pullman's Dark Materials Series, I enjoyed reading it and look forward to the rest of the story.