I loved the concept of this novel, the Napoleonic wars with dragons. I’ve been a Patrick O’brian fan for many years, and a sailor and fan of fantasy. The book has won many awards, so I thought I’d give it a try.
At first, I was elated; here was an author who really had it going. She assimilated the feel of Patrick O’brian, added fantasy elements, and went to town.
Unfortunately, about half way through the book, a couple of things happened that utterly ruined the novel for me: First, Novik’s combat scenes are clunky. They lack coreography and focus, and are very hard to follow. It’s like she glosses over the action because she doesn’t want to take the time or is reluctant to describe violent actions. This is war, violence is part of it. Second, without “magic” as an explanation, she breaks physical laws. Her dragons carry weights that are not realistic for their size and wingspans, and please do not give me the bumble bee explanation… In fact, the novel is really not classic fantasy in that magic is not an element (at least in the first book). The dragons are intelligent, but not magical, and there are no spells, wizards or other magical elements. When four dragons (not particularly large beasts, from the scale drawings from the back of the book) can lift a flying ship full of 2000 soldiers, all their equipment, including guns and cannons, you just broke a law of physics and you lost me. Sorry, Naomi, but up until that moment, you had me, but when this came out, I felt honestly betrayed.
I won’t be reading the sequels.