Recent reads: Hellboy and Temeraire

Hellboy picture from

After a while of reading geeky books, I often feel the need to read something for my educated mind lest it become squishy and falls off. Out. Down?

This is the tale of how I got to that point (currently reading Persian Fire by Tom Holland – about the Persian Wars and how the divide between East and West began).

For months there were scattered signs. A tweet here or a news post there leading me toward my first book about dragons. I had always avoided crossing that line, but when His Majesty’s Dragon appeared as a free download at B&N I could no longer resist.

Downloaded sure, but my list of books to read is long. I may have never gotten to it if it hadn’t been for the suck that was Uther by Jack White. The Camulod series, a long tale attempting to place the tale of Merlyn in a historical context, has long nagged at me. I’ll read one of the books, be satisfiedish, and attempt to read the next only to put it down for two or more years. Then, coming back to it, I’ll remember it far better than it was. Late in the series, in Uther actually, the series doubles back to tell the same story from another point of view. We were so close to the end, Jack! Why’d you have to do that.

Who knows if I’ll ever finish Mr. White’s story, but he pushed me toward dragons. While on vacation in Florida, I put down Uther and picked up my nook with Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series all set to go. Six books later, well, you get the idea. I quite enjoyed it. Light reading for sure, but the mix of the history of the Napoleonic Wars with the fantasy of dragons had me in its snares pretty quick.

The story begins with a career captain for the British Navy. He’s had a promised lady back home, fine standing in well-off social circles and brings home enough prizes from successful voyages that he is fairly well-off by his own merits. When his crew takes prize of a French vessel carrying a dragon egg of unknown origin, his duty to harness and take charge of the unique beast for the royal air service is clear. It sounds so hokey, but if you like a period setting with fantasy elements, it’s pretty fun.

Now I have to wait another year or more for the seventh..then the eighth. Word is that she’s doing nine of them. Then, fantastically enough, Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame has optioned the story, possibly for a TV series, he’s said.

Jake had loaned me all of the Hellboy graphic novels he has somewhere in the midst of my dragon fervor. I was too entwined in high seas and air adventure to touch the mythologically inspired Nazi-bashing graphic adventures until I was completely done with Novik, but Hellboy filled the void quite nicely after Temeraire.

Hellboy, brought into the world by a secret Nazi Ragnarok experiment, was destined to bring about Doomsday. Still is, actually, because the series isn’t over. Each story brings him closer to that day which he regards as a fiction but seems to guess at truth deep down in his dreams. Other filler stories see the big, red demon fight the paranormal and supernatural all over the globe from England to Japan to the Ozarks of the U.S. It’s wonderfully drawn and told, but I’d stay away from the guest written “Weird Tales.” Once you’ve had the superb storytelling of Mike Mignola, every other Hellboy story seems quite dull.

So after reading a whole bunch of geeky stuff in a row, I must read something to educate my brain mind. Tom Holland is really talented at making history accessible to non-academics. I’ve previously read his Rubicon, the story of the fall of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Empire. Quite the yarn he spins! I have high hopes for Persian Fire.


About Dan C
Likes: Games of the video kind, Spider-man, regional hot dogs Dislikes: Close talkers, people singing loudly in public while listening to headphones, yippy dogs

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