His Majesty’s Dragon

Inciting Event: After “harnessing” a valuable captured dragon, British naval captain Will Laurence finally makes land with his new dragon Temeraire. This signals the official end of his naval life. Now bonded with the dragon, he must explain the unusual circumstances to naval command and receive further instructions about how to join Aerial Corps.

The true Inciting Event of this story is obviously the birth and bonding of the dragon, which happens in the first chapter. But the First Act still needs a solid turning point to engage the protagonist with the main conflict, which is not so much his relationship with the dragon as it is his new career as an aviator.

First Plot Point: When the Aerial Corps try to take Temeraire away from Laurence and bond him instead to a trained aviator, Temeraire rejects the idea. Laurence rushes back to him and chooses to leave the Navy and join the Corps rather than abandon Temeraire. Whereas he was only dabbling in the adventure world up to this point, here he firmly and decisively enters it.

First Pinch Point: Laurence and Temeraire arrive at the “covert” dragon base in Scotland—where Laurence is immediately greeted with coldness by most of the other aviators, who see him as an outsider. This obviously turns the plot and does a nice job of keeping the conflict high, but the pinch here isn’t one that has any lasting significance or insight into the overall conflict (since the aviators’ coldness is relatively easily overcome).

On a subtler note, we have Temeraire doubting he’s a “real” dragon, since he doesn’t look like the others. That does play better into the long-range view of the story, since Temeraire’s unique breed turns out to be an important part of the story.

Midpoint: Laurence and Temeraire enter their first real action when they are sent to rescue another dragon wounded in battle. This is where they shift from being reactive to their new roles in the Aerial Corps (and indeed the world) and start taking a decidedly active and effective role in the overall conflict of the war with Napoleon.

Second Pinch Point: News comes that the French are trapped at Cadiz, and the Corps—including Laurence and Temeraire—move out. They meet the Frenchman Choiseul and his dragon, who have deserted from Austria. As a whole, this novel is very well structured. But this is the noticeable weak point. Choiseul’s presence and effect on the plot are the crucial elements in the Third Plot Point—and yet they have only just been introduced here, well past the halfway mark in the story. Something this crucial will always be better off introduced in the First Act or at least the first half. (The timing, however, is obviously very good.)

Third Plot Point: Choiseul reveals himself to be a traitor—sent by Napoleon to reclaim Temeraire. Although certainly functional, this isn’t a tremendously effective Third Plot Point, both for the reason that Choiseul has only just been introduced and also because Choiseul’s plan utterly fails and the characters’ “low moment” is entirely due to their feelings of personal betrayal by this character in whom readers have very little investment.

Climax: Napoleon begins an aerial invasion of England—and Laurence, Temeraire, and all the Corps must engage in battle to stop him.

Climactic Moment: Temeraire discovers he has a sonic roar, which he uses to crack up Napoleon’s personal ship and force him into retreat.

Resolution: Laurence and the rest of the Corps attend a celebratory ball. Laurence then learns Temeraire is the rarest of all dragon breeds: an Oriental Celestial.

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