Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas

In the fantasy genre, dragons are a staple. In almost all fantasy novels, you will see a few dragons in the books fighting it out. So it’s is rare to see a book with an original twist to the dragon mythos. To his credit, Stephen Deas gave it his best shot.

In the world of The Adamantine Palace, dragons are highly-prized domesticated mounts for knights and an example for military might in the empire. The Adamantine Palace lies at the centre of the empire and is home to the Speaker, the ruling head of the Dragon Kings. Elected by the various kings and queens of the empire, the current Speaker will have to step down soon and the various princes, queens and kings are all plotting to install their candidates in the position.

Murder and betray are par for course but while the humans argued and plot, a new danger arise when a dragon slipped out from the leash of the humans. A white dragon named Snow with his handler, Kailin, became lost during an ambush and time passes, Snow began to regain his mind. To me, this is where the book got interesting.

We discovered that the dragons were not truly domesticated but drugged by the humans. The problem for the humans is that without the care of the alchemists and their drugs, the dragons will revert back to their true nature. And their natural state is that of a highly intelligent, dangerous, powerful and telepathic creature who view humans as nothing but food. Not only that, Snow now knows and understand how humans have been drugging dragons for hundreds of years, so you can add rage to that mix.

Feeling highly violated, Snow now has a dream of freeing other dragons and destroying humanity and their civilization. This while the humans are still playing their political games in the Adamantine Palace.

First off, I have to say Deas has an interesting plot for his series. The Adamantine Palace is the first of a trilogy and the overriding plot of the series is very good. The fact that dragons are a force of nature is something other books have done before but Deas emphasis the fact that in his world, dragons are a brutal force of nature who are at the top of the food chain. The part where Snow simply ate Kailin because he was hungry shows the brutal fact of the food chain.

There is also a very good idea about how humans keep the dragons in check. The drugging of the dragons and the institution that was created to maintain the drugging of the dragons are very well done. It is an institution that required a lot of people to maintain and you can understand why Snow blames the whole of the human race for the act.

I also enjoyed the fact that although the dragons are setup to be the villains of the series, you can understand why they intend to destroy all humans in the empire. Villains whose actions are understandable always work better. It’s almost fitting the consequences the humans are going to face when the dragons slip their leashes.

Of course, there are some poor sections of the book. This is Stephen Deas’ first novel and it some ways, it shows. Although this is a book about dragons, the book is spilt in two halves. One showing the adventures of Snow, and the other showing the various plots and schemes of the princes, queens and kings all aiming for the Speaker. Basically, I think he tried to do too much.

The dragon parts of the book works well and are the highlights of the book. The political sections of the book work less well. One of the reasons is that the book is told through various points-of-view. POV books allow the writer to cover a lot of ground but it can also lead to some uneven characterization. Queen Sheriza is one that comes to mind. Her relationships with her 3 daughters were never flesh out and she was like a well with no water. She seems like a deep character but there is nothing in the book that we can drink from.

Personally I would prefer it if the writer dumped the whole political section of the book and concentrated solely on Snow. I would have liked to read more about her dreams and her memories of how the land was like before the drugging of the dragons.

Also some of the chapters are very, very short. So short that sometimes I wondered why Deas bothered. Worse is the fact that the book is told through various POV so some characters has only 1-2 chapters before they are gone.

However, I must still say this was an enjoyable book for me. The book has a strong plot and the some very interesting characters. The Adamantine Palace isn’t perfect but if you long for a book showing strong, brute dragons, this is the book for you.

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