1987; 380 pages. Original Title : Napkins.New Author? : No. Genre : Fantasy. Overall Rating : 8*/10.
King Roland is dead, and it was Murder most foul. Someone poisoned him, and all the evidence points to his eldest son, Prince Peter.
This is shocking to many, since Peter had always seemed the devoted son. And head-scratching too, since Roland was aged and in poor health. Upon his natural death, Peter would inherit the crown. But perhaps the heir grew impatient.
The younger son, Prince Thomas, now rules instead, and with some reluctance. Thomas may have been jealous of his brother when Roland doted upon Peter, but he never aspired to sit on the throne. And he has seen something that puts the lives of both siblings in peril.
Through the Eyes of the Dragon.
What’s To Like...
The Eyes of the Dragon is a nice one-off offering by Stephen King, in that it is purely a fantasy novel. Yes, there is a scary Ultimate Evil, but all Fantasies have such a baddie. And this would never be shelved in the Horror section of a bookstore.
Stylistically, it is written in an almost singsong fashion, as if the target audience is YA. The chapters are short, and there are some way-kewl drawings scattered throughout the book. There is a lot of “scene-setting” in the beginning of the book, and a lot of the events therein seem somewhat superfluous. But don’t be lulled into skipping pages, Stephen King is a master at weaving such tangents into a twisty and unexpected plotline later on, and he does so here, even with such mundane things as napkins and dollhouses.
OTOH, King tends to ‘telegraph’ events throughout the first third of the book, which for me lessened the tension of the storyline. You know that Peter will be imprisoned and Thomas will spy on matters he’ll later regret because King tells you about such events many chapters ahead of their taking place.
Still, once the scene is set, with Peter in jail (and forced into being a stylite, no less) and Thomas sitting uneasily on the throne, King stops telling you what’s going to happen, and it is an action-packed ride from there on. The ending is clever, spellbinding, exciting, and surprising, especially with regard to Thomas. You’ll be happy you didn’t give up on the book in the early going.
Kewlest New Word. . .
Forrad (adj.) : dialectical variant of ‘forward’. Here, “things’ll go forrad here just as the always have…”
Others : Buttle (v.).
In stories of wizardry, there are three kinds that are usually spoken of almost carelessly, as if any second class wizard could do them. These are turning lead into gold, changing one’s shape, and making oneself invisible. The first thing you should know is that real magic is never easy, and if you think it is, just try making your least favorite aunt disappear the next time she comes to spend a week or two. Real magic is hard, and although it is easier to do evil magic than good, even bad magic is tolerably hard. (pg. 76)
Outside, the wind screamed and gobbled – old wives cringed in their beds and slept poorly and told their husbands that Rhiannon, the Dark Witch of the Coos, was riding her hateful broom this night, and wicked work was afoot. The husbands grunted, turned over, told their wives to go back to sleep and leave them alone. They were dull fellows for the most part, when an eye is wanted to see straws flying in the wind, give me an old wife any day. (pg. 108)
“My head is a silly thing, but I’ve decided I’d like to keep it on my shoulders a while longer.” (pg. 377)
Stephen King already had a slew of Horror best-sellers by the time he published The Eyes of the Dragon in 1987. Reportedly, some of his fans were a bit tepid about his diverging to write a Fantasy novel.
Personally, I like it when an author tries something new. There is an inherent risk to this, of course. J.K. Rowling was hugely successful with the Harry Potter series, but got slammed by critics and readers alike when she tried to expand into the “adult fiction” genre with A Casual Vacancy.
FWIW, I think King’s foray into Fantasy was successful. The “telegraphing” in TEotD bothered me a bit, but only mildly. Then again, I doubt I’m part of the target audience. Maybe those telegraphs turn into “hooks” when a teenage boy reads this book.
8 Stars. Add ½ star if you happen to be a YA reader. This book’s aimed directly at you.