The King of the Crags

The King of the Crags: The Memory of Flames, Book II[easyazon-image align=”right” asin=”0451464001″ locale=”us” height=”160″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51pr8vs0zUL._SL160_.jpg” width=”99″]

By: Stephen Deas

When I read the first book in the Memory of Flames series, The Adamantine Palace, I gushed about how it was probably the beginning of one of the best fantasy dragon series’ ever.  Having read the second book, I was a little disappointed.  It might still end up being on that list, but the dragons certainly played a far smaller role in The King of the Crags.  In fact, aside from being present as mounts for the characters of the book, there’s really not a whole lot in here of the dragons we saw in the first book.  One pretty short section, and done.  If I have my guess right, though, I’d say that section is setting us up for some pretty spectacular dragon-ing in what remains of the series.

Once again, like in Adamantine, Deas writing is good.  The characters are a bit overdone, but in a epic fantasy series like this, I think that’s on purpose.  We spend a lot of time floating around between several of the main characters as the realms are thrown into a war that hasn’t been seen since the Dragon War.  The amount of world building that Deas manages to write into the story without it ending up being boring is really good.  My biggest beef with it is that the map in the front of the book is sideways.  North is left, not up.  It wouldn’t have fit as well, maybe, but North is supposed to be up.

Having read the first book way back in the summer of 2010, I did have a bit of trouble at the beginning of Crags.  Mostly that was me having to catch up to the characters and remember what was going on.  If I had to read these as they were released, I would have had the same issues.  I would have likely benefited from a little bit better job of “reminding” the reader what had gone on.  Once I got my bearings again, it was off to the races.  The book is a good read, and ample reason for me to go looking for the next book in the series.

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The Adamantine Palace

The Adamantine Palace

By Stephen Deas

Every once in a while, you pick a book up, read the blurbs on the inside and back of the cover and scoff.  “This can’t possibly be as good as they make it out to be.”  Most times, you’re right.  Of course, the publisher is going to put the most complimentary blurbs on the cover of the book.  They aren’t going to put something like “This book is the worst book I’ve read all year” on the cover of a book that they want to sell.  And some times.  Sometimes those blurbs are spot on.  That’s the case here with The Adamantine Palace.

The use of dragons through fantasy novels has been waning.  It was very popular in the late 80’s and into the early 90’s, but has really died off since then.  Sure, there have been a few bright spots here and there, but overall, it’s all been orcs and elves.  Like all good things, there must be an ebb and flow.  With The Adamantine Palace, Stephen Deas may very well have broke the spigot off the well of dragon lore.  The dragons in this book, while a fairly minimal part of the overall story really stole the show.  Some may try and put the proverbial “lipstick on a pig” and make dragons these docile friendly beasts that live to serve humans, but Deas wrote them true.  These are no docile beasts (by nature at least).  These are real dragons written as a real dragon should be.  With size and powers on their side and a bit of a chip on their shoulder.  Wow.

The humans are also pretty well written.  The plot twists and turns and keeps the suspense alive throughout.  There’s plenty of royal backstabbing and betrayal along with a smattering of more carnal malfeasance.  One thing I must add here is that I’m used to reading books in the 3rd person.  It’s pretty much a fantasy standard.  However, in most of those cases, we are given a deep look into each of the characters and know them well.  We can spot the antagonist a mile away because we don’t get that deep look into that character.  Here, it’s hard to tell who’s really the antagonist.  We aren’t given a deep look into any of the characters in particular.  Deas writes them well, and drops us far enough into the character to get our feet wet, but stops short enough to create a wonderful sense of suspense and questioning.

But, and there must be one, there are several minor flaws as well.  Because of the shadowed character building, there were a couple of times where I felt that I just didn’t follow what was going on.  I usually caught it later on, but I’m not so sure that it lent anything to the story for that to be held for so long.  I also didn’t like that the ending was a total cliffhanger.  I realize that the book is part of a planned series, but it could have been left as it was without the cliffhanger and then open the second book with that.  That would have sucked me right into the second book.

Seldom do I read a book by a unknown (to me) author and immediately rush to put the next book on my wish lists.  Recently, only Patrick Rothfuss and John Scalzi have managed that.  You can add Stephen Deas to that list.  If the rest of the series is nearly as good as the first, the Memory of Flames series will go down as one of the best dragon fantasy series’ ever.  Seriously, I think it’s that good.

You want to read it, I know you do.  You can pick it up at Amazon, or any number of bookstores.  If you have the choice, pick an independent bookstore, and show your appreciation.

DragonFlight

Dragonflight

By: Anne McCaffrey

There are those of you out there that will immediately wish me stretched over a wheel and flogged when I tell you that I’ve never read any of the Pern books before I cracked this one open.  Rightfully so, perhaps.

For those of you (like myself until just a day ago) who have not read any of the Pern books, they are about a planet called Pern.  As the introduction of the book indicates, the planet is actually a colony of humans that originally originated from Earth.  As time passed, that history has been lost along with much of the beginnings of the colony and they have developed a culture and lifestyle all their own.  The overall structure is very similar to that of Medieval Europe, in that it has “holds” and lords and the like.  And of course, as the title suggests, there be dragons!  If I had to guess, I would say that this series of books is the basis for many of the dragon books that we see published.  Many of the ideas about dragons are familiar, and very well could have originated there.

The story begins with a “Search” where the dragon men search through the holds for a woman who will become the weyrwoman (like their queen) and will ride the queen dragon.  Having found several specimens, they return to the Weyr for the impression of the queen egg.  The queen emerges and then is impressed onto one of the women who then becomes that dragon’s rider and the weyrwoman.

The bulk of the story revolves around the return, after 400 turns (years), of the Red Star which is a second planet.  Everytime the Red Star passes near enough to Pern, it sends down “Threads”.  These “threads” are some sort of biological spore that embeds itself into the land and then parasitically feeds off of the land until there is no vegetative life left.  The only way to protect Pern is by dragons flying about and burning the threads from the sky.

The story is decidedly fantasy, but certainly has elements of science fiction.  The origination of the colony, along with some other little nuggets that are scifi in origin give it a bit of a different feel from most fantasy that you’ll read.  I’m not sure that I really expected any scifi elements at all, but don’t feel that they were unwarranted.  In fact, I think they lent a bit of credibility to the history of Pern.  The writing itself is most certainly of an older style, but very good.  I did have some difficulty in catching up to the storyline.  Mostly, that came from there being quite a bit that you aren’t being told right away along with getting to know a new world and new characters.

Overall, the book is an excellent read.  Most certainly a book for any fantasy enthusiast.  Unless I’m the only one who hasn’t read it, that is. 😉