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.