The King of the Crags is the follow up to The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas.
Prince Jehal is now reaping the fruits of his new found power after murdering, poisoning and backstabbing his way to the top, enjoying the confidence (and Bed) of the new speaker. Those loyal to the old regime are still plotting to regain their place and with rumours that the Red Riders - heralds of revolution and doom are at large, war may be inevitable.
The famous White Dragon still remains hidden, a Dragon that long ago will have recovered from the potion that keeps all the other Dragons of the realms docile - blocking memories of a time when they ruled the land and the skies, a time when the whole world burned . . .
It's been a long time since I read anything that featured Dragon's as a main plot device, the most memorable series was the Dragonlance Saga I read as a teenager. Here the Dragon's are portayed with intelligence and imagination, even commenting on how they are often written in other series as beasts of burden, though here its entirely due to the alchemists potions. I haven't yet read the Adamantine Palace as I was sent this one first by the author but I have since picked it up from a local bookshop and will get round to it eventually. As such it took a little time to acclimatise myself with the fantasy world and it's characters but this is actually handled very well and I didn't feel lost at any point.
The pace is both fast and furious and doesn't go over the top with back story, just providing enough that the plot needs to work, the characters are suitably complex and engaging, very much drawn in shades of grey rather than archetype black and white seen in many of the genre novels. There is also a subtle but persistant sense of tension running throughout the novel and each character really get's tested to their limits with a number of plot twists and genuine surprises thrown in. The final chapters of the novel are simply brilliant and really shake the whole book up, I loved the descriptive and yet rapid battle scenes which stand out as some of the best dragon fights i've ever witnessed.
There were a few areas that felt underplayed, without trying to create any spoilers the seriousness of the whole alchemist potion thing wasn't given sufficient expression, although we get given plenty of information about this somehow the tension never really builds as much as I would have liked. Having said that I do like the underplayed world building, which means the plot is driven more by the richly drawn characters and the story is much stronger as a result. There is a very strong sense of the authors voice here too which feels sharper, more realistic and darker than many fantasy series.
The King of the Crags is a very welcome return to a world of Dragons - vivid, inventive and an exciting read, I am very much looking forward to reading the next in the series, although I would recommend reading the first novel before this one.
Written on Tuesday 29th March 2011 by Antony.
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