Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Review: The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas

The speaker of the realms, Lord Hyram, is riddled with a strange sickness that is gradually destroying him. He is due to name his replacement and the obvious candidate is Queen Shezira with whom he had an earlier agreement. Prince Jehal however has other ideas. He sets in motion an elaborate scheme to seize power for himself. Against the backdrop of political byplay nobody seems to notice that the loss of a white dragon might have severe consequences. Dragon’s are kept docile through potions mixed by the alchemists, now the white is starting to remember her true nature…and how humans have enslaved her and all her kind.

Dea’s novel sets off at a breakneck pace and the reader is initially left with very little opportunity to actually get to know the protagonists. As the novel wore on I thought that Deas settled into a better rhythm but still everything felt too rushed. Prince Jehal is masterfully realized and really steals the show as the arrogant upstart prince. However aside from one or two of the other POV characters everyone else feels flat and underrealized.

World building is another area that Deas could have fleshed out considerably more. The political system is a medieval type setup with kings and queens controlling their own territory, answerable only to the speaker who is charged with keeping the peace. The political byplay is certainly interesting but several steps removed from a Martin or even a Jordan. The fact that Jehal seemed to carry out every aspect of his plan almost single-handedly felt extremely unrealistic. I don’t think there is a monarch around who has never heard of delegation. The individual cultures that are bound to exist in these kingdoms are never explored and makes the world feel entirely one dimensional.

The premise with the dragons was intriguing and I liked the direction Deas is going with it. Keeping it in the background worked well in creating a sense of impending disaster. In Deas’ favour he is easily injects humor into his banter without having it clash with the darker nature of the story. Although the issue of the speaker is more or less resolved by the end of the book, none of the other plotlines are. I realize that this is just the start of a series but it made the ending anticlimactic.

Overall I don’t feel like Deas is giving us anything really new here. What he does give is good but there are a lot of authors doing it better. The flaws in his writing are certainly not fatal and I expect Deas will come back strongly and realize his obvious potential. 6.25/10.

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