The Stephen King Project – The Eyes of the Dragon (1984)
About the project
I will be reading all of Stephen King’s books in order of publication (with the exception of The Dark Tower series which I will read together, at the end of this adventure) and writing a review of each. I’ll be looking at the recurring themes, the tricks he likes to use, the way he develops character and the way that his craft has evolved in the 44 years since Carrie was first published.
This was one of the King books that I had somehow never got around to reading, which surprised me when I picked it up for this project. As some of you may know, I’m a fantasy writer and I love the genre just as much as I love Horror. Here we have a book by my favourite author in what I would likely describe as my favourite genre and yet I haven’t read it? It’s long past time to remedy that oversight.
The story goes that King wrote this book for his daughter, Naomi, who did not have any interest in reading horror and so wouldn’t read his books. So, King decided to write in Naomi’s favourite genre, a book that was just for her and was never really intended for publication.
The Eyes of the Dragon tells the story of the unhappy royal family of Delain. Decent but weak King Roland, strong and good Prince Peter, lonely and weak Prince Thomas and the thoroughly evil royal advisor, Flagg. (Yes, I’m fairly sure it’s THAT Flagg; a mysterious and evil man who shows up in Delain every few hundred years to cause as much trouble as he can before disappearing again.) Like with most of his writing, the characters are fairly well-rounded and very real feeling. I particularly liked Peyna, the judge who condemned Peter as well as the man who sought to free him.
While King often writes from the point of view of an omniscient narrator, we rarely get the same level of narrator-as-character that we do in The Eyes of the Dragon. This is very much told in the voice of an old and skilled storyteller, perhaps around the hearth-fire on a long, winter night. The narrator inserts his opinion, telling us often that Thomas was selfish and misguided but, he did not believe, evil.
Everything about this novel is competent – I mean, King on a bad day is still an excellent writer – but I did not find it as thrilling and all-consuming as I often find his books, and as I hoped to find this one. I can’t really put my finger on why it didn’t bowl me over. The characters are well drawn, the setting is sufficiently detailed, the plot clever and classic, the pacing appropriate … there’s nothing to criticise. And yet, I cannot find it in myself to love it. It felt to me a little like he was just going through the motions with this one, writing a story which he knew would work but one that he had no great passion for.
Of course, I could be completely off-base with that. Mr King, if you happen to read this someday, I mean no offence.
The man has written 82 novels and short-story collections to date, so I guess it stands to reason that I’m not going to love every one of them with the same fervour as my favourites. I’d be really interested to hear some other takes on this one. Have you read The Eyes of the Dragon? What did you think of it?