Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Because of its origins as a bedtime story for his little daughter, I put off reading Stephen King's The Eyes of the Dragon for many years, thinking it would be too childlike and boilerplate storybook-ish for my tastes. But finally getting to it, I learned that I needn't have worried. This tale of an evil magician who engineers a murder and frame-up in order to assure that his own controllable choice for King is placed in line for the throne is gritty, entertaining, and decidedly adult.
I did like the first half of the book more than the second half. The initial chapters feature much texture and subtlety in the depiction of King Roland, his sons Peter and Thomas, and the evil court magician and King's advisor Flagg (perhaps the same Flagg who shows up later in Mr. King's The Stand). I particularly liked the way one short conversation between Peter and his mother about the importance of using a napkin leads Peter to a lifelong obsession with napkins, even using them for a centerpiece escape attempt later in the novel. The book's latter going is still good, but its shift to some less interesting (though still likable) secondary characters and the de-evolution of Flagg from a complex villain to your more basic cackling maniac made me miss the nuance and texture of the earlier parts a little. But only a little if I'm honest.
I actually listened to The Eyes of the Dragon via a terrific new unabridged audio production read by Bronson Pinchot (who makes the most of the story's generous amounts of drama and intrigue), that I downloaded from Audible.com and enjoyed on my MP3 player. But you can also pick the book up on Kindle for $6.99, where I'm sure the story's pleasures will likewise shine through.
Possibly a dry run for his Dark Tower epic, The Eyes of the Dragon is a Stephen King tale of a slightly different flavor and stripe, but one still as reliably involving as his usual fare.