The Realms are a manipulative place. Dragons are being manipulated through the form of potions to serve humans as glorified war horses. Speakers are manipulated to pick their successor. Sell swords are manipulated into embroiling themselves in wars that will easily cause their deaths. The Realms are not a soft place to live, in this, the first of a trilogy written by Stephen Deas.
Let's say this right off the bat: some fantasy novels currently fool themselves into being serious literary fiction. The Adamantine Palace does not do this. It, instead, presents sheer unadulterated fun - glossy characters, vivid dragons, cinematic actions sequences. I would definitely class it as a popcorn book - the pages turn swiftly while you remain almost unaware, drinking down the story in huge gulps. I loved it.
Of course, I couldn't tell you exactly why the Realms are at such odds; or much about the political intrigue between each of the major players. I couldn't tell you why a speaker is needed every ten years, or what their role comprises. I wouldn't be able to picture the Realms in my head, or explain why there is such a difference between the nobles in the eyries and those who live 'Outside'. I have no idea what caused this rift.
If someone were to ask me about the book, I would end up grinning and saying 'Dragons are COOL!' in an enthusiastic manner. All of the sequences that involved Snow, the perfect white dragon, were just superb. In fact, my lasting impression of the novel is a brilliant scene between Snow and her Scales - I won't ruin it, but her sense of embarrassment and shame is just perfectly played. I could have stood a whole novel about dragons, in fact, and I enjoyed every moment reading about their life cycles, the potions that keep them docile, how they're trained, etc. I had become rather disillusioned with dragons, but The Adamantine Palace has left me wanting a great deal more of them. The impatient, fiery, clever type anyway.
Deas is clearly a talented author. He has an amusingly dry touch to many of the conversations; he writes action scenes well; and he delights in showing us wickedly Machiavellian Kings and Queens.
In terms of characterisation, Jehal and Shezira are both done very well, and I want to know more about them - Jehal's insouciance is very attractive to me as a reader, while Shezira gives a little emotional depth about the nature of being a woman, a tradable commodity, in medieval times. Lystra, Shezira's daughter, showed some promise as a sassy princess sort, but ended up fading out into a girl who dotes on her man, while Zafir is deadly but somehow vapid and left no lasting impression.
The Adamantine Palace is the fantasy equivalent of one of my chick lit novels - a book that I read swiftly, enjoy thoroughly and would be willing to pick up at some future point as a comfort read. There were few surprises, lots of good scenes, and a great deal of fun to be had. I will be looking forward thoroughly to picking up King of the Crags in the near future. If you're looking for a breathless light-hearted read, you could not do better.