Thursday, 9 June 2011

The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas

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.


  1. "Let's say this right off the bat: some fantasy novels currently fool themselves into being serious literary fiction"

    This bother me. I haven't read the rest of the review, so if you explain this better, I'll find out in a minute. If not, well...

    Why shouldn't some fantasy novels consider themselves (1) serious, (2) literature, and (3) (well, fiction covers itself I suppose)?

    Are you suggesting, even in an offhand way, that the two (or three) are mutually exclusive? If so, then I disagree. Strongly. And also any implied connection that we can't enjoy both.

    OK. Now back to reading the rest of your post.


  2. Where Naomi Novik's Temeraire series has flagged and become stale int he last two books I was initially impressed with her dragons, but I have been steering clear of Stephen Deas series just because I wasn't sure I was ready for another dragon book...

    ...but of course, as is usual darlin' you make me want to read this one now. LOL

    Thanks for the review dollface. ;)

  3. Here here, Eric.

    What do you mean, "fool themselves"?

  4. The things you excuse because it's a popcorn novel were exactly the issues I had with it. Yes it was fun, the action was there, but...

    There was no one at all to root for (apart from a very small portion where the dragon was an innocent). None of the characters (that survived) were redeemable.

    Most of all though, the lack of a reason for any of the events occurring made it impossible for me to care about the resolution.

    The cover was stunning though!

  5. Sigh. So bothered, I left out the 's.'

    Well, I finished the rest of the review, and while I do understand your comment in context with your overall take on the book, I'm still left feeling uneasy with that opening statement.

    It seems either a purposeful or revealing expression of how you view the genre. Now, I know you love it, and enjoy reading, but it does sound strange. Certainly there are some serious, well written fantasy books. I don't even feel the need to defend that with examples. Take your pick really, classic, pre-genre even, or current.

    There are some great books out there which are SFF or Speculative Fiction or one of the many sub-genres which are more than just an enjoyable romp, a page turner, or something to pleasurably pass the time with on the commute. They're books of substance, books for the ages and worthy of rereading - which suggest they're not fooling themselves about their literary qualities.

    Again, this is not intended as criticism of you, your blog, or your taste - but just a long winded musing on the topic. So many fans of the genre bicker with the literary brigade over the status of just those books I'm talking about that it is surprising to hear this same dismissive one liner used by the latter, repeated on the other side of the fence.

    Look what is going on with the troops forming up in lines over Téa Obreht's Orange prize. There is already plenty of those who can't imagine Quality sneaking out of the literary ghetto.

    OK, so not all Fantasy is best read or intended to be a Lasting Work of Genius (Poncy Capitals Mine) - but some is, and succeeds, and we shouldn't cast such scorn at those who try. There are enough people out there who don't even *like* the genre, ready and willing to do that.


  6. If someone writes a bad novel that attempts to be literary fiction they should expect scorn and bad reviews - whatever the genre.

    The genre can internally criticise novels we are not one family protected against preying hordes and a bad novel doesn't deserve our support. We are not that insecure! I think there's a danger to overanalyse the comment and I have to say the review has added yet another to the To Buy list!