Ray Gun Reviews
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The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas

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The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas
Roc, 2009, 369pp.

Dragons are a mainstay in fantasy. Tolkien had dragons in Middle-earth — who can forget Smaug? — so it’s no surprise that they appear a lot in epic fantasy. However, it’s rare that they are fleshed out into a compelling race. Thankfully, newcomer Stephen Deas has done just that with his first book, The Adamantine Palace, first book in “The Memory of Flames.”

In Deas’ fantasy world, the Realms are sustained by the power of dragons enslaved by the nobility of the various kingdoms. Over all the monarchs is the Speaker of the Realms whose job is to keep the peace amongst the rulers. As to be expected, while some rulers are content with that set up, there are those that grasp for more power, wanting the Speakership for themselves. Without the dragons, the scenario would be one of political intrigue much like Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire: The Adamantine Palace is full of scheming and manipulation amongst a large cast of ruling monarchs who are trying to position themselves for the soon-to-be-vacated Speakership. But the dragons add a whole new aspect to the story.

The dragons are enslaved by a liquid that keeps them docile. Without the liquid, their minds return and they become much, much more powerful, gaining not only strength but also keen minds. In the past, before being enslaved, the dragons were a force to be reckoned with. Now, they are weapons in the hands of power-grasping monarchs. But at the beginning of The Adamantine Palace one of the dragons goes missing. Without the soporific liquid, the dragon’s mind starts to return with drastic consequences.

The Adamantine Palace was one of those books that I really wanted to enjoy and almost did. Unfortunately, even though the idea of the enslaved dragons was fascinating and the political machinations were captivating, Deas doesn’t give us enough likable characters to sustain the narrative. I’m not asking for lily-white saints, but most of the book focused on the kings and queens who were not too enjoyable. The non-noble characters were interesting, but they didn’t get enough attention in the narrative to develop into captivating and well-rounded people. Ironically, perhaps the most humane of the characters was Snow, the lost dragon, whose mind we see slowly returning.

Overall, it was a fun read, but I felt it didn’t hold up to the promise of its premises to be a series I will hunt down to finish.

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