Monday, 11 August 2014

Review: 'The Adamantine Palace' by Stephen Deas


The Adamantine Palace lies at the centre of an empire that grew out of ashes. Once dragons ruled the world and man was little more than prey. Then a way of subduing the dragons through alchemy was discovered and now the dragons are bred to be mere mounts for knights and highly valued tokens in the diplomatic power-players that underpin the rule of the competing aristocratic houses. The Empire has grown fat.

And now one man wants it for himself. A man prepared to poison the king just as he has poisoned his own father. A man prepared to murder his own lover and then bed her daughter. A man fit to be king?

But unknown to him there are flames on the way. A single dragon has gone missing. And even one dragon on the loose, unsubdued and returned to its full intelligence, its full fury, could spell disaster for the Empire.

I was a little sceptical going into The Adamantine Palace, largely because it’s hard to believe that a fantasy series about dragons is capable of doing anything that hasn’t already been done a hundred times. However, the first book in Deas’ Memory of Flames series has piqued my interest, not least because of the way it combines elements of traditional fantasy (dragons, dragon-riders, alchemists and magic) with the subtler sorts of features that define modern fantasy (court intrigue, power plays and political manoeuvring). The author’s heavy focus on the former and deft weaving of the latter gives The Adamantine Palace the feel of Dragonlance meets Game of Thrones.

The story is a little slow to get going, and I have to say it took me a large part of the book before I really began to take an interest in the characters. There are so many different POV chapters initially that it’s hard to figure out who we’re supposed to be emotionally investing ourselves in, and not all of them are developed quite as much as they perhaps could be. However, there were some characters whose segments I thoroughly enjoyed reading, particularly those of the book’s main antagonist, Prince Jehal. The chapters showing the thoughts of the dragon as she gradually begins to recover her memories are also interesting, and it would be nice to see more of these in future books.

Much as I enjoyed the chapters about the dragons in the wilderness, my favourite parts of the story were those focusing on the power struggle between Shezira and Jehal. I found the political intrigue very, well, intriguing, at least once I’d got to know all the players, and trying to guess different characters’ plots and motivations was a lot of fun. By the end of the novel the politics reach fairly convoluted levels of backstabbing and betrayal, and the author really had me turning the pages towards the end to find out who was going to come out on top. It’s not quite GRRM-level stuff, at least not yet, but it definitely has the potential to become just as interesting, and I’m certainly looking forward to getting hold of the next book in the series.


Click here to view The Adamantine Palace (Memory of Flames #1) on Amazon UK

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