Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Eyes of the Dragon

Last week I read that Syfy network is planning on turning Stephen King’s The Eyes of the Dragon into a movie or miniseries, perhaps trying to follow in the footsteps of HBO’s Game of Thrones. For those who haven’t read it, The Eyes of the Dragon is one of King’s fantasy novels, and the one with the most classic fantasy elements, including a medieval setting, kings and princes, and an evil sorcerer. It also invokes several of the archetypes I discussed in my series on the Top 5 Clichés in Fantasy Fiction. Given the Syfy announcement, I thought it was a perfect time to post my review of the novel.

The Eyes of the Dragon
explores the deep backstory to Stephen King's Dark Tower series, including a king named Roland, a kingdom named Delain, and a villain named Flagg – who also appears as the antagonist in King’s post-apocalyptic masterpiece, The Stand. The novel is told through the viewpoint of an omniscient narrator, which makes the book seem like it’s being told by an old storyteller sitting around a crackling fire. It starts out like a children’s book – indeed, the opening sentence is very close to “once upon a time” – but it quickly veers toward more adult topics, including a green Viagra-like potion the old king Roland must consume to have sexual relations with his beautiful wife.

The story is ultimately about two brothers, Peter and Thomas: the first conceived through a natural act of love, while the second is the result of a violent encounter fueled by a double dose of Flagg’s green brew. When the king is murdered years later, Peter is falsely accused of the crime and Thomas ascends to the throne. But Thomas secretly witnesses the king’s murder, plunging him into a moral quandary involving his feelings for his brother, the power he inherits, and the terrible truth behind it all. Given the omniscient narrator, there is little real mystery in this book, even as to the murder. Instead, the story boils down to the characters: the two brothers and the decision one of them must make.

The most enduring quality of this novel is that it never tries to be more than it is – a storyteller’s tale about two rival siblings and the evil that ultimately threatens them both. The story’s framework is somewhat elementary, and it may only work because it is written by Stephen King. Had any other author created it, without any connection to the mythology of The Stand or the Dark Tower, it likely would not have the impact it ultimately has. There is something about King’s mythology that keeps us wanting more, and The Eyes of the Dragon is just another morsel that satiates that yearning.

So if you’re a fan of the Dark Tower series, or want to read more about Randall Flagg, The Eyes of the Dragon is likely a must-read for you. Let’s just hope the Syfy series does it justice!

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