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Review – The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas

POSTED ON November 16th, 2010  - POSTED IN Book Reviews, Reading

With a combination of real life dramas and editing work on the novel taking my evenings, my reading has been suffering. To make up for this, I decided to try and find a book that I could read in my lunch break.

I’m usually the type of person who reads in long chunks, as I find when I constantly pick up and put down a novel that I tend to lose track of all the various threads. I also find that I engage with the text a lot less. And as a result, I’ve tried to be very careful with my criticisms of this novel, knowing it could be to do with my approach to reading it, rather than with the novel itself.

That said I’m actually very glad that I chose The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas. The short chapters whisk the story along, meaning that in those snatched 30 minutes, there was always a sense of progression. This made it a fun read and ideal for the time constraints of my lunch break. I mean, it’s about dragons, and in this age of fantasy where anything traditional tends to get shunned for the New Weird, that made a very pleasant change.

The story takes two strands, one a political thread surrounding the election of a new speaker, the other more action orientated surrounding a dragon who becomes sentient and realises his kind are being drugged into slavery.

Jehal is an interesting character. Duplicitous and conniving, he’s one of those wondrously nasty characters you can’t help but want to read more of. Such a rich and interesting character, you’d think he’d stepped out of a Joe Abercrombie novel (and for the record, I think Abercrombie is doing some of the best characterisation work in fantasy right now).

The real problem for me was that compared to Jehal, everyone else seemed a little less interesting. It’s possible that given my approach to reading this, I wasn’t absorbed in the book long enough for other characters to really grab hold. It wasn’t that they were flat, per say, more that they lacked the richness of character that made Jehal so appealing.

It’s possible that the volume of kings and queens caused me some confusion and stopped me engaging fully with them but I have to say that the inclusion of a set of family trees at the front of the book really helped me establish who was who and how they related to that person or the next. I’m not normally a big fan of family histories in the appendices but in this case it really aided the novel.

There’s some nice twists in the novel. It’s nicely plotted. And overall it wasn’t a bad book.

The problem I struggle with is whether the way I read the novel meant I didn’t engage with it as much as I would if I’d read it in my normal long reading sessions, or whether the novel just isn’t as in depth as others on the market today. It felt a little thin to me, like rice cakes compared to a roll.

But whilst I was left wishing for more from the novel, at least it did deliver. Normally debut novels seem to have strengths in some areas and faults in others. This felt quite competent across the board, but for me lacked that one thing to really champion it. I’ll be reading further books in the series, that’s for sure, I’m just not sure how far up the ‘to read’ pile they’ll be though.