two-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
41-July-Aug-2009
By: 
Stephen Deas
user_rating: 
0

A-The Adamantine PalaceBritish author Stephen Deas previously published The Snow Fox (2008), a collection of short stories. The Adamantine Palace is his first novel.

The Story: When the head of the Nine Realms, Speaker Hyram, steps down without a successor, poison, double-crossing, and general bad behavior become the order of the day. And with the escape of Snow, a rare, "perfect white" dragon bartered by the ambitious Queen Shezira, things take a turn for the worse. Although dragons once ruled the Earth, they have been subdued through alchemical means and are valuable status symbols and weapons for dragon-kings and dragon-queens. When Snow gets a taste of freedom, that human control begins to diminish. Shezira’s plans for supremacy of the Nine Realms and The Adamantine Palace are contested by a host of nefarious, treacherous characters whose interests would be compromised if the dragons were to break free of their bonds.
Gollancz. 384 pages. $14.69. ISBN: 0575083743

SFF World 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Though the tropes are not particularly new, [the novel] is very well done. … The world-building is reasonable, though not the greatest strength of the book." Mark Yon

Fantasy Book Critic 3 of 5 Stars
"The world-building comes up noticeably short and is an area that needs work. … [The Adamantine Palace] is a fun and entertaining debut that will appeal to fans of both classic and contemporary fantasy." Robert Thompson

The Times (UK) 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Scenes tend to be underwritten, and shift abruptly from the viewpoint of one shallow, self-obsessed character to another, which makes for a busy, fast-paced narrative, but little involvement. … If Deas can improve his world-building skills, and resist the temptation to kill off his most sympathetic characters, future books in this series will certainly be worth reading." Lisa Tuttle

Strange Horizons 1.5 of 5 Stars
"[The Adamantine Palace] feels sketchy, regularly crippled by its lack of detail for anything other than the backdrops against which the characters play out their numb, melodramatic interactions, and occasional clumsy infodumps about raising dragons, whose relevance is never entirely clear. … Above all, this is a novel with a good idea, but precious little personality to call its own." Nic Clarke

Critical Summary

Fantasy readers can be a bit, well, snooty about how they take their dragons (fans are rarely ambivalent about the works of George R. R. Martin, Anne McCaffrey, and Naomi Novik, for instance), and Stephen Deas takes a chance by making those most misunderstood of fantasy elements the focus of his debut novel. Although Deas gives his imagination free rein in The Adamantine Palace and his short chapters (70 in a relatively brief book) keep things moving, critics call into question his world-building skills, as well as the SF/F penchant these days for trilogies, which only guarantees that nothing much will get resolved in the first installment. Still, there’s enough here to whet a fantasy reader’s appetite (the sequel, King of the Crags, is due in 2010), and we hope that experience will only make Deas stronger.