Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Book Review: Eyes of The Dragon

When you take into consideration my obsession with Stephen King's 'Dark Tower' series, it's sort of hard to grasp how I let his 1987 work Eyes of The Dragon remain hidden from me. Once I finally picked it up, I was enamored - from the moment of its first word, the book's spell held my rapt attention, and its effect held me entranced long after I placed it back upon the shelf.
    Eyes of The Dragon is a traditional tale of good verses evil, and is spun around a cast of kings, dark wizards, and goodly queens and princes. It's narrated in the third person, and the style is reminiscent of classic fantasy literature - a trait that is far removed from King's established voice, but does little (if anything) to detract from the mastery of the man's craft.
    The story proper takes place in the fantasy realm of Delain, one of the many baronies of the already established Mid-World. Though in what particular time-frame the story takes place in Mid-World's history, we're left to some speculation. Suffice it to say, however, that the tale decidedly did take place "Once upon a time..."
    It had already been revealed to me that the story's main villain was none other than The Walkin' Dude, The Man In Black, or, probably as he's best known, good old Randall Flagg. In Eyes, however, he is a magician known simply as "Flagg". While this knowledge hardly seemed surprising, it was the king whom Flagg served that really threw me for a loop.
The King of Delain is one Roland Delain - a dark haired, blue-eyed man of whose slow logic and aptitude for battle and adventure is overtly familiar to those acquainted with Mid-World, and it begs the question of whether or not it is a distant relative of a particular Knight of Eld, or if we're only reading along yet another similar yet parallel level of The Beam.
King Roland is the widower of queen Sasha, the mother of his two sons, Peter and Thomas. Aid and advisor to Roland is the magician, Flagg, whose secret desire for control of the realm is barely kept sub rosa.
    Peter, Roland's eldest and heir to the throne, is introduced as a sort of paragonal good, and it's even mentioned at one point that he may herald the Coming of The White - another nod to the Tower. Treasured by his father, Peter leaves no doubt as to the sort of King he will become, and he may be the last bit of good queen Sasha that is left in the kingdom of Delain.
    Unfortunately for Peter, his brother, Thomas, is not held in as high regard by his father. More slow of wit and temperament, Thomas has grown disillusioned in his older sibling and his father, his feelings poisoned by rejection and the belief that he will never reach the heights of their success - feelings that the nefarious Flagg will no doubt exploit to the ultimate fruition of the story's conflict. Flagg has already sabotaged Roland's family once to the purpose of attaining his ends, and he eventually frames Peter for a murder he did not commit, imprisoning him high and away inside a cold, lonely tower. Crowning Thomas as the new king, Flagg works desperately to maintain his awful hold upon both Thomas and the kingdom of Delain - keeping an ever watchful eye out for those who would oppose his dark will. 
    There are many reasons why I thought his book was amazing, but the one thing that stood out most is the very thing that truly shines  in most of King's work. A lot of the time, his stories demonstrate the ambiguous and often blurred line between fate and random happenstance; luck and providence, even. Perhaps the better word to describe the force that would tip the scale in this statement would be 'destiny'.
I'm a great admirer of this aspect of the author's work, and its presence in Eyes of The Dragon is no exception. Tempting though it may be to share with you the best example of this, it does not seem advisable; part of the wonder of this book is in the simplicity of its story, and to divulge even that part would be to unravel the whole for you, like the frayed edges of so many royal crested linen napkins...
    The book's theme, however, I will touch upon. Its representation of good and evil -  the ever-raging battle of the Blackened and empty heart against that of the wholesome White - holds just enough gray around the edges of the battle field as to not bore the reader completely. It may be the one explicit instance of a gray area that exists between good and evil that, I believe, could be the hinge upon which this story unfolds. Good and bad are opposites of the same polarity, but what do we know of physics in this regard?
Often, King both surprises and delights me with his apparent esoteric wisdom, and I believe that in this book there may be a (strong) suggestion as to the necessity of synthesis between opposing forces or ideals, and that it is within the actions of the in-between that can more effectively eradicate the line dividing destiny and chance.
    As for the story's faithful narrator might say, "I leave that to you, reader, to decide".

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