Wednesday, June 11, 2014

REVIEW: Dragon Queen by Stephen Deas

I've been a big fan of Deas' previous works, especially the Memory of Flames sequence, yet it took me some time to get around this this one, what is essentially book five.

As a brief overview, the original trilogy was brutal and razor sharp - fantastic! The sequel, The Black Mausoleum however, fell extremely short for me ... it was slow, uninteresting and lacking the flair of its prequels. Deas' until now separate Thief-Taker's Apprentice trilogy was a story cut from a different cloth, still great until the final book, which ended quite disappointingly.

In Dragon Queen, Deas manages to fuse the two series into one, through the common link we have all previously been wondering about, the Taiytekai. We see the return of characters from both the Memory of Flames series and the Thief-Taker's Apprentice trilogy such as Berren, Zafir and Bellepheros, set primarily now in the world of the Taiytekai. 

In short, Dragon Queen a masterpiece of fantasy and easily Deas' best work to date.

After The Black Mausoleum, I was despairing for the fate of this series as it appeared to be running out of fuel. Dragon Queen almost completely abandons the story arc from its prequel and instead goes back in time to follow characters we thought dead and lost - and thank goodness for that!

The cast of this novel is unsurprisingly great - fleshed-out characters and meticulous world building being two of Deas' greatest strengths. Grand Master Alchemist Bellepheros' disappearance in the original trilogy seems somewhat unremarkable and unresolved and to be honest I can't even remember the supposed fate of Speaker Zafir, but Deas has obviously had sneaky plans up his sleeve from the beginning. As two of our new protagonists we finally see the world of the Taiytekai and it is so much more than we could have imagined. Zafir is a real standout and is surely up there with some of fantasy's feistiest and most powerful women. She reminds me of a crueler Daenerys Targaryen. 

Berren the Crowntaker, Bloody Judge of Tethis (as we are constantly reminded) also takes a leading role as Deas finds a way to fuse the two worlds (and many others) in a way I was not expecting. As events unfold, Berren or 'Crazy Mad' moves drastically away from the character we once knew, alongside his new found comrade Tuuran, once an Adamantine Man, now a slave to to Taiytekai. Dragon Queen begins the next part of Berren's story that I thought was abandoned so despairingly at the end of his trilogy, making it all worthwhile in the end.

When I first saw it coming I was skeptical about fusing these worlds together and initially predicted it would patchy and questionable. What is now clear is that Deas must have planned this all along. Not only do the characters, histories, magic systems and more start coming together in a cleverly engineered way, there are obscure references from both sequences that are only now becoming clear, such as Saffran Kuy's prophecy about Berren ... "Dragons for one of you. Queens for both! An empress!" Deas has transformed this collection of trilogies into one kick ass series with some serious weight behind it.

Tekai'Tarr, the world of the Taiytekai is shown in incredible detail - it's physical environment, architecture, political structure, social structure, science, magic systems, recent and ancient history all unfold within Dragon Queen with masterful care. We also get another dose of Deas' unique take on dragons - one of the best I have encountered.

One of my (only) criticisms from the Memory of Flames trilogy was that it was all over so quickly. In Dragon Queen, Deas now paces himself to give a story that is just as fiery and fast paced, but also one we can really sink our teeth into without having protagonists killed off left, right and centre. This installment also answers a lot of questions, but continues to create more in some great foreshadowing and obscure building of suspense.

I can honestly not think of a single criticism of this book.

For other readers I would definitely recommend that you read both the Memory of Flames and Thief-Taker's Apprentice trilogies before starting Dragon Queen, but that The Black Mausoleum is largely irrelevant and unnecessary at this point (but who knows when that will change). It is possible to enter the series at the point, but if you're like me you'll be disappointed and frustrated at missing all the references, of which there are many.

I can't wait for the next installment, The Splintered Gods and luckily I don't have to - it's being released in just eight days and I have it on pre-order!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for such a glowing review, Josh! Characters from The Black Mausoleum will return in the final installment, next year's The Silver Kings :-)