OFF THE SHELF: “The Eyes of the Dragon”

By Marcus Pan

Chain Border

The Eyes of the DragonThis will be the second time I’ve read The Eyes of the Dragon, as this time around I pulled a book I knew I would enjoy considering the torment I went through with the last novel I read – Ghost. As a matter of fact, I enjoyed it so much that I finished it before I wrote the Off the Shelf column for Ghost.

First off I must say that The Eyes of the Dragon has one of my all time favorite characters of King’s. Here he is called Flagg and is a wizard with a bad attitude. Coldly calculating, the epitome of black magic. Flagg also appeared in other novels of King’s(1), sometimes with different names sometimes with the same name. This novel was my first introduction to the evil Flagg and remains my favorite as he is involved throughout, plotting the downfall of the good kingdom of Delain.

The Eyes reads like an old Grimm fantasy piece with great imagery and smooth verbiage that reminded me of the Brothers Grimm or Neil Gaiman(2). Another example of the use of older and fairy-tale style language would be Tales From the Flat Earth(3) by Tanith Lee. While King’s word usage doesn’t come across as talking down in any way, engaging the reader in a storyteller format, it neither comes out childish or kid-like in any way either.

As far as I know The Eyes of the Dragon was King’s first foray into fantasy, stepping off the horror/macabre path he’s traveled for so many years. A while back I wrote a small review of The Eyes of the Dragon for the alt.gothic Book List(4) and had written, “I highly recommend it and quite enjoyed the different twists and turns.” On my second reading of this novel I feel the same way. You’ll encounter some of your typical fantasy cliché’s within of course – Flagg himself is one of the greatest of these clichés, even if he is kick-ass cool. And the novel itself is your standard fantasy-mystery fare – rightful king gets framed and usurped by plotting bad man in black and puppet king is installed in his place so that bad man can manipulate things to his own ends.

But it is an excellent telling of this type of story and you’ll find more than a few truly interesting plot twists inside – such as Peter’s means of escape from the tower of the Needle and how he came about to arrange it. The way in which Thomas viewed the killing and through which he viewed it was very refreshing, and I really enjoyed the means of killing used by Flagg when he disposed of the tubular King Roland in order to place Thomas on the throne. His manipulations of evidence was beautifully written and told, and the framing of Peter for the crime was well done. Also there’s plenty of daring action and near escapes as well as subtle ploys throughout. Any fantasy lover will very much enjoy this novel even if a well-known horror writer’s name is stamped upon it.

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“The Eyes of the Dragon” by Stephen King
Illustrated by Dvid Palladini
Published by Nal Penguin Inc.
Copyright © 1988 by Stephen King
ISBN: 0451166582

(1) Wizard and Glass (fourth in the Dark Tower series and reviewed in Legends #96) and The Stand just off the top of my head.
(2) Stardust, NeverWhere, Smoke and Mirrors (all reviewed in Legends #115), Sandman, etc.
(3) In Off the Shelf, Legends #104.
(4) http://members.tripod.com/~gothicbooks/

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