It’s hard to believe that dragons once ruled the world. Now they are used by humans as mounts, hunting and war machines, precious gifts to settle diplomatic disputes and as bargaining chips. Dragons have a unique place in the world of The Adamantine Palace, but they are far from their usual formidable selves. Their breeding and upkeep is strictly monitored by the alchemists whose Order knows the danger of letting these amazing and fiery creatures live freely.
The Adamantine Palace takes you right into the middle of the political strife amongst the rulers of Nine Realms. The realms struggle to understand how one of their queens died, with there being talk of carelessness and foul play. But this is not the only unknown that puzzles them. The health of King Tyan is deteriorating and there is rumour that his ambitious son Jehal is poisoning him. At the same time, the Speaker of the Realms seems to have similar symptoms and needs to find his successor. Prince Jehal is getting married to Lystra, daughter of Shezira, the powerful Queen of Sand and Stone and Salt. With her hand, he is about to receive Snow, a pure white dragon admired and coveted by many others.
As Snow suddenly disappears on the way to the Realm of the Endless Sea, the game of betrayal, domination and deceit takes a new turn. While humans are preoccupied with their power struggles and political strategies to gain more influence and wealth, one of the dragons gradually awakes and regains full awareness of power and purpose. The power and purpose repressed by the alchemical potions when they became slaves of the human race. Have humans forgotten about the superiority of dragons?
The world of The Adamantine Palace is divided and haunted by constant political intrigues. The characters have goals and hardly any of them are motivated by charitable intentions or the good of all the realms and their people. Or so it seems. Many of them are consumed by their want of power which makes them ultimately flawed. In a way it makes them even more interesting and likeable to me, because of their complexity and ability to stay ahead of the game – well, it doesn’t always work for all of them. I found all the back-stabbing plots, scheming characters – who change the course of the plot so often it is like a vortex of mind tricks and treachery – really enjoyable to read. It is the world dominated by rulers, and normal humans are either outsiders or servants, but they also play an important part in the story. Sell-swords and Scales are amongst my favourite characters. I really liked the constant change of the point of view – it works really well in the book where there is no single protagonist that is meant to stand out or have the story revolve around them.
Stephen Deas conjured this magnetic world of perpetual chicanery, lust and power where humans are too busy to realise that their authority is about to be burnt and reduced to a mere background by fiery, sophisticated and far more intelligent species. Dragons in The Adamantine Palace are daunting and majestic creatures full of fire as their nature requires, but only when they are either commanded by their riders or when they are free of the potions clouding their exceptional mental faculties. The shift in the story is so clever and it seems to show the mirror image between humans and dragons. Both species are selfish and ready to do everything to maintain the upper hand at all costs. But who is going to outsmart whom?
The Adamantine Palace is a fast paced book, written with great skill and intricacy. Stephen Deas knows how to lure readers into the world and keep them turning pages with astonishment of one conspiracy after another. The book might be difficult to get into at first for some readers, as there is a vast number of characters (the genealogical trees are provided), but Stephen Deas’ writing is great and he tells this multilayered story marvellously. The Adamantine Palace is book number one in the Memory of Flames trilogy which I highly recommend.
Author: Stephen Deas
Title: The Adamantine Palace
Publisher: Gollancz (UK)
Published: February 1, 2010 (UK)
Review originally published on Fantasy-Faction website.