Welcome Back Randall Flagg
I have to admire Stephen King’s willingness not to pigeonhole himself into any single genre. The Eyes of the Dragon, probably more than any other book he wrote, seems like an effort to prove that he could write outside of horror, the genre for which he had become famous writing
This story is very simple by fantasy standards – short page count, few characters, and it even includes the standard good vs. evil fantasy trope. King doesn’t bring anything new to the genre, but he does prove he is capable of creating and writing within it. That alone is impressive, and it makes for an entertaining book, but The Eyes of the Dragon was never able to really knock me off my feet.
The kingdom of Delain has been prosperous under the rule of King Roland. But after the death of his altruistic Queen, Sasha, he has lost a lot of his former rigor. Lurking in the shadows is the King’s magician, Flagg, who prepares to reap havoc on the kingdom by pitting the young and naive Prince Thomas against the rightful heir to the kingdom Prince Peter. As Flagg puts his plan in motion, it may only be a terrible secret kept by Thomas that can save the kingdom.
Long time King readers should immediately recognize the name Flagg, the long time antagonist for many of his novels including The Stand and The Dark Tower series. Randall Flagg – not called Randall in this book – is one of King’s greatest character creations, he is the embodiment of evil. Where as Flagg’s first book, The Stand takes place in 20th century America, the appearance of Flagg in the setting of this mythical fantasy world adds greatly to this characters enigma and leaves readers with lots of intriguing questions.
In many ways, and possibly from a broader sense, The Eyes of the Dragon is like the Flagg origin story. A lot of implications are made, but readers probably won’t get all the answers they’re looking for. Either way if you’re a King reader and this character interests you, than Eyes of the Dragon is a must read… and there is plenty of Randall Flagg to be had here.
While Flagg provides the source for most of the external conflicts that are occurring in this novel, Thomas provides most of the internal conflict. His big secret, which drives a lot of the tension and development of Thomas as a character spurs his development. As Thomas grows older, more of his naivety begins to disappear, he becomes a much more self aware and critical thinker, and subsequently a more interesting character.
The problem with this novel is its utter simplicity. In a genre that is often defined by its sprawling worlds, extraordinary beings, and awe-inspiring magic, Stephen King’s story is surprisingly ordinary. In terms of style, creating a less magic inclusive world in fantasy can lead to great stories (A Song of Ice and Fire anyone), but those stories often make up for the lack of magic with large sprawling worlds, deep histories, and a complicated plot.
King’s plot doesn’t do much to inspire the imagination – his world is very simple, and other than a few select instances, there is not much history provided for this world. King’s story is very focused, which can be a great thing, but in this novel it often makes the reader feel uninspired. The story is constructed very tightly, but the simplicity of the story, doesn’t do much to engage with the readers imagination, and that’s this novel’s major flaw.
The Eyes of the Dragon comes recommended to fans of King, but if you’re off this author’s radar, than don’t expect all that much from this book. I enjoyed reading it, but it never set me ablaze.