Stephen King, known for his diversity as an author and primary focus on horror fiction, triumphs with his novel The Eyes of the Dragon. Published in 1987, the fantasy story explores realms of depth unavailable to King through other venues.
A classic tale of good and evil, the novel is refreshingly frank and funny. The plot focuses on the fictional kingdom of Delain, in which science is pushed aside in favor of magical cures. The villain, who is also the king’s closest advisor, is a magician. He promotes magical solutions to give himself more power within the kingdom, and to spread fear and superstition.
The king of Delain, the kindly but dull Roland, has two sons named Peter and Thomas. Peter is the eldest and the most like Roland’s beloved late wife Sasha. Thomas is slower, less handsome and much more like his father. Loving to see Sasha reflected in Peter, Roland clearly favors Peter over Thomas. This behavior breeds resentment in Thomas, making him an easy target for the wicked magician Flagg.
Years before, Roland, who is a wonderful hunter, saved his hunting party with his swift action and sure blows when a dragon attacked. He keeps the skull of the dragon in his den along with his other hunting trophies. What Roland doesn’t know is that behind the eyes of the dragon is a secret passage, known only to Flagg and Thomas.
Peter, the golden boy, is beloved by the entire kingdom for his wisdom, bravery and compassion. However, it is exactly these traits which make him a venerable enemy for Flagg. As Roland ages, the countdown for who will hold the power in the kingdom accelerates.
It appears as if Peter will ascend the throne in the next five years. Roland is comfortable with his favorite son becoming king when he passes, and continues to adore Peter despite their dwindling time together. But one day, the king dies rather suddenly. The cause of his death is clearly poison. Peter, furious and afraid, leads the search for his father’s murderer and vows to capture the villain who stole his beloved father from him.
But then, something horrible is found. Peter is arrested. Thomas, sick in bed with a fever, does not speak in his brother’s defense. In the span of three days, Peter goes from King to murderer. Once the most beloved man in the kingdom, Peter is now the most despised.
Peter is sentenced to spend the rest of his life in the Needle, a tall tower built for imprisoning nobles, and his younger brother Thomas ascends the throne. At Peter’s side is his loyal advisor, Flagg.
The Eyes of the Dragon is an exciting tale of murder, adventure, revenge and of course, good versus evil. Although the novel employs traditional fantasy tropes, the story is often unpredictable and the characters display incredible depth. Even (or especially) for those who are not Stephen King fans, this story is a great read that has the potential to become a favorite.