THE EYES OF THE DRAGON

Featuring 21 charming illustrations by David Palladini, this is an adventure fantasy for young adults—or very old prepubescents—and among King's most accomplished works (though readers who groan at King's unremitting vulgarity in his adult novels will again have a few quarrels to pick). Prince Peter, 17, is the elder son of Roland, beer-drinking king of Delain who had managed to stay unwed until 50. Father Roland's not much for sex and manages it only about six times a year, with the aid of an aphrodisiac from court magician Flagg—despite the fact that his Queen Sasha was only 17 when he married her. Roland is renowned for having killed a dragon With his famed arrow Foe-Hammer and eaten its nine-chambered heart, which keeps his heroic aspect alive under his beer fat. After Sasha dies giving birth to their second son Thomas, the demonic magician Flagg, who is apparently 400 or more years old, desires chaos in the kingdom and fears that young Prince Peter, when crowned king, will bring good sense instead; and so Flagg wants the inferior, bumbling, manipulable second son Thomas to be king. With this aim in mind, he poisons King Roland with dragon sand, blames the murder on Peter and has him imprisoned in the 300-foot-tall prison called the Needle. The boy Thomas is crowned, but becomes a winebibber and beer. drinker and as round-gutted as his father. During his five years in the tower, Peter has his mother's fabulous doll-house to play with, but is secretly spinning an escape rope with threads from dinner napkins he weaves on the small doll-house loom. What Flagg does not know is that Thomas, hidden in a secret passage and looking into his father's room through the eyes of the stuffed dragon's head on the wall, saw Flagg give the king the poisoned wine. And so the time comes when Foe-Hammer must again be brought to bear on tho dragon. But which brother can actually slay Flagg? Some of King's smoothest writing and slickest effects, with the usual supercosmic horror scaled down to reasonably familiar villainy—though the sales, one assumes, will be supercosmic.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 1986

ISBN: 0451166582

Page Count: 388

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1986

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Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

READY PLAYER ONE

Video-game players embrace the quest of a lifetime in a virtual world; screenwriter Cline’s first novel is old wine in new bottles. 

The real world, in 2045, is the usual dystopian horror story. So who can blame Wade, our narrator, if he spends most of his time in a virtual world? The 18-year-old, orphaned at 11, has no friends in his vertical trailer park in Oklahoma City, while the OASIS has captivating bells and whistles, and it’s free. Its creator, the legendary billionaire James Halliday, left a curious will. He had devised an elaborate online game, a hunt for a hidden Easter egg. The finder would inherit his estate. Old-fashioned riddles lead to three keys and three gates. Wade, or rather his avatar Parzival, is the first gunter (egg-hunter) to win the Copper Key, first of three. Halliday was obsessed with the pop culture of the 1980s, primarily the arcade games, so the novel is as much retro as futurist. Parzival’s great strength is that he has absorbed all Halliday’s obsessions; he knows by heart three essential movies, crossing the line from geek to freak. His most formidable competitors are the Sixers, contract gunters working for the evil conglomerate IOI, whose goal is to acquire the OASIS. Cline’s narrative is straightforward but loaded with exposition. It takes a while to reach a scene that crackles with excitement: the meeting between Parzival (now world famous as the lead contender) and Sorrento, the head of IOI. The latter tries to recruit Parzival; when he fails, he issues and executes a death threat. Wade’s trailer is demolished, his relatives killed; luckily Wade was not at home. Too bad this is the dramatic high point. Parzival threads his way between more ’80s games and movies to gain the other keys; it’s clever but not exciting. Even a romance with another avatar and the ultimate “epic throwdown” fail to stir the blood.

Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-88743-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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THE NIGHT CIRCUS

Self-assured, entertaining debut novel that blends genres and crosses continents in quest of magic.

The world’s not big enough for two wizards, as Tolkien taught us—even if that world is the shiny, modern one of the late 19th century, with its streetcars and electric lights and newfangled horseless carriages. Yet, as first-time novelist Morgenstern imagines it, two wizards there are, if likely possessed of more legerdemain than true conjuring powers, and these two are jealous of their turf. It stands to reason, the laws of the universe working thus, that their children would meet and, rather than continue the feud into a new generation, would instead fall in love. Call it Romeo and Juliet for the Gilded Age, save that Morgenstern has her eye on a different Shakespearean text, The Tempest; says a fellow called Prospero to young magician Celia of the name her mother gave her, “She should have named you Miranda...I suppose she was not clever enough to think of it.” Celia is clever, however, a born magician, and eventually a big hit at the Circus of Dreams, which operates, naturally, only at night and has a slightly sinister air about it. But what would you expect of a yarn one of whose chief setting-things-into-action characters is known as “the man in the grey suit”? Morgenstern treads into Harry Potter territory, but though the chief audience for both Rowling and this tale will probably comprise of teenage girls, there are only superficial genre similarities. True, Celia’s magical powers grow, and the ordinary presto-change-o stuff gains potency—and, happily, surrealistic value. Finally, though, all the magic has deadly consequence, and it is then that the tale begins to take on the contours of a dark thriller, all told in a confident voice that is often quite poetic, as when the man in the grey suit tells us, “There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict.” Generous in its vision and fun to read. Likely to be a big book—and, soon, a big movie, with all the franchise trimmings.

 

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-385-53463-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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