The back cover to Stephen Deas’s, The Adamantine Palace, promises dragons that kick ass, and while I was dying to follow up with “indeed they do,” there are perhaps too few moments of ass kickery to say that with a smile on my face. For the most part the dragons are docile, doing what they’re commanded to, but when one is stolen and lives too long without the potions that are keeping the dragons so tame, she snaps. She’s certainly good at roasting everything in sight and crushing any unfortunate men in the way, and boy does she delight in it.  There’s no loyalty. No empathy. Her thoughts and emotions spread and affect all those around her. It feels alien, strange, and quite refreshing.

That’s not her.

When I picked up this book a while back I’d actually been looking for the sequel to Dragon Keeper instead. I’m not even sure how it caught my eye since nothing on the spine would have led me to pick it up. But I did, and when I read the back I was intrigued by some similarities between it and my own work. We have dragons intentionally being kept weak for control and safety purposes, and most people don’t even know about it. The dragons certainly don’t. I wanted to see how Deas handled the matter. The similarities differ outside of that, but I’ve never heard of that theme before. Near the end I was a bit unsettled to discover the source of their potions is a plant that leaves a purple residue, the same color as the flowers in novel used for the same purposes. Of all the colors and sources he could have chosen. . .

Most of The Adamantine Palace keeps the dragons in the background. We do get a few chapters of the captured dragon’s POV, Snow, but mostly it focuses on a long list of human characters, all of which seem out to get each other. In particular, Prince Jehal, who for some reason I kept rooting for despite what a vile piece of work he is. I kept asking myself why the whole book. Charisma? I don’t know, but he is oddly likable. It’s one of those cases where you want to see just how far someone can go before they’re inevitably caught. These characters are flawed and you never know who to root for, though it’s fun to watch and see who’ll come out on top. I found myself sympathizing with someone one chapter, and being disgusted with them then next.

It’s a quick read too. The novel’s less than 370 pages and has 71 chapters if you count the prologue and epilogue. Do the math. I always like short chapters because it gives comfortable stopping points, but this is taking it to an extreme. There’s constantly something new to focus on, so there’s no weariness from drawn out chapters. Ironically, I keep trying to push myself in my own writing to get near twenty-five pages in a chapter, unless there’s a perfect stopping point before that.

It’s not a deep work, but I found The Adamantine Palace refreshing, unique, and engaging. Sadly, it seems that just as we begin to get an idea for how the dragons work, the book’s over. I have a feeling we’ll get more in the future. I’ll have to see, won’t I?