Saturday, April 25, 2015

Castle Rock Companion - The Dark Tower supplemental: The Eyes of the Dragon

The nature of The Dark Tower series and its multiple worlds means it ties into a great number of King's other works. One could easily say it ties into all of King's other works, it's just that the ties in some are more noticeable than others.  As such there are those that when doing a Dark Tower read through, recommend hitting at least some other of King's works as well.  The order in which to do so is really the question.  The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three lead directly into each other, and The Wastelands ends in a cliffhanger that is resolved in Wizard and Glass.  Wizard and Glass features Randall Flagg as a character, who we've already seen mentioned in The Gunslinger briefly.  As such, it's probably good to read The Stand before you get there, but thanks to that cliffhanger at the end of The Wastelands, you may either want to read that novel before you begin completely, or, as the order I found suggested, take a break between The Drawing of  the Three and The Wastelands.  Having just read The Stand not long before for Castle Rock Companion, I did not read it again.  But there is another book which contains Flagg and is frequently recommended as part of a Dark Tower read through, and that is The Eyes of  the Dragon.

Besides Flagg being the main antagonist, this story also features a king named Roland, a tower located in the center of the kingdom, and toward the end a group of five containing three young men, a woman, and a dog are instrumental in setting everything right again.  That last bit won't make as much sense to you if you're reading this early in the series, but trust me, it ties together.  It's certainly not a direct connection by any means, King Roland has little in common with our gunslinger, but it's clear King was having a bit of fun with it all.

Even without the Dark Tower connections, this is simply a great book.  King has said that he wrote it for his daughter Naomi, who was not a fan of the horror stories he normally wrote.  While not 100% a children's book, it does certainly have some those traits.  This is The Hobbit of his Dark Tower series in a way, written in a wonderful conversational style much like that book was, being a bit more whimsical in places though still a bit of dark fantasy at times.  There is magic and dragons, but it is also fairly grounded in reality, so that the world is not too far off from our own medieval period.

It's a fairly simple tale, of a brother accused of killing his father so that the evil magician can put his not as smart younger brother on the throne and rule through him.  Prince Peter is locked away in the tower and slowly comes up with a means to escape his prison and avenge his father's death.  It's really all the telling that makes it so enjoyable, as well as the delightful evilness that is Flagg as our antagonist.  Similar to his appearance in The Stand, he takes joy in manipulating people behind the scenes to get what he wants, biding his time and watching over everyone.  Or at least he does until suddenly Peter gains the upper hand, and he unravels with such a vicious temper that shows he's not as calm and collected as he would like everyone to believe.  Flagg is only good at his job as long as people fear him, and once that is taken away, he's nothing.  Read concurrently with The Stand, it gives us a sense of just who this character is and his purpose.  Here he is specifically called a demon, and it's clear he's meant to sow chaos in places that are on the razor's edge between prosperity and destruction.  He's meant to tip the scales towards the sides of evil; and he seems to always come very close to accomplishing that but yet frequently beaten by good in the end. Like in The Stand, it's actually someone he thought was firmly in his pocket that helps to deal the defeating blow on him.

King ends the novel with a hint at a possible sequel, telling us that two characters went on to have more adventures and even see Flagg again.  But for now, those further adventures will have to live in our imaginations.  But if you're looking for a nice light read in the world of fantasy, I highly recommend you give this one a shot.  I'd love to see an animated adaptation of this story, but the attempts to make one around the turn of the century never got off the ground.  For now the Syfy channel seems to have the rights to the book and may end up turning it into either a series or a film.

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