I just finished reading The Adamantine Palace, by Stephen Deas. I've a lot of loose pieces still floating through my mind here. Let's see if I can put it all together.
The Bad: The characterization can be thin at times. Thin enough that the characters are unbelievable. As in the suspension, of. Particularly Jehal. Jehal is the perfect villain. No reasonable person could possibly defend Jehal. If the author hopes to, authentically, blur that line a bit, it's going to take some serious work. Otherwise, one need only predict that Jehal will continue to act in the most devious, underhanded and traitorous manner to understand where this story is going.
The plot twists are very intuitive. As the reader, you will know where this is going before you get there. The author, in telling his tale, leads the reader too close to the truth for it to have that thrilling flavor of surprise to it. Which is strange, since so much of the tale built upon political intrigue and betrayal. In such a tale, I would not expect to be able to see so much of what transpires behind the curtain.
The world-building is good enough to make my next point properly classified under "the bad." Let me first say the author did include indices listing the genealogies of the leading families of the realm. However, no map??? Seriously, with four or five realms, kings and queens, to say nothing of the Worldspine mountain range, the Adamantine Palace itself, the coastline, the Crags and the Sea of Salt and Sand, you really must have a map. A story carried by better than average characterization can get by without one. A story built upon political intrigue and betrayal necessitates a map.
The Good: The storyline foundation laid through the political intrigue and betrayal of the story. It wasn't amazing, but it gives the author a solid launching point from which he could leap up into the amazing.
The author has also left himself a great deal of wiggle room with the unexplored portions of backstory. The story of the dragons, pre-enslavement, is something that has yet to unfold. The dragon Snow, recalled in those times, riders of silver, or some such thing, before the dragons "went to sleep" (i.e. drugged by the alchemists). There is also the untold story concerning the genesis of the alchemists. It is hinted at, that they were originally of the blood mage order. Clearly, blood mages are personna non grata in society, although occasionally tolerated as a direct result of what their talents may offer to an enterprising benefactor. Yet, what is the genesis of the blood mages? The Taiytakei people are shadowy, at best. All we know about them is that they want, more than anything else, a dragon of their own. Specifically, the story discusses how they desire a hatchling. They present Jehal with a magnificent gift which tips the political balance of power completely in his favor. However, it is also clear that a 'gift' from the Taiytakei is never, truly, free.
All in all, it's a debut novel that is alright. I know, from following plenty of review blogs myself, that I tend to be more forgiving than most, but I certainly see plenty of potential in this story. By logical extension, I also see potential in the mind that could envision this tale, so I do look forward to the next installment from Stephen Deas. I am eager to see what trail this story will travel in future volumes.
Next Up: Carol Berg's Restoration, the final book of her Rai-kirah series.