The Memory of Flames is a three book fantasy series by Stephen Deas that I had great hopes for. I had found it on the fantastic fiction website, a site I like to use to look up author info without the possibility of spoiler reviews getting in the way. A neat bonus is that there is a little blurb at the bottom of every authors page that has books they are reputed to recommend, as well as readalikes if you click on the write-up for each book. Book two of this series was on Joe Abercrombie’s fantastic fiction page as was Splintered Gods, a different book in the same world (but a different series) also by Stephen Deas, so I thought what the heck, I love Joe Abercrombie so maybe I’ll like what he’s reading too, never mind that the blurb was the same for both books.
It was silly to think that something an author reads would be like what he writes, but I think that was actually the expectation that I had. Yet, aside from being in the same genre, and having some pretty strong characterization, and even a bit of the same snide humour, it really wasn’t the same. So, in a way, I was setting myself up for disappointment, since Stephen Deas isn’t Joe Abercrombie (who is my most recent favourite fantasy author), but really, enough about him already. He’s awesome, and after this review, you probably get it by now. On to The Memory of Flames series!
Stephen Deas first book in this series, and his first published novel, The Adamantine Palace, was pretty solid. I think it was the best book of the series, and did a great job of weaving political intrigue with a large cast of interesting and often despicable characters. ***SPOILER ALERT***When the ageless reincarnating mind reading dragons came in I loved it. I couldn’t wait to see where this went, so immediately went to book 2 with super lofty expectations.
Now, book 2, The King of the Crags, wasn’t as dragony as I hoped, and they were the characters I cared about, the humans ones…well…they were well developed, had good dialogue, and like humans everywhere…were mostly kind of mean. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like characters who do bad things, but I guess I need them to redeem themselves, not the whole way, but just enough to still like them, because then I can justify caring what happens to them. The problem was I didn’t care about them the same way I cared about the dragons.The dragons, however, I quickly realized, were nothing like I hoped they would be. I wanted them to be characters, and although they did communicate, so far they were turning out to just be monsters too.
In book 3, The Order of the Scales, I was hoping for transformation. I didn’t get it. This disappointed me. I understood that he wanted the dragons to be monsters, and I love monster stories, but it didn’t ring true enough for me, or maybe it rang too true…I’m not sure. They were eternal beasts that lived basically forever but were about as cerebral as two year olds. There was no wisdom, only instinct and emotion, and frankly, that means I found no depth or redeeming qualities. If Frankenstein’s monster did not have something you loved, pitied, or could empathize with about him, well, it would suck. At the end, I kinda felt that way about these books. I wanted more. I wanted just a little glory, a little redemption somewhere. Instead I felt cheated. I wanted fantasy, but I got the real world. *Sigh*
The thing is, my disappointment aside, these were pretty good books. (Heh, confused yet?) If I could have released my expectations over what I wanted to happen, I probably would have enjoyed them more. So, maybe in the end I was more invested than I thought. There is another 4 book series he’s written called the Silver Kings, that picks up after this, using some of the same characters and the same world. I have to admit, I’m still intrigued, nay, maybe hopeful, that this next group of books might do what these ones didn’t. I’m not sure I want to risk it though. I’m not sure if it’s just that I refuse to give up hope that the story I want is in there somewhere…or I’m just a sucker for punishment…
Have read these? What did you think?