(Nov 1 – 15)
A fantasy book? For kids?? By horror maestro Stephen King??? Jeez, no thanks!
Yep, that more or less summed up my thoughts when approaching this outlier in King’s canon (both in my days of yore and somewhat more recently). It also reflects the thoughts of legions of King’s number one fans, many of whom were reluctant to let their favourite author leave his horror-shaped cage.
In itself there’s nothing particularly deep or interesting about The Eyes Of The Dragon—it’s simply a lovely little fantasy tale (almost a fairy tale, in fact) that you could sit down and read with your kids. It’s got princes, kings, an evil wizard, and various heroic characters, alongside others who touch darkness and may or may not get their shot at redemption.
What’s perhaps more interesting about The Eyes Of The Dragon is that the reception of this novel is what prompted King to write Misery (probably one of his best novels). Something I’ve learned from my research during this project is that King never intended to become a horror writer: he just wanted to be a writer. Carrie, the novel that kickstarted his career, more or less happened by accident (it was a short story that ended up running long and was only published after King’s wife pulled it out of the trash and saw its potential). By the time King approached his third novel, he was already conscious of being labelled and considered writing something different. He was eventually persuaded to stick with horror by his publisher and released The Shining. Several years later, When The Eyes Of The Dragon came along, that horror key was firmly in the lock.
Ironically, for King fans one of the most intriguing elements of The Eyes Of The Dragon is a link back to one of his most iconic and arguably horrific novels: the use of Randall Flagg as the villain. He’s a very different character here than in The Stand but it’s still fun to discover a new (or maybe older) facet of this.
Tellingly, there are no adaptations of The Eyes Of The Dragon. I can only assume that people are not up to the marketing challenge (and also wary after the failure of The Dark Tower). It has been optioned a few times, and most recently came close to being adapted for Hulu, who eventually backed out due to budgetary concerns.
I’m not totally sure an adaptation would work—there’s a narrative structure in the book that would be challenging to present onscreen—but there’s possibly scope for a Princess Bride style retelling.
Who knows. Maybe one day.
This was easily one of my favourites reads so far (leaving me kicking myself for ignoring it for so long; and also determined to read the Dark Tower series at some point). I had automatically slid right past it while compiling my reread list—for no reason other than it didn’t ‘fit’—but reading the background to Misery prompted me to backtrack and give it a try. So, for chronology’s sake: The Eyes Of The Dragon was released before Misery, but since I was late to the party I ended up reading it afterwards.
I read it over two weeks (which seems to be my standard reading window) and it quickly became one of those books that I looked forward to curling up with every night.
It might not be for everyone, but if you like the genre and/or if you like King I urge you to at least give it a try.
Next time: Quatermass visits Maine …