The passage through the castle is dim, sensed by few and walked by only one. Flagg knows the way well. In four hundred years, he has walked it many times, in many guises, but now the passage serves its true purpose. Through the spyhole it conceals, the court magician observes King Roland–old, weak, yet still a king. Roland’s time is nearly over, though, and young Prince Peter, tall and handsome, the measure of a king in all ways, stands to inherit the realm. Yet a tiny mouse is enough to bring him down, a mouse that chances upon a grain of Dragon Sand behind Peter’s shelves and dies crying tears of fire and belching gray smoke. A mouse that dies as King Roland does. Flagg saw it all and smiled, for now Prince Thomas, a young boy easily swayed to Flagg’s own purposes, would rule the kingdom. But Thomas has a secret that has turned his days into nightmares and his nights into prayed-for oblivion. The last bastion of hope lies at the top of the Needle, the royal prison where Peter plans a daring escape . . .
Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of the fantasy genre. Thought I would just come out and say that right off the bat. I’m more a fan of the hybrid type of stories: the Horror Fantasy (usually referred to as a “dark fantasy”), the Modern Fantasy (or “urban fantasy”, if you will), Sci-Fi Fantasy, the odd Fantasy Western (they exist, trust me, we’ll be getting to that soon), so forth and so on. But straight up sword and sorcery, castles and dragons, Hobbits and magical lands of yore don’t really draw my interest when it comes to getting lost in a good book. I’m sure I’m going to lose a lot of clout with my fellow bibliophiles, but I’ve never read the Lord of the Rings series (save for having to read The Hobbit in Junior High), I haven’t touched anything by Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, and I always grumble a bit whenever I go into one of those book stores that mixes the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres together on one shelf. It’s like when someone mixes the peas into their mashed potatoes. I don’t get it.
Anyway, that all brings me to this, the book that was a bit of a shock to the system while I was making my way thorough the works of Stephen King back when I was 15. I think you understand the reason. Nowadays, King has proven himself to be a writer beyond just the horror genre, and my middle-aged self understands this. Back when I was a teenager, though, my concept of Stephen King was “he’s a horror writer, period.” As did a lot of people at the time, I’m certain. I mean, his books are mainly displayed in the Horror section of the book stores, and this book in particular was among that section. So, you could understand my bit of confusion when I read this and realized that there was very little actual horror in this book, just a tale of long ago, of a prince betrayed by his younger brother and locked in a tower, while an evil wizard uses the younger brother as a puppet ruler to bring about his evil schemes. A bunch of stuff happens, the younger brother sees the error of his ways, the rightful ruler escapes his imprisonment, the evil wizard is having none of this, yadda yadda yadda, then the book ends on kind of a downer subversion of the whole “Happily Ever After” fairytale ending.
Essentially, the reason for writing such a straight-on fantasy novel like this was because of King’s daughter, Naomi King. She was only 11 years old at the time, and asked her father to write a book that she would read and like. Meaning, she didn’t like the scary stories her father wrote, and wanted to read something of his that wouldn’t result in night terrors. So, being the dutiful dad he is, he wrote Eyes of the Dragon. It’s not necessarily a fluffier piece, but definitely a bit of a detour from what everyone else was expecting him to write. Pigeonholing is like that.
Of course, back then when I read it, I was pretty “meh” about it, and moved on. I didn’t hate it, but I definitely thought I could have used my time better reading something else, a little more spine-tingly, if you catch me. If I read this now, I would suspect that I would still be rather ambivalent about it, as I’m still could take or leave the straight fantasy genre. It’s just not my thing.
On a side note, though, I did geek a bit when I was reading the second Dark Tower book, and Roland made mention of running into some characters from The Eyes of the Dragon. So, something good came out of me reading this novel, I guess.