Monday, March 8, 2010

"The Adamantine Palace"

Stephen Deas is the author of the acclaimed short story “The Snow Fox.”

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Adamantine Palace (Volume I of The Memory of Flames Trilogy), his first novel, and reported the following:
The cool thing about having several editions around is that I get to pick and choose which page-69 I quote, right? Because the German translation has some really cool dragon action going on.

I don't get to choose? Aw. OK, then here's most of page 69 from the US edition:
‘Have a care, Your Highnesses. The edge is treacherous. It's a long way down, and many people have fallen over the years. The sea pulls them down, somehow.’ He stopped a couple of feet from the edge and offered Princess Lystra his hand. ‘The sea, Your Highness. The endless Sea of Storms.’

Lystra took his hand, and so he gave it a gentle squeeze and hoped that Queen Shezira wouldn’t notice.

‘It’s… breathtaking.’ The cliffs dropped a hundred feet to the roaring crashing waves. The sea went on forever, a churning maze of white-capped waves stretched as far as the eye could see, fading into the grey haze of the far horizon, a mighty monster that could sometimes make even a dragon seem small and tame. Jehal smiled at Lystra. Up here on the edge you could feel the spray and even taste the salt in the air. Lystra was staring, mouth agape. ‘It goes on and on and doesn’t stop! Like the Sea of Sand, except made of water!’

Jehal gave her an indulgent smile. ‘The Taiytakei say that if you sail far enough, and can navigate the storms, there are other lands across the waters, so distant that you would have to cross from one end of the realms to the other to even begin to understand how far away they are.’ Mentally he congratulated himself. There. That didn't sound patronising at all.

‘All that water…’ Lystra took a step closer to the edge. Jehal tightened his grip on her hand and she stopped. The cliffs plunged vertically down into the sea.

‘There is a path, from the back of Clifftop, that runs down to the sea,’ he said. ‘The steps are worn and slippery and the way is treacherous, but there is a cave there that can only be reached by those steps. To truly see the waves crash on the rocks and send their plumes of spray up into the air, there is no better place than that cave. I will take you there one day.’

Jaslyn suddenly walked right up to the edge and looked down. For a moment it seemed to Jehal that she swayed in the wind that whipped and swirled up the face of the cliff. If she did, though, she quickly caught herself, and the next thing he knew Lystra had slipped her hand out of his and was standing next to her elder sister, laughing.
The Adamantine Palace is a tale of a realm held together by rules and order and a terrible fear of what could be unleashed if those rules are broken. For the realms are also home to dragons. Huge, fire-breathing monsters, the sort that floss with velociraptors, and the only thing that stops them from eating the population wholesale are the drugs they are fed from birth that keep them docile. They have become toys and pets and flying status symbols to the kings and queens who ride them, but their fury has not been forgotten by those who tame them, nor by the dragons themselves, should they ever awaken.

Naturally, one of them does. And all hell breaks loose.

The Adamantine Palace is the first part of a trilogy, which concentrates on the efforts of one Prince Jehal to lie, murder, poison and betray his way to rulership of the Adamantine Palace itself. In this scene, he is meeting his bride-to-be and sorely missing the arrival of a promised wedding present, a perfect white dragon. Over the pages that follow, the white dragon will awake and Jehal will continue on his way. Still, the three characters here are three of the four around which the human story pivots. Jehal, who already has a lover he is propelling towards a throne, will find his bride Lystra to be something more than the mouse he expected, while the bond between her and her dragon-loving, people-hating sister Jaslyn will tip the balance of power one way or the other in books to come.

Of course, in this scene, Jehal knows none of this. For now, little Lystra is simply a mouse-queen to sit veiled behind screens, kept as a baby machine, and her mother and sister a merely complications to be removed in the not-so-distant future.
Read an excerpt from The Adamantine Palace and an essay by Stephen Deas on the "Memory of Flames" trilogy.

Visit the official Stephen Deas website.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue