THIS STORY TAKES
PLACE BETWEEN THE TV EPISODE "AMY'S CHOICE"
AND THE NOVEL "THE
OFFICIAL BBC HARDBACK
RELEASED IN JULY 2010.
In the city-state of Geath, the King lives
in a golden hall, and the people want for nothing. Everyone is happy and everyone
is rich. Or so it seems. When the Doctor, Amy and Rory look UNDER the surface, they FIND a city of secrets In WHICH creatures are stirring AND a great metal dragon oozes gold. AND THEN THE
Herald appears TO
DEMAND THE RETURN
OF HER TREASURE...
The battle for the treasure has begun, and only the Doctor and his friends can save the people of
the city from being destroyed in civil war. But will the
King surrender his new-found wealth?
Or will he fight to keep it...?
Releasing these books in batches of three has the unfortunate effect of always making one of them look like the bottom of the pile. In this case it’s Una McCormack’s The King’s Dragon, which, though perfectly enjoyable, doesn’t quite match the efforts of Russell and Smith. What it lacks, compared to the other two releases, is a sprinkling of originality. The concepts here are all effective enough, but they do feel rather old hat. The plot revolves around the miraculous metal Enamour, a gold-like substance that can bewitch and beguile all those who lay eyes on it. Civilisations have fought wars over it, been destroyed by it. Now it’s been found on a planet with a mediaeval level of culture, and it’s sent the city state of Geath down the wrong path. Plus, there’s an alien civil war going on around the planet, and both sides want the Enamour.
The plot is fairly pedestrian, with a bit of the old capture-escape-capture routine and the Doctor getting himself into trouble again by fibbing about his origins. Thankfully, the charac-terisation is very good, with two genuinely interesting supporting characters. Hilthe is an older women who was one the elected spokesperson for Geath. Wise, patient, strong of conviction but not entirely without prejudice, she bonds with Rory, who is more similar to her in terms of personality than either of his fellow travellers. She also proves an excellent foil for the Doctor in several scenes, taken aback by his aged wisdom not matching his apparent youth, but more than capable of giving as good as she gets when he goes into know-it-all modes.
On the other side of the equation is the Teller, the great weaver of stories who has found and harnessed the Enamour and so twisted the Geathians around his little finger, getting his brother, Beol, crowned king in the process. Naturally opposed to Hilthe as opposite sides of the political divide, he at first comes across as an obvious villain, but is fleshed out in due course and becomes a deeply sympathetic figure, out for revenge against the system that has wronged him. The two of them provide some intriguing interplay with the regulars, and would be quite capable of holding the story without them.
And as for the dragon of the title… well, there are several. The dragon-shaped lump of Enamour, the sleek dragon-ships of the alien faction, the dragon-like armour of the al-ien soldier stalking the courts and corridors of Geath… Th-ere’s some nice, fantastical imagery in here that’s in keeping with the romanticised Middle Ages vibe of the setting. When we finally get to see on board one of the alien vessels, it has an utterly incongruous cubicle-based office design, run by bureaucracy and procedure. It’s almost Douglas Adams-esque, but it does rather clash with the rest of the atmosphere.
At its heart, this is a story about the power of propaganda and glamour, as the Enamour turns people’s heads, making them change their allegiances and turn against one time friends. There’s an element of the poisoning effect of money and a touch of the politics of democracy against the class system. Perhaps a longer novel would have allowed these themes to be explored in more depth, although that would undoubtedly be less kid-friendly. As it is, The King’s Dragon stands as an enjoyable story that feels as though it could have been something more.
Copyright © Daniel Tessier 2010
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