In Eyes Of The Dragon, Stephen King, master of horror, terror, and just good-old human drama, which can certainly be frightening enough, presents a simple fairy tale – a fantasy piece complete with kings and queens, princes and castles, magicians and dragons. Of all of King’s extensive library, this is by far his most PG-accessible work and an easy enough read. The problem with the story, and perhaps this an issue with most base fairy tales, is the added minutiae burdens the simplistic plot leading to repetition in the account and an inflation of what could have been an excellent novella, an element where King is no stranger, to instead becoming a merely standard-issue novel.
Uncle Stevie, as those in the know are apt to call the maestro, narrates the tale as if he’s right there in the room with you; maybe even in your bed, on the next pillow over, if you don’t find that imagery disturbing. His recitation is almost sing-song in a manner of olden English and a twisting of contractions that is so very much King. He introduces the heroically noble Prince Peter and his milquetoast younger brother Thomas. King Roland, who performs his kingly duties with an air of flatulence but tries his best as a father, and, as a special treat for King diehards, one Randall Flagg as the eternal menace.
In fact, and going on the record with full accountability on this one, Flagg’s inclusion is the sole reason for my reading, and reviewing, of this older King novel at such a late date. Not being a fantasy fan, a choice selection of pop-culture mainstays notwithstanding, skipping over this novel, completion fanatics be damned, was an uncomplicated decision and one I have stood by for years. But Flagg? That ultimate personification of evil? I wanted to see what that old bastard was up to. I also wanted the character to present more of a Machiavellian threat alas, unfortunately, he regresses to a fist-pumping, mustache-twirling, “I’ll get you next time!” caricature. Eyes Of The Dragon, however, is not a forum for such evil depravity, and fairy tales, of course, must conclude with the villain getting his comeuppance, albeit with the absence of a nuke (my life for you…).
Many King fans and even, gasp, critics, count this novel among his best. I find myself standing outside that camp. Certainly enjoyable and entertaining, Eyes Of The Dragon is also predictable. The journey was fun, but the destination is tired and old, making one crave for that next road less traveled.