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The Dragon Waiting: A Masque of History [Hardcover]

John M. Ford


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Book Description

November 1983
The Wars of the Roses have put Edward IV on the throne of England, Lorenzo de' Medici's court shines brilliantly, and Duke Galeazzo Maria Sforza plots in Milan. But this is a changed world, and medieval Europe is dominated by the threat from the Byzantine Empire. Sforza, the Vampire Duke, marshals his forces for his long-planned attack on Florence, and Byzantium is on the march. A mercenary, the exiled heir to the Byzantine throne, a young woman physician forced to flee Florence, and a Welsh wizard, the nephew of Owain Gly Dwr, seem to have no common goals but together they wage an intrigue-filled campaign against the might of Byzantium, striving to secure the English throne for Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and make him Richard III.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 365 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (November 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671475525
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671475529
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 14 x 2.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 431 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,984,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

John M. Ford is a writer of science fiction and fantasy and, under a pseudonym, children's fiction. He is winner of the Philip K. Dick Award and two World Fantasy Awards, including one for THE DRAGON WAITING, a Gollancz Fantasy Masterwork. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rough magic Aug. 23 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A dark and gritty fantasy/alternate-history/vampire novel of remarkable psychological and political complexity (even unravelling the web of betrayal, intrigue and back-stabbing that forms the background to the main plot requires considerable thought), giving a panoramic sweep of a 15th-century Europe soaked in blood and magic.
Ford makes a few elegant changes in the course of history (which are never spelled out, the reader being flung in at the deep end and left to work it out for themselves), and then develops the logical consequences of these changes with uncompromising realism (and considerable wit - merely as a matter of incidental detail, for example, we discover that Christianity never took root and is now a minor and largely-forgotten heresy). Life is as nasty, brutal and short as it presumably was in the real 15th-century, and the protagonists are complicated, messed-up, and thoroughly believable human beings (the book even includes that rarity, a female leading character who isn't terminally bland), despite or because of which the book is hugely enjoyable and great fun.
Definitely not for those looking for another slice of pseudo-Tolkien questing, but highly recommended for anyone interested in something a little more challenging. It demands more thought than the average fantasy, but richly rewards the effort. A real treat.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Dec 28 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I read this book, more or less by accident, not particularly famous and was dazzled. Wow. Can't think of what to say, but will try.
The novel is set in an alternate history Europe, where either Constantine never converted to Christianity or Julian established the equality of all faiths, and the Byzantine Empire never declined, but in fact by the middle of the XVth century controls most of Eastern Europe and is trying to get as much of the West as possible. And magic works, and vampires exist also. I don't usually like alternate history, the real historical characters usually look unlikely next to the alternate bits, but this novel handled it perfectly, and the real historical characters of the XVth century (Richard III of England, his mother, and brothers, the Earl Rivers, Louis XI of France, the Medicci, the Duke of Urbino) are a joy to read about if you have met them before.
Great novel, deserving of a far better review than this one.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is to fantasy what Dune is to SF. Sept. 21 1998
By simon.carter5@virgin.net - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
One of my favourite books,The Dragon Waiting, is a superb blend of history and fantasy. Mixing historical characters from the 15th century and captivating fictional heroes, this is a book that is both engrossing and enjoyable. John M Ford, a much underated author, succeeds in combining in-depth research with a vivid imagination and tweaks history to create a vision of europe where conspiracies lurk behind shady motives and dark characters, vampirism is a spreadable disease and magic a burden to the magician. A truly marvellous book, that deserves reprinting.
15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Dragon Waiting March 21 2005
By K. Freeman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The adventures of four different characters -- an emperor-in-exile, a native-prince-of-Wales in exile, a German vampire and an Italian woman doctor -- in a very alternate fifteenth century Europe.

Ford's alternative history concepts are fascinating. At times, his writing is beautiful and many of the individual scenes are full of action and imagery.

However, the book reads to me like something the author wrote for himself, without considering (or perhaps without caring) if readers could follow along. Characters' motivations are opaque, as are some of the events in the plot; a major antagonist only comes into existence near the end of the book and is never developed. Whole scenes descend into a kind of oblique vagueness; characters react, sometimes with great emotional intensity, but it is not always clear to the reader what caused the reaction. That Dragon Waiting held my interest despite this is a tribute to Ford's writing, but it's hard not to think that a tremendous story was lost in the shadows of this book.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite prose and meticulous alt-history in a muddled story. Feb. 14 2008
By Scott Andrews - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
With the same brilliant wordsmithing as in his poetry, the late John M. Ford spins a layered tale of dynastic intrigue in his World Fantasy Award-winning _The Dragon Waiting_. His paranormal, alternate-history 15th century Europe includes vampires, wizards, and a pagan Byzantine Empire that extends westward into France. Aside from one typo in the Historical Notes (the Fourth Crusade sacked Constantinople in 1204, not 1404), this setting is ingeniously precise and thought-provoking, although it never seems vital to the plot.

Ford's prose drips with emotion through a languorous, sometimes even distant tone that ignores common writing techniques, such as avoiding the verb "to be", in favor of a lyrical voice that sweeps the reader along. This vivid prose and the historical detail of the setting often intersect in perfect word choices: historical terms that succinctly communicate both era and detail, like the bronze "saker" (a type of medieval cannon) that Gregory sees on the walls of York.

Unfortunately the organization of the novel feels contrary to the main plot. Three of the four main characters are introduced separately in long solo chapters that cover more than a quarter of the book. Even after they come together, the main conflict does not begin until after forty more pages of a tangential murder mystery; and the seemingly titular character, Richard of Gloucester, doesn't appear until forty pages after that. Although these chapters are vividly detailed and effusive with character, they offer an extremely slow entrée into the plot.

And that plot then creeps ahead without clear stakes or motivation. Factions scheme for the throne of England, but it's never apparent what masters these usurpers serve or why they take these actions. The protagonists fight against it, again for reasons never explained. The traitors are discovered, then a new challenger attacks with an army for no seeming reason other than to parallel true history. Ford rightfully ends with the protagonists, the true core of this novel, but they don't seem changed for their journey.

_The Dragon Waiting_ features exceptional writing and a fascinating setting, but the plot never coalesces into comparable brilliance. Despite well-illumined characters, the novel feels gorgeous but ultimately lacking.
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