The Dragon Waiting: A Masque of History Hardcover – Nov 1983
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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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
This tale is my favorite though.
As some of the other reviews note, it is very well-written and yet you have to bring yourself into this work. Motives are not laid out for you as they would be in typical fantasy or alternative history. Your knowledge of the time period is never assumed. Nor is it taken into account. The author does not connect all the dots. . . he leaves you the reader to engage with it.
For those of your who love history, this is a little like Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose or Foucault's Pendulum in this one aspect -- your own research or curiosity is rewarded if YOU take the extra step of reading more.
Who is Richard Duke of Gloucester?
What was the 'real' state of Byzantium like in the Medieval World that all of us accept as 'history'?
Would a vampire really marry a mortal, like in your favorite 'tween potboiler of the 21st century? :-)
The Dragon in Waiting is a Masque that masks the author's love of language, of libraries, of the wonderful, of the wondrous, and of the obscure. Spend the time with it. First, let it draw you IN because it's a fine book on its own -- but, please, then let it lead you OUT into your OWN exploration of alternate history and into realities that we barely understand even though they occurred just 600 years ago.