The Drawing of the Dark

I hadn’t encountered Tim Powers until a few years ago when a friend lent me Declare, a cold war spy thriller with supernatural elements such as middle eastern djinns.

I didn’t like it at all.

It could have been that I found Powers’ prose a bit lumpy and wooden, or it could be that it was all just so silly.  I’m a big fan of high fantasy, urban fantasy, steam punk, cyber punk, dying world, space opera, etc, but Powers’ work, in which he adds supernatural elements into the interstices left by documentary evidence of historical events, just seemed…silly.  I’m not even sure if I finished it.

Flashforward a year or so, and I came across a battered copy of The Anubis Gates at a hostel.  I was a little bamboozled as to why I hadn’t liked Descent, which I really thought I ought to have liked, so I decided to give Powers a second chance.  This one, for whatever reason, I loved.  What was once silly, was now just hugely entertaining.  Possibly, it’s because it is set in a more distant past (c. 1800, not c. 1950) and fits more neatly into the fairly well-defined steam-punk genre.

So, we come to The Drawing of the Dark (An Orion Fantasy Masterworks edition), picked up for a couple of quid at Charlie Byrne’s in Galway.  Having enjoyed The Anubis Gates so much, I had high hopes for this book…

The year is 1529… The protagonist is an Irish swordsmaster, Brian Duffy, who is resident in Venice at the get go.  There’s a quick sword fight, and a sudden mysterious job offer that gives him a reason to leave the city, so, quick as a flash, he’s off to Vienna to be a bouncer (I hadn’t realised there were bouncers in the 16th century, but, I guess, why wouldn’t there be?).

En route he starts encountering various magical creatures who seem to be trying to help or hinder him on his way…

He arrives just in time for the Turks to come up and lay siege to the place.  Apparently (!WARNING – SILLY ALERT!), the actual reason for the siege is that they need to steal the beer in the pub he’s guarding so that the Fisher King, metaphorical heart of Europe, will be prevented from rejuvenating himself by drinking it.   Also, it turns out that Brian is King Arthur reborn.

Needless to say, after further supernatural shenanigans, the Turks are fought off, and Europe is safe.  My main problem with this book, which was fairly enjoyable by and large, was not the silliness but the pacing.  There’s a big patch in the middle when not much happens (basically Brian being bored at his bouncing job).  Then the end, which feels like it should have been spectacular (maybe I’m spoiled after reading a new breed of fantasy writers, like Steven Erickson, who create exceptional battle scenes), just kind of damp squibs…

Anyway, ’twas okay.  I’ll read The Stress of Her Regard if I come across it, but I’m in no great rush to read another Powers novel…

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One Response to The Drawing of the Dark

  1. Redhead says:

    Powers really has a thing for FisherKing mythology. I wonder if this book is somehow related to the FisherKing mythology in Last Call?

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