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The Dragon Waiting

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  741 Ratings  ·  67 Reviews
alt cover for ISBN 9780575073784

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 Fl
Paperback, Fantasy Masterworks #29, 368 pages
Published May 9th 2002 by Gollancz (first published 1983)
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(showing 1-30)
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Sherwood Smith
May 13, 2013 Sherwood Smith added it
Shelves: fantasy
Rereading this book caused me to clarify some of my muddy thinking with respect to wish-fulfillment characters and stories and those that try to present the world as it should be, could be, might be with a little imagination and grace.

The very far end of the spectrum is the so-called Mary Sue story, wherein the protagonist is the center of the universe just because the narrative voice tells us the protag is a special snowflake. Leading off down a different path is the idealized protagonist, whic
Wow. The Dragon Waiting is hard work: I can totally understand why some people disliked it. I read it with the Draco Concordans (a fan-written concordance for the book) at my fingertips, all the while conscious that I'm gonna have to read it again to understand it all. It's a subtle, deeply allusive book, requiring both knowledge (of history and other literary texts) and skill with interpretation (of logical implications and emotional ones). I can understand resenting all the work the reader has ...more
This book makes me feel like an idiot. I love it to pieces.

I'm not sure how both of these things can be true simultaneously, but they are. I have read it twice now with only the vaguest understanding of the Wars of the Roses (I suspect it would help to know something about them), been very very confused, and yet I love it. I love the characters and the clever twisty worldbuilding and Greco-Roman polytheism hanging out in the 1400s and the Mithras cult (and, okay, I did a lot better at the parts
I think I did The Dragon Waiting a disservice by beginning it immediately after finishing Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles, which continued to engage my brain and kept me from devoting valuable brain cells to Ford's fascinating alternate history. In an inn in the Swiss Alps, four people form an alliance to fight against the Byzantine Empire, which in this world never went into decline and now controls most of Europe, save for England and the small buffer state of France. These characters -- Cynthia, ...more
Apr 02, 2011 Checkman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: alternative history buffs and Sword & sorcery fans
This is something of a genre crossing novel. It falls under sword & sorcery and Alternative History. If you know the history of 15th Century Western Europe (especially England) than you'll get a kick out of the story. I majored in History with a focus on European History.It was fun to see how the author changed many things but kept others. AH purists will take offense at how Ford breaks "the rules" , but I wasn't bothered by it.

If you aren't very familiar with the late Middle Ages/Early Ren
Isabel (kittiwake)
Dec 08, 2011 Isabel (kittiwake) rated it it was ok
"The Dragon Waiting" is set in a late mediaeval Europe which is mostly ruled by the Byzantine Empire, and in which Christianity and Islam never became the dominant religions that they were in our world at that time. I had to look up the dates of various historical characters in Wikipedia in order to guesstimate when the events of this novel were taking place, since there were a multitude of different dating systems in use. The Byzantines impose their laws on the lands they conquer but not their ...more
Oct 14, 2016 Horza added it
Recommends it for: occultists, mediciacs, yorkists and lancastrians, grecophobes
I found this one more of a struggle than I was anticipating.

As a magical romp through an alternate 15th century with dragons, wizards, vampires and a sinister totalitarian Byzantine Empire pulling the strings, The Dragon Waiting has a lot going for it. JM Ford clearly had a lot of fun flipping and twisting historical events to fit his unique setting, and there's a lot of clever references for those who know their Medicis, Plantagenets and ancient dieties. Those aren't really my bag, so I found
Sep 30, 2016 Simon rated it really liked it
I honestly don't know how to review this book, it's that personal. In some respects I am the perfect audience for it --- it hits all of my sweet spots, including the Byzantine Empire, ancient religions and Richard III. That being said, if these are not areas of interest, indeed, obsession, I can't imagine what reading this must be like. Ford spends at least half the book setting up the gathering of his four central characters, but the two most interesting --- Hywel and the vampire Gregory --- ar ...more
William Leight
Jan 13, 2015 William Leight rated it really liked it
Perhaps the best way to describe this book is to say that Ford writes with panache. His characters are witty, or darkly brooding, or make comments that are full of deep meaning or are elliptical yet foreboding. Naturally, the characters have style to match the dialogue. One main character is a beautiful young woman whose hair is entirely white: in the first chapter she kills a vampire with medical precision (the vampire is, as it happens, the Duke of Milan). Another is an ageless wizard with one ...more
Jan 11, 2012 Simon rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It's not often these days I have to put down a book unfinished and I don't like to, usually preferring to push on to the end to see if it can be redeemed. But this time it just seemed pointless, I really couldn't engage with the story and follow the intricacies of the plot.

I'm not quite sure what exactly about his writing style that makes it so hard for me to take it in. And you need to take it in because it's a complex story with constantly unfolding twists and turns to keep the reader on their
May 21, 2014 Jeff rated it it was amazing
Fantasy Masterwork indeed!

First part is a combination of character vignettes, to give background on the main cast, and a cool murder mystery in an inn that introduces the last member of the team. The second half is an interesting political struggle for the throne of England.

I'd say what I appreciated most about the book was the characters. Ford did a great job of bringing life to his characters, especially, in the case of the ones ripped from the confines of history. They didn't seem like boring
Feb 10, 2016 Lanie rated it liked it
I didn't really get on with this book, I found it difficult to get into and it failed to hold my attention.
I did finish it, but feel that some parts were overly complex and convoluted while other parts were skated over and left fundamentally unexplained.

The use of historical characters was interesting, but on the whole it's not a book I'm likely to re-read.
Apr 27, 2007 Jyv rated it it was ok
Bloody awful - couldn't finish it.
Sep 08, 2011 Kam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, adventure
It's been a while since I last acquired and read this book, but I decided to reread it again, and this time, to think a bit more critically on it, rather than just diving right into it and enjoying the ride.

As I've said before, anyone who knows me well knows that I love history, especially High Medieval-Italian Renaissance history. There is something magical about that particular period of European history, and I find myself drawn to books that tackle that period again and again and again. Fortu
This is an immensely challenging book to read, not just in terms of subject matter; Ford does not hold the reader's hand at all. There were moments when I really struggled to follow what occured, the intrigues are so complicated, and I often had difficulty connecting the episodes to the greater plot. I'm sure sure if this is because I'm dense, or a failure of the writer's craft, or even of the editor's. (I understand the original manuscript was about three times longer than the current novel. I ...more
Robert Brown
Sep 14, 2013 Robert Brown rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Every time Ford referred to the Byzantines, or Byzantium, my eye twitched. Wizards and vampires are way more believable than the use of that term in 15th century Europe.

More than the first third of the book is taken up by character backstory and a convoluted murder mystery when the adventuring party finally assembles at an inn.... The actual plot (such as it is) doesn't really start until page 120 of 326 in my edition.

The writing is pretty good; it's not a bad book at all, but I just don't see
Jun 05, 2014 Brittany rated it really liked it
I'm not sure I'm actually smart enough to read this book, but I sure enjoyed it. I can't wait to read it again. And I'm going to have to read it again.

This book is complex, intriguing, intimidating, and awfully well done. It's historical fiction. There are vampires. It reminded me of a Sharon Kay Penman book in its characters and a Dorothy Dunnett for the amount of confidence and faith the author has in the reader's intelligence.

Do I really need to say anything else? There is a dragon. It's no
Sep 01, 2015 Nigel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A favourite of mine, an an alternative historical fantasy about four damaged people, a one eyed Welsh wizard, an exiled heir to the Byzantine throne, a female physician to Lorenzo de Medici and a German vampire engineer, working against the Byzantine Empire. The struggle takes them to England after the War Of The Roses, where deadly dynastic squabbles threaten to turn the kingdom on its head. Clever, elliptical, occasionally horrific, full of magic and intrigue and mystery and betrayal. I wish I ...more
Jul 30, 2007 Wealhtheow rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
A historical revisionist (and fantastical) story of Richard III and his contemporaries, including vampires and Byzantium princes. Excellent.
Jul 16, 2008 Hotspur rated it really liked it
John Ford's wonderful alternative history of the War of the Roses, told in a fantastic reality style.
I stayed up until 2 AM to finish this, and it was worth it.
Noel Coughlan
Jan 19, 2017 Noel Coughlan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: review
This book is set in an alternate 15th Century Europe where a pagan Byzantine Empire dominates Europe and Christianity is a minor religion. Except for a rump buffer state, France has been carved up between England and the Byzantines. The empire is infiltrating the Italian city states and is now plotting against their English allies. A magician and a small group of like-minded individuals travel to England to attempt to stymie its plan.

Initially the setting struck me as a bit strange in the sense
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 23, 2016 Martin rated it it was amazing
Perhaps the best constructed, thoughtful, example of an alternative History it has been my pleasure to read.

The historical events of the Wars of the Roses, superimposed against a backdrop of a renaissance Europe, untouched by Christianity, is wonderful and compelling. Read this book if you have the chance and enjoy!
Colin Birge
Apr 23, 2010 Colin Birge rated it it was amazing
With the possible exception of the Star Trek tie-in book How Much For Just The Planet?, The Dragon Waiting was probably John M. Ford's most well-known novel. It won a World Fantasy Award in 1984, deservedly, and is one of the few Ford works to remain in print thanks to UK publishers Gollancz.

The Dragon Waiting is an alternate history of sorts, set around the time of Lorenzo de Medici and England's Richard III. Magic works, for a price. Vampires exist. The Byzantine Empire is stronger than ever a
Dominique Lamssies
John Ford's "The Dragon Waiting" is an interesting piece of alternate history, but probably isn't the best example of the genre.

To be honest, the problems are mostly structural. Ford is a good writer and is quite good at making his descriptions vivid. The plot is also quite intricate. Unfortunately, everything else is sacrificed for that intricate plot. World building is almost non-existent, even though it is actually extremely important in an alternate history piece. It's even more important wh
Darkpool (protesting GR censorship)
Wavered between 4 and 5 stars. I think this would benefit from a closer, more academic read than I could manage to give it at this time. I'm still pondering the meaning of some of what happened, because the author certainly didn't make it easy for the reader. Things were alluded to, dialogue needed to be considered carefully for meaning, stuff happened that was only partially described or explained... But the setting for the story was magnificent: a pagan medieval Europe with a strong Byzantine ...more
Aug 07, 2013 Jeff rated it liked it
Engaging alternate history of the War of the Roses, with, curiously, vampires, mithraism, and a dash of magic.

It's unusual in structure. First, it introduces three of the main characters' backstories. Then, it turns into a brief murder mystery. Then, 40% of the way through, it introduces the main plot and piles on a plethora of new characters. Despite this approach, it largely works, and remains fairly interesting throughout.

While I found the story gripping and the characters solid at times, tw
-Resultado del partido: Worldbuilding 4 – Trama 1.-

Género. Narrativa Fantástica.

Lo que nos cuenta. En una realidad que no ha seguido los mismos derroteros que la nuestra y en el último cuarto del siglo XV, el Imperio Bizantino controla directa o indirectamente los destinos de Europa, en la que aquellas naciones que todavía son independientes, aunque la corona británica es muy influyente también en la zona por más que tenga estados en contra, saben que la amenaza de la expansión de Bizancio siemp
Aug 01, 2008 Linda rated it liked it
Shelves: unfinishable
I gave up.

It's a sword and sorcery/alternate history thing that seems to keep introducing new places and characters without moving the plot forward significantly. In addition, while the alternate history seems to be basically medieval Europe menaced by a Byzantine empire that is stronger and more influential in Europe than it was historically, there are other aspects of the story that don't seem to make any sense in either the plot (what little there is) or the cultural/historical context. The o
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John Milo "Mike" Ford was a science fiction and fantasy writer, game designer and poet.

Ford was regarded (and obituaries, tributes and memories describe him) as an extraordinarily intelligent, erudite and witty man. He was a popular contributor to several online discussions. He composed poems, often improvised, in both complicated forms and blank verse, notably Shakespearean pastiche; he also wrot
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“Then the syncretist Ficino, sitting hunched with Lorenzo standing at his side, put all the ideas together, along with Lorenzo's new song: chariots blazing between the worlds as gods fought rebel gods, the destruction of a city -- a planet? -- by fire, beasts beyond imagining both to terrify and befriend the heroes.

"It needs a title," Signorina Scala said.

Pulci had his mouth open, but Ficino beat him to the pun.

"It shall be dedicated to Isis and Mars," he said, "and we will call it Stella Martis.”
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