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The Dragon Waiting

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  550 ratings  ·  59 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
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Paperback, 368 pages
Published May 9th 2002 by Gollancz (first published 1983)
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Pawn of Prophecy by David EddingsMagician by Raymond E. FeistThe Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer BradleyQueen of Sorcery by David EddingsThe Elfstones Of Shannara by Terry Brooks
Best Fantasy of the 80s
91st out of 225 books — 310 voters
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. DickFatherland by Robert   HarrisWatchmen by Alan MooreJonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna ClarkeNew Yesterdays by Jim L. Wright
Best Alternate History
38th out of 214 books — 448 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,069)
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Sherwood Smith
Mar 02, 2014 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
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Sineala
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
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Nikki
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
Margaret
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
Checkman
Sep 20, 2012 Checkman rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
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Isabel
"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
Simon
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
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Jyv
Bloody awful - couldn't finish it.
William Leight
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
Jeff Gallagher
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
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Ungelic_is_us
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
Kam
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
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Aaron
I stayed up until 2 AM to finish this, and it was worth it.
Hotspur
John Ford's wonderful alternative history of the War of the Roses, told in a fantastic reality style.
Schmerica
Basically what I knew going into this book was "vampires" and "the Byzantine Empire" and "Richard III." Which, don't get me wrong, are all major/central elements! And yet the book as a whole is nothing like I would have expected based on that.

I don't have much to say about the book other than "it's really good." I can tell there were plenty of things I missed completely (though using the online concordance helped with others); I wouldn't be surprised if it's the sort of book I come back to in a
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Katerine
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jeff
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
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Colin Birge
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
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Robert Brown
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
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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
Michael
I finished the book. I got confused in the middle because I am not that familiar with English history of the period and what the book was about. I started it thinking it was a book about the survival and expansion of the Byzantine empire and various people trying to fight against it. The book was really about giving reasons for how Richard III acted. I was vaguely aware that Richard killed off all the possible rivals to the throne including two young nephews. This book explains that he was doing ...more
Nicole
I had a hard time deciding how I felt about this book. It was well constructed, well written, and I liked the characters. But ultimately there were too many points where I stopped and went, "Wait, what are they talking about?" Plus I'm not at all sure what the author's point was. He was obviously exploring ideas of power and purpose, but I'm darned if I know what he was trying to say about them. (Second) Plus I've never been into vampires and this book confirmed my distaste for the genre. I will ...more
Brittany
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
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Salimbol
[3 and 1/2 stars]
Once I get past the book's central and somewhat nonsensical concept (that late medieval/early Renaissance Europe would have been essentially the same had Christianity not become the dominant religion a thousand years earlier), there's plenty of fascinating world-building on display, with clever fantasy elements and more than a touch of poetry. The author relies on many subtle, side-long glances at things, which is intriguing (and makes you feel clever when you get it ;-). Howeve
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Roger
I am not quite sure what to think of this book. If you list the fiction sub-genres contained within it separately (alternate history, fantasy, horror(vampires), it sounds like it is custom-made for my enjoyment. However, a person may like chocolate ice cream, warm bread pudding, and fig newtons individually and be repulsed when they are all swirled together in a bowl.

I DID enjoy the book...but it did not live up to my (quite possibly too high) expectations. I had a problem connecting some of th
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Linda
Nov 29, 2008 Linda added 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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Dee
This was really something. The story is fantastic (though the "epic quest" throughline gets a little confused somewhere in the middle) and the characters are that rare combination of bold and complex. It could sometimes be a little difficult to tell precisely what was going on - the edges of things were not always told or made clear, and I found myself quite often juggling suspected happenings until I got corroborating evidence. But there was a big, romantic (in the old sense), epic-but-personal ...more
Elliott
I can't help but feel that from this day until I die all books of the fantasy genre shall be be ranked in my mind according to Harry Potter and The Dragon Waiting. The former has it's well deserved virtues expressed elsewhere, and while this book has also had its virtues expressed I can't help but praise it's magnificence.
As complex as many (ahem) respectful pieces of literature it is equally as rewarding. Ford has such wonderfully drawn characters, an expansive and brilliantly crafted world he
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Christina
Jun 05, 2009 Christina rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: erin, tiesha, maybe dad
This book is really good, right from the start. It's set in an alternate history where Rome has risen again (now called Byzantium) and they are sharing France with England and are getting ready to march on Italy. The Medicis are featured and mention of Henry VIII is also made. The first part was split between three characters in each country. Even though I'm so tired at night, I can't help reading it.

It's an excellent book, but I've lost all brain power and now have no idea at all what is happen
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Susan
Very complex and I still don't understand parts of it. But an interesting alternate history.
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43734
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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More about John M. Ford...
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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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