Colin Birge's Reviews > The Dragon Waiting

The Dragon Waiting by John M. Ford
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M 50x66
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Apr 23, 2010

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 and looking over western Europe with a greedy eye.

The novel follows four main characters: a Welsh wizard, a well-educated German vampire, a Florentine doctor, and a young mercenary. We, the readers, learn things about each of them that the other characters will never know. We watch them meet in an inn and solve a murder.

(Ford had a long background in role-playing games and often gave a shout-out to gamers in his novels. Countless gaming sessions with new characters have begun with the words, "You all meet in a tavern....")

The characters travel westward, united in their mutual hatred of the Byzantines, and end up embroiled in the politics of England and Wales, notably Richard III's accession. Richard is, shall we say, not the same character as in Shakespeare's play.

Ford's storytelling in this novel was a bit more straightforward than in some of his later works, but he still assumes a very intelligent and literate reader. You can follow the story without knowing anything of late-fifteenth century European history, but it helps. In the whole novel, Ford layers stories into stories on top of stories: some told in entirety, some referred to obliquely, some barely hinted.

The Dragon Waiting is a fascinating, wonderful book, worthy of many re-readings.
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