20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
This book was the first book of Powers' that I read, recommended by a friend. I thought it was really good and so went on to read a lot of his other stuff. Unfortunately, he's not always stayed as good.
The story involves Brian Duffy, an Irish soldier of fortune, who is lured to Vienna to act as a bouncer by an mysterious old man. Vienna is under siege by the Turks at the time and eventually Duffy discovers the real reason for this (which I won't reveal) and his role in preventing them accomplishing their true purpose. This mediaeval mystical conspiracy theory sounds vaguely ludicrous, as Duffy himself relates to a friend, and this level of wry humour is what has been missing from Powers' recent books. Powers has continued with his mystical conspiracy theories of history, incidentally, "The Anubis Gates" and "On Stranger Tides" being good examples of this (and good books.) He's less successful importing this mystical conspiracy theory stuff into the modern day.
Back to this book. It's well written, interesting, historically accurate in the historical parts (and who can say about the mystical conspiracy theory) and wryly humourous in place. In short, all you could want from a book. Buy it.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 21 September 2005
The Drawing of the Dark is a fun book that easily fills up a week's worth of train rides to work. The basic plot concerns an old veteran soldier called on to save the world by an old wizard. Unlike David Gemmel's work, though, the hero in this book is not quite world weary and cynical. Instead he has his eyes set on whisking away the girl he loved to a cottage someplace far from Vienna.
Overall Tim Powers has a way of making characters fresh and engaging in a way that too many writers fail to appreciate. The plot of the book itself is largely inconsequential, but that's ok. The action is thrilling, the dialog is sharp and witty and the historical authenticity somehow adds to the fantastic element of the book. The protagonist is very well realised, to the extent that Brian Duffy lives on in your head long after the book is finished.
Although Last Call has a similar protagonist and is by far a better book, The Drawing of the Dark is a short, fun read that easily holds its head above the morass that is modern fantasy.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 25 November 1999
Many years ago I heard the name of Tim Powers being whispered about. A name that went with a title, "The Anubis Gates" and words such as "brilliant", "imaginative" and "excellent". When I finally read that novel I agreed and determined to read other books by Mr Powers.
I have enjoyed all the books that I have read so far, but this one, "The Drawing of the Dark" is the best I have read. The characters are rich and well drawn. The story is captivating and I read it in one sitting it was that good.
I would rank this as one of the best books I have ever read. Once again it demonstrates Tim Powers' imagination and ability to write great fantasy fiction. It is a pity that he does not seem to enjoy that much success in the UK. Do people only ever buy and read production line books? That can be the only explanation for why the highly innovative and well-written books of Tim Powers never do that well here. Treat yourself - buy this book and read it!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 21 May 2010
It's 1529 and Brian Duffy is an ex-mercenary past his prime, still a fighter but now bereft of passion or cause, and gradually turning to drink. He is occasionally puzzled by inexplicable supernatural events and dreams but maintains an agnostic detachment that keeps him sane and living to fight another day. An expatriate who no longer feels at home anywhere, he takes a job in Vienna from a strange old man he meets by chance in Venice, and finds himself an overpaid bouncer in an old brew-pub. A *really* old brew-pub.
Duffy is accustomed to being his own master and letting nothing unsettle him, but his composure is severely tested by his adventures, beginning with his journey to Vienna silently accompanied by respectful forest-demons and lifesaving dwarves, and continuing with his gradual inclusion into the plans for the defense of Vienna from the invading Turkish army. Between the apparently very determined assassins attacking him at every turn, and the apparently supernatural forces unexpectedly defending him, Duffy could be excused for becoming either paranoid or unhinged, but he manages to take it in stride due to an apparently deep and unshakeable self-confidence.
But even that composure begins to give way when the strange old man reappears and tells Duffy that his role is more than just defending the pub and the city, it's defending the mythical Western Fisher King from the invading East, and that he's actually an important player in that mysterious eternal game. His incipient alcoholism is yet another chink in his armour, and not at all bolstered by the central role of mystical dark beer in the defense of the city. And insanity looms when he discovers just which player he's meant to be, and why.
The Drawing of the Dark combines ancient Western folklore (the same Fisher King archetype Powers modernizes in Last Call) with an excellently-realized period piece, and what a period. The dawn of Protestantism and literacy, the conflict between Eastern and Western major religions, the end of the Medieval era and beginning of the Renaissance, the beginning of gunpowder but by no means the end of swords and sorcery, 1529 has it all. Against this rich backdrop, anything and everything can be drawn into the Fisher King mythos, and most things are, including Norse and Arthurian legends, Arabic and Gaelic mythologies, and the deeper significance of beer in the root of human civilization.
The book shines because of Powers' talents in deft and subtle revelation of difficult truths that would be hard to accept all at once. The plot begins solidly in reality and revolves around slow revelation of the mythology and fantasy world, so he appears to build it around you as he weaves the story. Powers also excels at world-building, and as always has astonishing ability to build supermyths out of the well-known pieces of mythologies from round the world, meaning that though you may know the pieces, you never can tell exactly where he's going until he gets there. If Drawing of the Dark has weaknesses, the book could have used some subplots and more intricacy, and some more memorable minor characters. All in all though, a very satisfactory myth-building exercise and a great read!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I held off on buying this because I was unsure if it wouldnt be disappointing following The Anubis Gates but I shouldnt have, its an awesome read.
The narrative switches from first person to third person as the characters build from the opening scenes from a little intriguing to well rounded and engaging, Powers has a real talent for this and I consider it his unique selling point along with the sheer breadth of his imagination.
The book, like his others, has so many surprises awaiting the reader, there are developments you couldnt possibly anticipate, a rare thing really, and the book seems like its one part historical thriller and two parts mystical fantasy. Unlike some books in the genre it's never at pains to try and reveal every detail or construct the overarching mythos all at once.
However, for me, one of the unique things about Powers writing is the ways in which the extraordinary features are rationalised and comprehended by the characters who experience them, this truly is the sign of a great story teller that they can take the ordinary or extraordinary and have the reader think about it afresh.
Its possible to encounter fantasy writing where heroes encounter mythical beasts or magic as a matter of course, Powers depictions are much more entertaining and believeable as they try to comprehend things exactly, fail to do so or only partially, muddle through, hope for the best, try their best.
The story is divided into "three books", the first dealing with the questing of the hero, Irishman Brian Duffy, to the inn at which he's expected to be a bouncer, then his adventures in that role and finally the conclusion. This book really doesnt disappoint, very engaging.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 14 March 2007
In short: If you've never read Powers before, read Last Call or Anubis Gates first. Powers's wild ideas (in the "I don't what you've enjoyed but I'll want it, double" category) and the beauty of his prose are much better in those two. If you like what you read, try this one too, at some point.
The Drawing of the Dark is good, but I have one huge gripe with it: the world-view. The depiction of the East is orientalism at its worst; bad monsters, people of different color and background (Africans, Japanese, Turks) bundled all together as "The East", together with horrible monsters and darkness. Gimme a frigging break. The West is the good guys, the Europeans, the glorious civilization. Admittedly, the 1500s wasn't very multiculturalist; what bothers me is that there's nothing really human in the people of the East, not even a hint that the characters' point of view might be a little skewed. And women don't have a lot of (figurative) meat on them either (compare this with some later Powers's books).
If you can get by those things, there's a good and imaginative fantasy book here. Unlike some other reviewers here, I felt that the plot is good and its grip is firm (once it establishes itself); I didn't feel the ending was hurried, any more than it was supposed to feel. The main characters are colourful and their relations are a lot more complicated and interesting than the East--West setting.
The setting itself, once you forget the orientalism, is wonderful. There are a lot of fun and original ideas, the typical themes of Tim Powers, beer, a vivid Vienna, and fantasy that doesn't feel like it's been seen a million times before. Sense of wonder is there.
Although I must admit that most of the praise goes to Book Three, or, the last third of it of the novel. The first two parts are quite good, especially the first one. They're lighthearted, a bit Three Musketeers-y, fun, and intriguing, although Book Two is too slow in its progress for my tastes.
The downside of the first two books is that they feel like a talented young writer has put out his first novel (even though it was Powers's third) which was inspired by fantasy roleplaying sessions. There's a little bit of progress, a lot of dialogue, a little bit of humor, nothing too serious, and something exciting (preferably a bit of swordplay) in EVERY chapter. The writing in the first two books lacks the Powers touch.
The third part feels like it's been written years after the first two. The style is more consistent, the action feels real and the descriptions make you wonder whether Powers, somehow, somewhere, really knows what's going inside a 1500s soldier's head. The prose gains elegance, colour, and rhythm, and is what I've come to expect from Powers. I don't dislike dialogue, but I just love Powers's narrative, and along with his truly fantastic elements, is the reason I love his work.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 16 July 2004
I rated this work as a 4 out of 5 only because for what he's writing about there's not much competition. We all know the 'fantasy' market is 90% bilge and 10% literature. Powers is definitely in that small percentage. But for me this didn't really do it for me. I thought Last Call was much better - in my opinion (obviously) - Last Call had guts and pace with a real sense of 'this could happen' about it. With Drawing the Dark he's written a great fantasy novel. But the pillars holding the story up I found a little embarrassing to be honest - the whole Arthurian legend reborn has been battered beyond credibility, if you want a great take on the whole Arthur/Merlin thing read Nikolai Tolstoys: The Coming of the King, just because it's meatier and more vivid. Anyway, The Drawing of the Dark, is good it's just not as good as he can do. Powers has a power of perception that goes way beyond most writers, and for me this power was at its best with Last Call. This book is very, very readable and good fun - but he's just not at the height of his powers (as it were).
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 June 2012
This was a pretty entertaining book. Lots of swordfights, a few jokes and plenty of interesting background and historical detail.
The writing style improves a lot after a slightly shaky start. A lot happens but it is also a fast paced read.
Not one of Tim Power's best books but still very enjoyable.
on 5 June 2015
A worthy edition to the fantasy masterworks series
An ageing mercenary and trouble at a pub, sounds like your typical Saturday night in Doncaster. These ingredients are as unlikely a setting for a fantasy book you will ever see. There's no Elves or dragons (thank God) and the protagonist is prone to getting drunk and falling over - hardly the stuff of heroic legends. But this book works, because the characters are as well rounded as I've ever seen, the plot purrs along nicely, and the use of magic (all powerful and not to be trifled with) fits in well. Nobody's firing lightning bolts out of their backsides!
Add Arthurian legend to the mix, and Tim Powers once again gives us a first rate novel.
on 23 March 2008
If you like your fantasy to be fun and fast moving then this is the book for you.
Powers has always had an almost frantic imagination. In some books he reigns it in tight and focuses it on single ideas, but in others he lets it all out and throws everything in the melting pot.
So here we get the seige of Vienna, The Fisher King, Merlin, King Arthur, Sigurd, drunken Vikings, and, best of all, it is all tied together through an ancient brewery, where the beer is quite literally "The Food of the Goods."
It moves quickly, but is let down slightly by a rushed ending.
Not Power's best written book, but still great fun.