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Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Format: Paperback|Change
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on 25 February 2009
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.
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on 20 June 2017
Great pace and characterisation, none plot mixing up the trad with the modern too. Maybe a little light at the final boss scene but nevertheless I really enjoyed it. Great fun.
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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!
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on 7 October 2017
I bought the paperback of this years ago and enjoyed it then. Now somewhat older I got it on Kindle and perhaps enjoyed it more as some of the plot twists I missed before or did not understand now make sense. A good yarn mixing older legends with more modern history I was as hard to put down this time as it was the first. Enjoy
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VINE VOICEon 28 November 2002
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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on 10 December 2016
If you haven't read Tim Powers, and want to try his work, this is a good place to start. The book is very accessible, and is less dependent on his own mythology than some later works. It is also quite funny in places, which is less common in his later work.

The basic plot involves a likeable, ageing swordsman who finds himself working as a bouncer in Vienna at the time of the Turkish seige. Without giving too much detail away, the seige turns out to be part of a longer conflict between ancient powers, and the protagonist turns out to have a key role to play in the hidden conflict.

The characters are interesting and memorable, the writing is good, and the story is well plotted without the density of some of his later work. Well worth reading.
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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.
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