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.
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!
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.
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 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.
on 10 March 2016
Very enjoyable. Not quite up there with Anubis Gates, as unlike that great novel this started strong, drifted off a little once our hero got to Vienna, and then stayed at a pleasant plateau for the duration without ever quite fulfilling it's early promise. Still, it's far better than most of the dreck out there and well worth your time.
on 20 August 2014
Having come to The Drawing of the Dark from other excellent works by Powers (On Stranger Tides - satisfyingly raucous and immersive pirate hilarity, The Anubis Gates - time-travelling, body-swapping high-jinks, and Declare - epically scoped masterwork), I was somewhat disappointed by this rather pedestrian, and I'm sorry to say it, BORING tale of a bitter ex-mercenary caught up in an ancient war between the East and West. In fact I could not bring myself to read the final third of the book and have moved on to Daniel Polansky's new Low Town novel She Who Waits. It's such an unremarkable story I have already forgotten most of it.
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).
on 12 February 2013
Five stars for a well-paced and enjoyable read. The story is a clever combination of historical fact - the 16th century Siege of Vienna by the Turks - and fantasy around the Arthurian legends, with a dash of norse mythology to boot.
The charachters are well developed and engaging and the story unfolds at a good pace, with the explanation of the title bringing an interesting twist which may be of interest to the campaign for real ale types (plenty of beer being drunk between these pages.)
Suffice to say I will be in search of more books by this author.