Roman notes that John M Ford’s The Dragon Waiting is once again available. Jack Herman provides some notes about this fantasy…
This is an alternative history fantasy (a “counterfactual”) set in the time of Medici Florence (the time of the condottieri) and the Wars of the Roses. The discontinuity in this universe occurred at the time of Julian the Apostate, one of Constantine’s successors; only here Julian did indeed restore religious diversity to the Roman Empire and, after the victories of Justinian in Italy, the Byzantium flourished, and Islam didn’t.
By the late fifteenth century, Europe is largely divided into two, an expansive Byzantine Empire and a strong Angevin England in Britain and the western France. Magic is real here, as are vampires.
Much of the novel deals with four interesting individuals battling against the overt expansion of Byzantium, a battle that climaxes on Bosworth Field in 1485. The first third of the book, dealing with the origins of three of the protagonists, a Welsh wizard, a Byzantine mercenary, and a Florentine doctor, takes some time, but once the three get together with their German vampiric ally, the action heats up and we get an interesting re-interpretation of the death of Edward IV, the fate of the Princes-in-the-Tower, and the usurpation of Richard of Gloucester.
Ford won me over not only by his reasonably generous portrayal of Gloucester (a man driven by dynastic desires and the need to protect his affinity), but by his spotlight on John Morton, here transmogrified from unChristian cleric to evil wizard, and Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers, who often gets short shrift, even by those inimical to Richard III. The Dragon Waiting (in fact you have to wait nearly 400 pages for the dragon to appear) is a fun alternative history and excellent Fantasy, even if it is somewhat a historical artefact (written in 1983). Recommended.
Jack Herman is a Sydney fan, involved with the Sydney Uni Tolkien Society and one of the founders of HEFFALUMP*, the anti-vegemite foundation.
Honey Eating Fan Federation And Luddites United against Mordant Prandialism